How to become an entrepreneur
Yaneek Page, Contributor
I have always wanted to email you but didn't get the chance before now. I really look up to you. You are my role model. My dream is to become one of Jamaica's biggest entrepreneurs. I am 18 years old and I just adore you. I believe was born to do business. I recently finished six form and I'm planning to pursue a degree in entrepreneurship. Not only do I want to be an entrepreneur, I also want to train people in entrepreneurship like you. Do you think I can do well in this field? Can I get some tips?
Businesswise: "Work for a cause not for applause, live life to express not to impress, don't strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt." I don't know the author of this quote but it really resonates with me and is one of the best tips I could ever offer. As someone who didn't find her confidence until adulthood I struggled for years with learning to accept compliments. Yours is among the kindest compliments I have ever received and I appreciate it sincerely.
Here are my tips for becoming an entrepreneurship trainer.
1. Get formal training
I'm glad you realize formal training is important. While my degree in management studies and my job as a teaching assistant at the Department of Management Studies, UWI, gave me a solid foundation, it was my further training in entrepreneurship that deepened my grasp of the subject area. Completing your degree is a good first step.
2. Learn how to train others
Having knowledge of entrepreneurship and being able to teach are completely different things. I completed several advanced courses for trainers in order to learn how to deliver training effectively and ensure that learning takes place. A key lesson was understanding the difference between how adults and children learn and being able to create and execute training programs designed to meet the needs of the target audience specifically.
3. Get experience
There's no requirement for entrepreneurship trainers to have real life experience but it's priceless. As with many other disciplines, the theory of entrepreneurship differs greatly from practice. You will be a far more valuable and informed resource if you actually take the bold step of trying to do the things you are suggesting your students do. Taking big risks, creating innovative solutions to problems, navigating bureaucracy, creating jobs, embracing failure, persevering despite the odds - those words easily roll off the tongue in a lecture theatre but are rock hard to swallow in reality. Until you know the struggles of creating ideas, slaving to transform an idea to a viable business, buckling under the weight of red tape and burdensome tax, statutory, regulatory and employer obligations, scavenging to fund your start up after cashing in your pension and selling every prized possession you own, carrying the work of at least 5 departments (not people) on your shoulders - accounts, sales, marketing, operations, new product development - without the security of even minimum wage as salary, you'll just be reciting fairytales.
4. Be audacious, build your brand and keep learning
Even with training & experience you must continue to learn to stay at the top of your game. Plan for the copycats who will follow in droves. Don't strive to be like me, aim to be different, and much better. I'm always hunting and exploiting learning opportunities. From participating in the US International Visitor Leadership Exchange program learning about best practices in entrepreneurship & small business development in the US, to being a mentee of the UK based Cherie Blair Foundation, to attending local, regional and global conferences on entrepreneurship. I invest heavily in self-development and cultivating strong connections with leading entrepreneurs - I have them in over 50 countries. They are a constant source of ideas, knowledge, new developments & support. Building a strong brand is a must and it won't happen overnight. This where its most uncertain and complex because you can't build a brand copying others, you have to be your authentic self and offer substance not fluff.
5. Be passionate
The most important tool in training is the trainer herself! All the knowledge, fancy tools and resources at your disposal are meaningless if you lack the passion and personality. I love training. It never feels like work. I am always thirsty for business and entrepreneurship - I join associations, build networks, read, watch, listen to and google everything related to the topic. This very column is a manifestation of my passion for it. I'm writing this at 11:19 p.m. after a long workday and it's a joy. Ask yourself - can you compete with people who are so committed? If yes, then go for it.
Can you do well in this field? Of course! After preparing for the challenges - increased competition from government and donor subsidised training and others flooding the market as the push for entrepreneurship gathers momentum. Market demand is another challenge - they may want it but can aspiring entrepreneurs afford to pay? Many can't. Expanding, like me, into online training & business advisory services for existing micro, small and medium-sized business may be the way to go. However you should think big and look to regional and global market opportunities.