European Youth Media Days 2016

Stirring up Europe’s entrepreneurial spirit

Text by Melissa Vermeulen, Belgium

Enterpreneurship is a skill, not a talent


It is a myth that you have to be born an entrepreneur to run a successful business. A panel of business experts suggests that you can become one by developing your mindset and skills.

“In my opinion we need to integrate entrepreneurship in our education system,” said Mads Ehrhardt, Founder of Copenhagen Concept and Fashionfinder, to the young audience at the European Youth Event 2016. He added that it is much easier to motivate children to become entrepreneurs than adults “who are much more narrow minded.”

Above all, entrepreneurship is a skill potential entrepreneurs must learn. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, encourages entrepreneurship education. Up to 20% of students who participate in a mini-company program in secondary school will later start their own company, European Commission data suggests. That is up to five times higher than in the general population.

Fear or courage?

Becoming an entrepreneur also indicates that you up for taking on both risks and responsibilities. Europeans seem to fear the consequences of failure enough to deter them from setting up their own business: “Europeans are less entrepreneur-minded than Americans, because we have a very strong social security system to fall back on as an employee. This is not the case for Americans, who feel like if they do not do it themselves there is nothing to fall back on,” said Ehrhardt. “It’s sad to say, but maybe courage will come from fear! Europeans should become less spoiled.”

Do not give up

Starting and running a new company is not easy. Finance is often one of the biggest challenges for start-ups. However, there are a lot of possibilities to get funding, such as crowdfunding, business angels and government investment programs. “There is a lot of money available in the European Union, and you should figure out how you can get a grip on it”, said Rick Watson, Managing Director and Head of Capital Markets at the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME). “Remember not to give up. If one bank says ‘no’ to your project, you can always go to the next one. If you have an idea that is keeping you awake, you should stop finding excuses not to achieve it and just go for it!”

From one entrepreneur to another

“Do not delude yourself, though: even when you are self-employed, you will need help. You cannot do everything yourself,” said Ehrhardt. “Twenty years ago the climate was much more competitive, entrepreneurs didn’t want to share, but nowadays a ‘pay it forward’ feeling arose among them. They feel obliged to help others that are in the same situation as themselves. Moreover, don’t underestimate the power of a strong network! You never know what others can mean for you. And beware, not only can young entrepreneurs learn from experienced ones, the later generations can also learn from this emerging generation.”

Andrey Novakov, a Bulgarian Member of the European Parliament, agreed with Ehrhardt and added: “When you receive negative feedback, accept it and try to learn from it, even if don’t agree with their opinion. For example, if ever people underestimate you, use this as an extra push to do better and to prove them wrong!”

Timing is everything

“The next ten years, we will see a trend in self-employment. Big companies are no longer hiring employees, but do work more often with consultants,” said Ehrhardt. “However, do know that entrepreneurship takes time. Today’s 20-somethings are used to having everything instantly. You can have a dream, but you can also have time. Maybe you should wait a little bit, get some experience first and then take action. Your time will come!” he added.

Only 37% of Europeans would like to be self-employed, compared to 51% of the people in the US and China.

(Source: European Commission)


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