21 April 2016

Opinion

What is it like to be a young entrepreneur?

In this day and age you need determination, grit, guts and a huge sense of humour to survive as a business owner. When I unconsciously entered the world of business on my 20th birthday, I never imagined what a tough journey I was about to embark on.

What is it like to be a young entrepreneur?

Jessica Elliot, Founder, J’s Dance Factory

If I knew then what I know now, would I still have done it? Well yes! Without a doubt… I wouldn't change it for the world.

Having a business has allowed me to grow and develop as a person and acquire an amazing set of skills that no job could ever teach me. In fact, it’s a shame that businesses don’t always recognise the power of transferable skills, as young entrepreneurs have a lot they could offer established companies.

So I suppose I better tell you what it is I actually do! On the 1st September 2007 J's Dance Factory was born. I established a local dance school for children in South East London. My first marketing campaign consisted of a few black and white photocopied leaflets but I managed to recruit 12 children on day one.

Within a few weeks I had 70 children attending the school. I was still at university and eager to complete my degree so took on my first contractor and relied on my Mum to help me cope.

But I quickly saw the benefits that running your own business could bring. While I earned significantly less than my other newly graduated peers who all secured ‘proper jobs’, what I had was the freedom to create my own destiny and the ability to change children's lives by helping them to grow in confidence and make friends.

Life as a 21 year-old business owner is hard! You lose friends, you gain responsibilities and because of your age you feel like you constantly have to prove yourself.

Despite the hard financial circumstance, the knowledge that what I do helps shape lives was enough to not only keep me going but push me to achieve more.

Life as a 21 year-old business owner is hard! You lose friends, you gain responsibilities and because of your age you feel like you constantly have to prove yourself.

Perseverance is the key. During the first 3 years of business I had gained recognition by the Prime Minister David Cameron; had my own TV documentary; articles in several national papers; won numerous business awards and opened my 2nd dance company to help bring dance to schools in disadvantaged areas.

At one time, I was contracted to 40 schools a week across London, reaching well over 1000 children who wouldn't otherwise access the service. I was able to achieve all this and help so many children through building a business.

That’s why business is so important to everything we do in this country, and in fact the world. It’s not just for the economy but business can be a means of making change and improving wellbeing.

Business and entrepreneurship needs to be a more accessible and viable option to children and young people. There should be more help available for them to launch credible businesses and from primary school onwards, to help raise children’s aspirations.

I have now franchised my dance school and have a plan to roll out the brand across the UK and internationally. I want to impact on more lives, create more jobs and provide others with the opportunity to gain the satisfaction I do from working with some awesome children who will go on to shape our world in years to come.

My talent agency is growing too, having launched the careers of 5 young West End stars and nurtured countless others to fill roles in TV and on stage across the world. As I approach 8 years in business I cannot wait to see what the next 8 hold for J’s Dance Factory…

I hope you will see that for me business isn’t solely about financial gain. It’s about how well I can use my business to create positive change. I hope the young people I work with are inspired to make a change too - to be brave and pursue a career that they truly believe in and can be proud of. Life is about smiles and I am proud that my business creates many.

 

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