Gordon Swaby

“Entrepreneurship Training Gives Youth False Hope”, A response

My friend and fellow World Economic Forum Global Shaper, Jaevion Nelson in his Gleaner column offers a rather cynical perspective on entrepreneurship training.  You can find his column here.  As an entrepreneur and as somebody who is passionate about entrepreneurship, I feel the need to respond.

To start, I don’t believe that you can create entrepreneurs.  I believe there are certain innate traits that are required to at least increase the odds of success in entrepreneurship. I say increase and not  guarantee because even with these traits, you’re still not guaranteed any success.  The true value in entrepreneurship workshops is helping to identify and develop entrepreneurial talent.  Many J’cans are forced into informal entrepreneurship (necessity entrepreneurship) because of a poor job market and/or because they’re not qualified for the job that they want so they decide to “do dem own ting”.

Jaevion’s cynicism, unfortunately only allows him to see a half empty cup. Sure, many will likely attempt to start a business and “fail”, but the upside is that they now have experience that they didn’t have prior and are now more attractive to a potential employer. Many J’cans are successful “hustlers” who have never been taught anything about business.  Workshops and training give them the opportunity outside of a formal school environment to see the value in (for e.g) registering their entity as a sole proprietorship, partnership or a limited liability and helping them to understand which is best for them. Why it’s important to have a bank account and to develop a relationship with the bank, why it’s important to keep good accounting records, tax education and so much more; basic information that can  potentially mean the difference between $150,000 in monthly revenue or $800,000 in monthly revenue, information that they wouldn’t have had prior.

Jaevion’s cynicism also didn’t allow him to mention in his column how the space has changed so much over the last couple of years. When I started EduFocal in 2012 there was no talk of venture capital or angel investing. Now we have venture capital conferences, Startup Jamaica,  Startup Weekend, and so much more. I think I can comfortably say that It’s easier for the savvy school leaver to get equity financing now (which is preferable to debt financing) than it was for them 4 or 5 years ago. There’s so much that needs to happen between coming up with a great idea and getting funding for it and training is a huge part of that process.

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everybody, and that’s fine.  It’s nothing to embarrassed about. But entrepreneurial training can still be extremely valuable for people who want to be employees.; it allows them to be intrapreneurs. Something that can enhance and transform the organizations that they are with.

Statistically speaking, most will start a business and it will likely fail, but some will do well, well enough for them to potentially employee thousands of people. I encourage entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking, whether you’re an employer or an employee because Jamaica so desperately needs it.

Written by Gordon Swaby

Gordon Swaby

Founder and CEO of social learning service EduFocal.com. I’m passionate about technology, the internet and the use of technology in education. I am a recipient of Governor General’s Youth Award, the PSOJ’s 50 Under 50 Award, The commonwealth Youth Award and many others.

Lovingly made on Thursday, September 18th, 2014 at 3:16 pm. Filed under Entrepreneurship.

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