2.4.1 Lessons Learned From Youth Entrepreneurs

Lesson Learned 1: In designing training & support packages, do not put significant emphasis on business plan writing.

Business plans are only the beginning of the journey in establishing a new venture, rather than a definitive roadmap for a business start up.  All three entrepreneurs reflected this caution, noting that while they all have plans, they have needed to be flexible and adapt their strategies and operations as they learned more about the market and honed their business model. 

Lesson Learned 2: Recognize and build on experiences youth already have when developing YED programs.

All three leveraged previous professional or academic experience in identifying a business opportunity.  Before starting Nice Cream, Sandra worked in a start-up Living Social, which markets coupons to local businesses online and via mobile phones.  At Living Social, she had assisted restaurants in developing marketing strategies.  Amine, worked for several years at a business consulting firm on energy and other issues in sustainability in Europe before returning to Tunisia to start his enterprise.  Marina, as a psychology student, joined classmates in taking a class project on team building and psychological testing to develop consulting services first for her university’s human resource department and then local medium enterprises.

Lesson Learned 2: Consider online curricula and other tools to engage youth, when direct, in-person support is not an option.

Marina was inspired to start up her venture following an online entrepreneurship training and business plan challenge, which was lead by a well-known and successful young entrepreneur in Russia.  Working through the online modules offered her and her friends the inspirational spark and structure they needed to start a business.

Lessons Learned 3: Youth entrepreneurs, similar to other business owners, are better able to apply training and support received once their venture is underway.

All agreed that some training upfront is helpful, but is even more useful once the enterprise is underway as you know better what your specific needs are and can immediately apply what you learn.  Mentors, particularly vested investors or people who have worked in and understand your industry are invaluable in providing support.

All three are also finding recruitment and training of staff a challenge, providing a reminder that youth entrepreneurs need support in human resources similar to adult-owned and operated enterprises.