At the Inclusive Prosperity Conference earlier this month, Ed Miliband firmly voiced his support for business adding that ‘dynamic entrepreneurship is key to our future success.’
Traditionally, it is the Conservatives who have been perceived as the party of choice for business. Labour, however, is determined to prove that it still means business and if successful next May, will be supporting businesses and working with them to boost economic growth and achieve common goals.
Support for entrepreneurship is key. Entrepreneurs are innovators who put ideas into practice, and the entrepreneurial spirit should be encouraged across all business sectors, from start-ups to corporate giants. Below I set out three considerations on the subject of supporting entrepreneurship.
Education and the integration of entrepreneurship in schools at an early stage is hugely important. Many young people of school leaving age will have entrepreneurial zest and energy, however, knowing how to apply these and understanding what opportunities are available is not always clear or made accessible.
Embedding entrepreneurship and business skills into learning at a young age would help equip our future generation with the skills to succeed; resilience, initiative, creative thinking and crucially the ‘can do’ attitude are qualities that will be beneficial in any future career path.
Current innovative projects in school and further programmes can be supported by politicians and business. These initiatives must be inclusive and accessible to all; after all inequality in business must be addressed and education is a key driver for equality and inclusion.
While access to finance for business is crucial, we must not however overlook the importance of non-financial support. Established businesses have a big role to play in building a strong economy, not only through the business they provide but also the support and expertise they offer. Having recently set up my own venture, I have found the most useful information, advice and guidance to have been the conversations I had with fellow entrepreneurs and the invaluable support I received through business mentoring.
As a programme idea, businesses might consider offering support to entrepreneurs and start-ups as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives. This might include business mentoring, capacity building support and help with networking initiatives.
More needs to be done in supporting women into business and increased visibility of female entrepreneurs to encourage young women into enterprise. According to a government report by the Women’s Business Council Maximising women’s contribution to future economic growth — One year on, if women were setting up and running their own businesses at the same rate as men there would be an extra one million entrepreneurs in the UK. As one of the priorities to influence the younger generation, the report makes the recommendation to ‘encourage opportunities through engagement with (women) entrepreneurs.’
This reminded me of a conference I attended a couple of years ago on enterprise and entrepreneurship. Unusually for a conference of this kind, there seemed to be an equal gender divide. My hopes were high. Alas, the same was not to be said about the panel which was all male. I couldn’t understand why with a room half full of women, the majority of them entrepreneurs, that there were no female panelists. Women looking to go into business can benefit greatly from female role models and there are many. Membership organisations such as the Fabian Women’s Network and Enterprising Women provide support, mentoring and networking opportunities for women and should be tapped into.
Entrepreneurship is crucial in order to build the economy, create jobs and expand employment markets and the support and promotion on where and how to are key. Early education on entrepreneurship, business support and the promotion of those who have achieved as entrepreneurs all play a part in helping build an inclusive, entrepreneurial workforce and culture.
Sophie Earnshaw is the Founding Director of Ponte Consulting Ltd, a social enterprise that helps businesses maximise their community investment through the development of smart and effective programmes and shaping corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy.