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Young Entrepreneurship- Raising money, raising aspirations

Raising money in whatever way whether through sponsorship, table-top sales, or running a marathon, teaches young people a very valuable lesson – you have to work hard for what you want. But what role does raising money have in raising the aspirations of young people, and how can crowdfunding in particular support aspiring young entrepreneurs?

Rewards based crowdfunding is the process by which people are encouraged to pledge small amounts of money to particular projects in return for rewards. Crowdfunding is often mistaken as an easy option to raise money, but in reality considerable effort is required to make a success of it. Crowdfunding, however, offers something helpful to aspiring young entrepreneurs, and that is an insight into the issues they may face if they decide to start a business, and an understanding of how to handle those.

The reason this is important is that evidence suggests the biggest difficulty for young people isn’t so much a lack of aspiration but the knowledge and skills needed to help them reach their goals.

Start it young

A successful crowdfunding campaign can do wonders in helping young people really believe in themselves, and in what is possible when people work together. A fine example of this is when the UK’s youngest crowdfunder, at just 7 years of age, ran a successful project and exceeded his target by 144%. As strangers began pledging money to help get his recipe book published for charity, his confidence and belief in his own abilities grew, as he realised people really believed in what he was doing. This confidence spilled over into other aspects of life, for example in school, and in conversations with adults, and the gap between him wondering if he could reach his target, and the belief that he was going to do it, became smaller as each day passed.

Start it up

The similarities between starting a business and starting a crowdfunding campaign are there for all to see. Before you start a business, it is necessary to consider not only if there is a market for the idea but also how to convince others to get involved; crowdfunding requires a similar process in constructing the video to tell your story and engage the crowd to pledge support. Many serial investors will tell you that they are investing in the person or team first, and the business idea will often be secondary. In crowdfunding friends and family may pledge support because of their personal connection to you, but getting the message across to people you have never met, and persuading them that you are reliable and will deliver, is crucial to the success of a project.

Young people thinking about starting a business will often have very little, if any, commercial experience and this can have a serious impact on confidence and aspirations. Crowdfunding allows projects to ask for time and expertise as well as money, so young people can make their ideas come to life by asking for practical as well as financial help, and understanding that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, rather a sign of maturity in recognising where the gaps in knowledge and skills lie and taking steps to fill those.

Lessons learned

Of course, just as in business, not every crowdfunding project will succeed, and that can be a hard lesson when you’re starting out. Failing at the first attempt isn’t likely to damage aspirations, however, if learning can be taken from that experience and then applied to the next idea that comes along – tenacity, resilience, and determination are all key traits which many successful entrepreneurs possess.

Crowdfunding is not a panacea for all the woes of youth unemployment, and the challenge of creating hope and a belief in young people’s power to make a positive difference to the world. It can, however, teach young people that they can and should aspire to achieve great things, and that to achieve they need to be able to motivate, inspire, and accept help from others, and build and share their success with the people who helped make it possible.

Lorraine Allman is author of Enterprising Child, a business woman, crowdfunding coach, and mum to the UK’s youngest successful crowdfunder at just 7 years of age!
Published Friday January 11, 2013

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