They believe they can, so they do: the achievements of ‘youngentrepreneurs’

Given the right conditions, mushrooms will flourish in unlikely places. Two young Americans have taken that notion and turned it into a business in a way which wouldn’t have been possible only a couple of decades ago. They’re ‘youngentrepreneurs’; young people who succeed in business because, when you’re young, you believe you can do anything – and now the technology exists to make it possible.

I always remember Tony. When I was nine, he was the only kid in my class whose dad wasn’t a steelworker. Tony’s dad was a bus driver instead, and he took people to work on the steelworks and brought them home again.

The world inhabited by all of those dads was different from the one in which we live today. Heavy industry and manufacturing relied on people in their thousands to do things with the skill in their hands and the strength in their backs. Thousands of others worked in sectors that supported those individuals, all feeding the machine. There wasn’t a lot of call for ‘thinking’, ‘initiative’, and ‘imagination’; schools were places that churned out more workers on a relentless human conveyor belt.

But that was then. Thankfully, technology has moved on considerably – though, much less thankfully, so has a lot of manufacturing. The dexterity of craftsmen is supported by technology; many grindingly-difficult repetitive tasks are now performed by machines. The result is that the people leaving the educational conveyor belt are able to fuel their futures with imagination. It’s not that those from earlier generations had less imagination; they didn’t. The difference is that now technology has provided the platform to build new and exciting futures; it has been the fuel to power the imagination to new places.

Simple is best
Witness the birth of the new phenomenon, the ‘youngentrepreneur’. Young people with a vision, who believe that because they want to, they can. So who believe they have no option. The bravado of youth; when you’re young, you believe you can do anything. And let’s face it, many of them do. Take Grant Vanderwagen and Elizabeth Crockett, who together started TSV – The Social Vibe – together in April last year. They say: “Since the launch of TSV on the 1 April, 2015 we have learnt that there’s always an opportunity that can be created, even in a seemingly congested market. Having an adapting mind-set to the social structure of the global economy always positions one at an advantage. It’s not always the big ideas that make it, but the simple solutions that add to convenience that make customers come back, and back again.”

New window on the world
For Abud Rugems, the arrival of the internet in the Ugandan capital of Kampala opened up a window of opportunity that simple hadn’t existed before. Perhaps he was like the sons of the steelworkers, for whom the internet was a world which didn’t exists. However, says Abud: “The Internet is so vast and available that it can be accessed through dongles even in remote villages. What is most exciting is that there is hope. Anyone can develop apps and other technologies, and get paid for it. We get paid for all of the apps and web services that we create. To survive, entrepreneurship has become our only option. This is far better than not having an option at all.  The rise of use of technology has brought opportunities where opportunities never existed before for people like me.”

Doing some things very well
But it’s not all about tech; well – not entirely – it’s about spotting an opportunity and working on it. Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez did just that when they turned their backs on corporate America to become mushroom farmers, having been inspired by hearing that mushrooms could be grown on old coffee grounds in basements. Just because no-one had tried it commercially before didn’t mean it wouldn’t work, so they decided to give it a go.

They now own California-based Back To The Roots, and sell grow-it-yourself mushroom kits, containing used coffee grounds, through 2,500 retailers as far afield as the USA, Canada, and Hong Kong. Tech helps them communicate with those customers, of course, but it’s the determination to succeed with a good idea that has got them where they are today.  As they say: “The principle behind this is focus: You can’t do everything, but you can do some things very well.”

These inspirational young people, and many like them, were found on