A gap year in entrepreneurship
So my eldest son has almost completed his degree (we are awaiting results from a supplementary exam!), and he glibly said to me the other day, “So mum, I’ve done a three year business degree and if I wanted to start my own business tomorrow I wouldn’t have a clue what to do! Isn’t that sad?” To which, of course, I agreed. Duh!
And then my colleague and entrepreneur guru Allon Raiz, founder of Raizcorp (the biggest business incubator in Africa) announces the launch of a gap year in entrepreneurship, and I think, “Great idea! There is such a gap for this (excuse the pun)!”, and immediately got onto the phone to him to hear more about it.
Now Allon and I are colleagues. We have been playing around with a book idea for a while now around parenting and entrepreneurship and it’s connection to future-proofing children for a fast-changing world. I have been talking to parents and schools about how important entrepreneurship will be for this generation of children since co-authoring the best-selling book, Future-proof Your Child (Penguin) with Dr Graeme Codrington a few years ago. It is estimated that 60 – 70% of our children will be entrepreneurs, not only out of choice, but out of necessity. But they get very little schooling in the art and science of entrepreneurship.
And this is exactly where I believe an entrepreneurship gap year, such as the one that has been designed by Allon and his team, has it’s place:
- To help post-matrics to have a constructive gap year while also exploring entrepreneurship (this will become sought after experiential knowledge I have no doubt)
- To help post-graduates to see how they can put their theoretical knowledge to good use in a practical way – to make their thinking visible and tangible
- To help all students to develop an entrepreneurial lens through which to view the world
- To help all students to develop opportunity eyes and possibility thinking (breaking out of academic thinking)
- To help all students to learn how to spot the gaps by broaden their thinking and changing the way they think
- To provide a combination of theory and practical application helping candidates be ready for a disruptive world in which opportunities are around every corner (if you know how to look for them and how to ask the right kinds of questions)
- To provide opportunities for students to learn how to create and craft juicy business ideas that do not come out of a textbook
So, I’m thinking, if you have a young person who is still at a loose end (either post matric or post grad) and can afford to give them an entrepreneurship gap year (yes, this one does cost money because it is designed for a small group with intense input from lecturers and mentors), that this gap year could open up a world of possibility for them.
If they have a strong entrepreneurial leaning this could send them on their way, or they could discover that the challenge and risk of entrepreneurship is not their thing, which is also a good thing to learn. Either way, whether our children land up working for themselves or in someone else’s business, having a trained entrepreneurial mindset can only be beneficial in a world where entrepreneurship is about to become one of the biggest buzzwords. But a meaningless buzzword is all it will be without a backbone consisting of shared practical knowledge passed on from one entrepreneur to another, and personal experience at the coalface.
Management guru, Tom Peters, talks about the fact that you need to see yourself as Brand Me Inc, wherever you find yourself currently working – whether its in your own business or someone else’s. Behave like an entrepreneur even if you are employed and you will be an asset to your employer as well as safeguarding your own career. This because you have the gift of opportunity eyes and possibility thinking and the confidence to take action even in the face of risk and change.
In a fast-changing, volatile and disruptive world I can’t think of more useful gifts to give a young person stepping out into the adult world.