I’m often reading articles about whether someone can be taught to become an entrepreneur or whether the entrepreneurial attitude is innate. Opinions are often polarised, but I believe that both are correct; not everyone will have the attributes of an entrepreneur (I’ll cover what those might be in a later post), but with the right support, many people can be encouraged to start a successful business. The organisation that I work for, The Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE), exists to encourage students to become more entrepreneurial. Our New Ideas Competition is just one of the many activities that we run throughout the year.
The New Ideas Competition is fun, and its simple to enter. The early rounds take place in the Universities, and are run by our fantastic network of Student Interns and Enterprise Managers. Students are encouraged to submit a very short description of an idea, often simply on the back of a postcard. These ideas can be based on something they have been studying, but they can also be inspired by a hobby, or by noticing a gap in the market for something they think would be useful. The great thing about this competition is that it is so easy to enter; you don’t need a detailed business plan, just a simple idea.
Last Saturday, we held a Start-up Day, attended by nearly 90 students who had entered our competition and had reached the final stages. This event gave the students the opportunity to learn more about what it takes to develop an idea into a successful business. They heard inspirational talks from young entrepreneurs who had started their businesses whilst they were still undergraduates. They were challenged in teams to workshop what is needed to make a great business plan. They heard from some excellent speakers on how to fund your idea, the importance of being able to sell, and how to develop realistic financials. The final hurdle we put them through was to make a 20 second pitch to a panel of friendly dragons, for the chance of winning a cash prize. Most were undoubtably nervous, but they did a fantastic job of describing their idea under challenging circumstances. This is what one of our speakers (& friendly dragon) Alasdair McGill of Freelance World had to say about the event, in his Freelance World blog.
So do activities such as SIE’s Start-up Day make any difference to the number of students starting businesses, or are we simply tapping into an existing, self selecting cohort? It’s true that at SIE we are fortunate in attracting some of Scotland’s brightest students to participate in our activities. There also is no doubt in my mind that what we are doing in terms of entrepreneurial education provides these inspirational young people with the skills they need to make their business ideas a success.
I’ll leave the last word to the winner of our Start-up Day pitching contest, Rachel Hanretty, who blogged about her experience here. Rachel, I look forward to being able to say that I was one of the first to taste the world famous Mademoiselle Macaron brand!