Igniting a Generation of Youth Entrepreneurs – Advice for the Youth Ready to Take the Leap into Entrepreneurship

South Africa’s unemployment figures make for sombre reading. Unemployment is estimated to hit 35.6% in 2023, with youth unemployment (people aged between 15-34yrs) reaching a staggering 46,3% in 2021. While entrepreneurship has long been identified as a solution to unemployment and youth unemployment in particular, young people are often ill-equipped to be entrepreneurs as entrepreneurial thinking is not widely taught at a school level and not many have considered whether an individual ‘has what it takes’ to be an entrepreneur in the first place. Director of Seed Academy, Donna Rachelson says the country needs to do more to nurture young entrepreneurs. “High unemployment among the youth is an urgent concern which requires solid, innovative solutions. There’s absolutely more that can be done to guide young people in identifying business opportunities while also creating avenues for aspiring entrepreneurs to gain valuable real-world work experience to equip them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to begin their own entrepreneurial journey.”

Here’s our advice for those wanting to make the leap to entrepreneurship

  • Develop financial discipline early on – develop financial models that are realistic and reflect planned business growth, this will help ensure your business is funding-ready when you need it.
  • Build your network – you need to build a support system early on – not only with other entrepreneurs but mentors, family, friends and organisations that offer support to entrepreneurs.
  • Invest in fundamentals early on e.g. registering your business; a professional email address (don’t use Gmail and consider engaging a graphic designer to come up with a professional logo and business cards). Potential clients and investors will feel more comfortable if you are ‘established’ – you need to give an impression of professionalism and stability early on.
  • Celebrate small successes. Every small milestone should be seen as a step in the right direction. Learn from these successes and how the steps taken can be incorporated into your company systems and processes.
  • Be kind to yourself! Entrepreneurship is not easy – don’t expect everything to be perfect first time around. Remember that even the most successful entrepreneurs fail sometimes. The trick is to learn from failures, engage with mentors and work on a plan of action to get it right the next time.
  • Most importantly – never stop learning and innovating! If you don’t know something, make an effort to find out everything you can about it, talk to people in the know, seek out expert guidance, and follow the work of advice of entrepreneurs you admire.
  • Build a team – don’t do it on your own. Collaborate with like-minded and passionate individuals who understand your goals and share your vision. Surrounding yourself with positive people who can share their knowledge and skills with you is invaluable to any entrepreneur who wants to go the distance.
  • Be passionate – accept that failure can be part of your journey but that passion for what you do is the cornerstone of every success. Sincere passion and dedication will always be noticed and remembered.
  • Do your research – take the time to fully understand your market, its challenges and opportunities. Get to know every aspect of your chosen industry and identify corporates who have Enterprise Development (ED) programmes that you can get involved in to take your business to the next level.

Seed Academy believes South African youth have the power, drive, energy, creativity and innovation to change the statistics and pursue entrepreneurship as an alternative to formal employment. To this end, we have launched AccelerateYouth a programme that educates young people (18+) about entrepreneurship, determines their entrepreneurial potential, and equips them with the skills and mindset to build and grow businesses that will create jobs in the future; and enables the corporates who sponsor them to positively impact their B-BBEE scorecards while contributing to reducing the country’s unemployment rate. While taking the brave step to become an entrepreneur can be daunting, the rewards outweigh the risk. Each young entrepreneur has the potential to impact our country’s economic growth, make a difference in their communities, create employment for other young people, actively reduce the unemployment rate, and lead the way for a brighter and more prosperous South Africa.