Young entrepreneurs: You can change the world

Chris Arnold on how to inspire more young people to start their own businesses (hint: it's not about the money)

Inspiring business start-ups, making future generations see that starting a business is not only pretty easy in the UK but also a great career option, is hugely important to the economy. However, it’s much more important than that, and we should talk about it differently.

Entrepreneurial spirit is something that desperately needs to be reclaimed from the rhetoric of ministers and chancellors who talk a little too much of the important correlation between ‘start-up’ and ‘staffing up’.

Employment and the fact that entrepreneurs create jobs is one fabulous and fulfilling product of making aspirations become reality, but there is a much more significant outcome. It’s an outcome that human beings are somewhat born to seek: the ambition to make the world a better place.

Do intelligent youth (those who have grown up in an environment that talks about values as well as value) think of hoarding money? The answer is an emphatic no. Intelligent, idealistic youth see the importance of creating wealth, but only in the terms of increasing their influence and powering social good. Money hoarders belong to a bygone age of railroad and shipping magnates.

Would Bill Gates have helped the world beat Malaria sooner if he had committed more of his wealth earlier? I don’t know, I doubt it, but it doesn’t matter. In his lifetime he has created hundreds of thousands of jobs and paid billions in tax; but here is the crux, he has potentially saved millions of lives through the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Which of those three headlines do you think he will want on his gravestone?

This may not have been Bill’s intent when he started Microsoft, but who cares? People grow up and have a wider view of the world as they see more of it.

The point is, if we encourage young people to think socially and as global citizens from a very early age, if we talk about improving people’s lives beyond employment, then values and value are striven for and more start-ups will, well, start.

A new approach

It’s a basic sales tweak to the message: what is the ‘sweet spot’ of ambitious youth? I would say it is the open idea of changing the world, not the idea of helping the government boost the economy. Talking that way, oh, and removing the unhelpful, out-dated 1980s role models of entrepreneurship from domineering prominence, would inspire more start-ups from young people.

Allow young people to think they are potential creative agents for change and that will inspire more start-ups and more high impact businesses. Money is not evil; it’s just fine when in the hands of people transparently working towards change for their community or country, or preferably the world.

Whether it’s philanthropy or social enterprise doesn’t really matter. Having ethics in your first business plan (and all subsequent plans) keeps an entrepreneur motivated and passionate, but also, in today’s world of instant review, it’s the only long-term way to do business.

You are creative rock stars, you are business plan poets, and you are imaginative and inspirational impact makers. You are not just a manipulated tool of the capitalist state – so start a business and win an Oscar, or an Olympic medal, or a Nobel peace prize. Change the world. I suppose politicians may struggle to say that without being mocked, but free youth up into thinking big and I bet that more businesses will start.

Chris Arnold is the founder of Camp Leaders and Smaller Earth. He’s currently working on Your Big Year, an initiative which saw 60,000 young people from 221 countries apply to win a year-long trip to five continents, meeting business and community leaders such as Bill Gates and Sir Richard Branson. The 12 finalists will compete in a series of tasks around entrepreneurship and global citizenship at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Liverpool.

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