Glenford Smith | Enthusiastic entrepreneur
QUESTION: I enjoyed reading The Sunday Gleaner newspaper article, 'A career as an entrepreneur'. I agree with your thoughts that entrepreneur skills are lacking in our college graduates. However, I must state that an additional reason is that graduates face a lack of capital to start a business. Some graduates have attempted to start a business with the assistance of financial institutions that were reluctant to assist. Would you agree that specific programmes are needed to financially assist ambitious graduates with enthusiastic entrepreneur spirits?
- M. C.
CAREERS: I am very gratified that you enjoyed the article.
It is a fact that some graduates have been unsuccessful in getting financial capital for their projects. I also would agree that programmes are needed to support young entrepreneurs. However, bear the following in mind.
You've shared the familiar experience of a graduate who studied overseas, who returned to Jamaica intent on starting a business here. She had an idea for a business and sought financial assistance from a local bank. The bank representative told her that she had not lived in Jamaica long enough to have contributed to the economy.
Now, I want to reiterate that entrepreneurship is not easy. I would say though that she would not be worthy of the name if that one rejection deterred her. I am not saying that it did, because I'm almost sure it did not.
Maybe she spoke with the bank representative at a bad time, or maybe she should have spoken with someone else. I don't know. What I do know is that if an entrepreneur is hungry enough, he or she doesn't use those experiences as excuses or justifications. I know that you personally understand these things already, but we have to stretch our minds.
Let me propose something you might think about. The rejection might be a blessing in disguise. When you're forced to start with little or no credit, it forces you to find little or low-cost ways to get your products out. That is, if you are intent on making it a success.
Take, for example, the American television series, 'Shark Tank' on CNBC or 'The Innovators', the local version of the show. Before the contestants come on the show, their ideas have been road tested, they have some success, and all they need is capital. In the end some secure funding; some don't. But they don't come to the venture capitalists with ideas they have not tested, seeking funding.
The bank representative might sound harsh, I know. But you can't give a person financing, without satisfying yourself that he or she has a stake in the business, and will not up and leave the country, at the first sign of trouble.
Ambitious graduates with an enthusiastic entrepreneurial spirit may need to work some years, building up some experience and capital, before they venture out. They may have to find the value in bootstrapping their enterprise. What they will not find are financiers willing to fund an untested venture.
- Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'.