Young people should see entrepreneurship as a career option, not as a last resort when they can’t find a job.
Highlighting the successes of entrepreneurs rather than their failures alone, will help change the perception of entrepreneurship and could encourage more young people to start their own businesses.
So says Christo Botes, executive director at Business Partners and spokesperson for the Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
His comments come in the wake of the Youth National and Provincial Labour Market report released in May by Statistics SA which revealed that of the country’s 5.4 million young people between the ages of 20 and 24 years old, only 8.8% are expected to obtain a tertiary qualification.
“Young people see success as being a doctor or a lawyer. They see entrepreneurship as selling goods on a pavement. They don’t think (that) being an entrepreneur is a career option, rather a last resort when they can’t find a job,” says Botes.
He says businesses started as a last resort are usually survivalist businesses and normally don’t create many jobs.. Such business owners often simply resell existing products and make very little profit.
Asked whether he believed that entrepreneurship could be taught, he responded by saying that it couldn’t really be taught.
“But young people should be exposed to it in schools. You can teach entrepreneurship, but the inner qualities such as commitment, ambition and tenacity must be there because being an entrepreneur is hard work.
You need to know that you will have to make sacrifices and really perform otherwise your business is doomed to fail,” says Botes.
When compared to other emerging economies, the percentage of adults who opt for entrepreneurship as a career choice remains low in South Africa, he says.
Botes points out that the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (Gem) South Africa report reveals that only a quarter of South African youth can be termed as potential entrepreneurs, in that they believe they possess the skills and knowledge to start a business and perceive there to be good opportunities in the market to exploit.
It is crucial, he says, for South Africa to bridge the gap between the entrepreneurial aspirations of youth and the reality of establishing a business.
“Intentional entrepreneurs are an important stage in the entrepreneurial pipeline as a strong association exists between entrepreneurial intentions and actual entrepreneurial behaviour, and highlights why it is necessary to equip the youth with the right tools and knowledge to embark on an entrepreneurial venture,” he says.
He adds that many young people think that entrepreneurship is all about innovation, but that this is not always the case.
“You can start a business and contribute a service that is needed and it does not have to be an innovative business.”
Young people, he says, also need to know that because starting a business in the retail or hospitality sector has low setup costs, it is also saturated.
“Everyone wants to sell food or buy goods and sell (them). It has become over traded,” says Botes.
However, he believes there’s a scarcity of services on offer in the manufacturing and service industries and despite their higher setup costs he believes young entrepreneurs should rather consider entering these two sectors. But he emphasises that entrepreneurs should only consider these two sectors after conducting thorough research and after having acquired the necessary skills.