Youth Entrepreneurship: What They Won’t Teach You At University

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When you think of an entrepreneur, who do you think of? Richard Branson? Bill Gates? These caricatures of wealth and success define entrepreneurship, but for many young people, this makes the idea of going it alone seem an impossibility.

The reality is a little different: anyone can be an entrepreneur, and with the right attitude, young school-leavers and university graduates can say goodbye to the idea of working for a boss.

Perhaps you’re an entrepreneur already, which means you know full well the satisfaction of working for yourself.

In Uganda, entrepreneurship needs to grow amongst young adults. With access to the good-quality internet – and computing – bright young adults have the opportunity to look past the formal jobs market and make a career out of what they love doing.

Like Joan Mugisha. The 25-year old owner of an events management company has said no to a 9-5 job in an effort to make a success of his own business. “Entrepreneurs can be successful at any age,” he says. “With the right attitude, and a desire to succeed, no dream is too big.”

Enjoy what you do

Do you know what Richard Branson, Bill Gates and other mega-rich businessmen have in common? They love what they do.

Not only is it easier to enjoy what you’re doing when you’re working for yourself – it’s absolutely crucial.

The minute you start finding the work a slog, you might as well kiss goodbye to your venture. Sure, you’ll have good and bad days, but if your passion wanes for too long, the motivation to make it a success won’t be there.

Work hard

“Hard work never goes away,” says Mugisha, who has built his events business from scratch. It means spending days and nights building up your network of contacts, rubbing shoulders with the right people and establishing your brand.

The phrase “hard work” sounds simple – basic, even, but it’s the essential building block of any successful enterprise.

Never let people mess you around

Being young and inexperienced can often mean you’re at the mercy of clients and contractors who are older than you and will use their experience to their advantage.

The key? Don’t let people routinely get their way. As soon as you stand your ground and start sticking up for what you believe in, you’ll build up a reputation of being firm and forthright.

There’s nothing worse than being viewed as a pushover.

Of course, if you’re in the wrong, have the decency to admit you’ve made a mistake and be the bigger person. Being a businessperson is about building a relationship as much as anything, so be firm – but be fair.

Don’t be afraid to take risks

Risk taking is a big part of entrepreneurship. It means the idea of giving up a steady paycheck and sacrificing your personal capital to make a success of your venture.

It means taking a punt, and sometimes pushing yourself further than you ought to.

It means building a brand with limited resources, and taking on clients you barely have time in the day to service.

“I love the risk-taking aspect of it,” Mugisha says. “It’s about gambling with what you have – but when you’ve got so much more to gain than to lose, what’s there not to love?”

Mugisha believes that as long as you learn from your mistakes, and remember to stay humble, risk-taking will help you get to the next level.

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