Do young entrepreneurs still feel strange in our society? by Aatqa Ali
Today, we live in a world ruled by youngsters who have the wisdom and power to create their path for a prosperous future. Young people are no longer to associate with a multinational brand, but to make themselves a brand independently. Interestingly, people have brought about a behavioral change when it comes to either being a job-seeker or an entrepreneur. As a consequence of this debate, we witness an upsurge of young entrepreneurs who take this opportunity as a blessing in disguise. There is an increasing trend of entrepreneurship culture among the community, providing a soft cushion to economic instability and social needs. Though entrepreneurs gain great acceptance in today's world, Pakistan still lacks the atmosphere and business culture that favors the growth of entrepreneurs.
Ironically, people often misinterpret an entrepreneur to be either an elite business owner earning billions of dollars or an underrated local business owner with no financial security. We are still not ready to grasp the true essence of entrepreneurship as being your own boss. We have seen a period where the term ‘entrepreneurship’ sounded very lavish, but things have changed a lot in present times.
Pakistan is fortunate to own a giant portion of its population, almost 64% as a youth, having the potential to endeavor in an entrepreneurial culture. However, due to a lack of understanding and acceptance, we are still far behind on what could be done. It estimates that Pakistan needs to introduce almost 1.7 million jobs per annum to enter new workforces in the market. Pakistan’s low GDP due to the poor economic circumstances gives us the insight to work on the untouched side of the economy. Entrepreneurs can play a vital role in increasing the working population and engaging newcomers in the future upbringing.
But considering the inherent economic issues and old-fashioned employment approach our society follows, entrepreneurs have to face many obstacles while pursuing the career path of their choice. Courtesy of the colonial mindset, we spend half of our life completing various degrees to end up with a 9 to 5 job. People are inclusively prone to follow the specific pattern of life as suggested by their peers. This conventional thinking makes youngsters opt for white-collar jobs instead of letting out the creativity inside them. To put it simply, we need more job-creating opportunities rather than indulging ourselves in the tiring work-seeking race.
Just because of the erroneous perception of society, entrepreneurs go through a long stressful journey to even get simple validation from the society. The question that arises is why does it seem so difficult for entrepreneurs to place themselves among other stakeholders of society? Why is entrepreneurship considered a privileged form of business only for the elite class? Why is entrepreneurship not accepted by society in the way that other professions are accepted?
Our energetic youth has great potential to promote entrepreneurship culture and to transform their raw talent into polished skills, innovative ideas into a conceptual business venture, and a small home-based setup into emerging industries. Recently, a report of the Global University Entrepreneurial Spirit Student's Survey (GUESS), conducted across 54 countries, including Pakistan. The motive of this study was to understand the approach towards entrepreneurial culture and activities among students. Nearly 20800 students from 1000 renowned universities took part in this research, and the findings were quite interesting. According to the report, more than 35% of students start to think about entrepreneurship after five years of completing higher studies while only half of them jump to entrepreneurship right after completing their education. Another point to explore here is the lack of institutions intending to provide entrepreneurship courses and workshops to develop a business-oriented mindset. The GUESS report indicates that more than 40% of students didn't show any interest in such startup courses. This lack of interest is the main reason why so many brilliant business ideas couldn't be translated into practical startups.
To understand the story of these statistics, I connected with a few amazing entrepreneurs, and their journey is worth mentioning to inspire others. Areeba Ahmed is a multi-talented entrepreneur who owns three different businesses as- customized baking chef, resin artist, and freelance interior designer. Customized baking (Saaaai's cake) was her first business venture, and to my surprise, she was 16 when selling her first customized cake. During the conversation, Areeba shares her struggle in breaking the stereotype, and how instead of joining university after college, she moved straight away towards entrepreneurship. On a note, she raises an important point that the success of your business is not associated with taking entrepreneurship courses and training programs. Your passion, in the long run, is enough to help you nurture your business.
“Perfection doesn't come with just taking one course or one class. You learn by your trials and errors. And now, we have the world of the internet, and learning any skill has never been this much easy. You do not really have to depend on courses to be able to get somewhere. I used to combine different ideas and recipes to practice and experiment with something different. I started baking at age 8 and sold my first cake when I was 16. Last year, I came up with resin artistry but it took me years to gather all the supplies and learn all the tricks. Now, I took it as a profession because if something is in demand, I don't think there is any harm in turning my passion into a business.”
The lower entrepreneurship rate among youngsters suggests the common mentality of starting as an employee rather than having your own business. The dilemma of not having enough resources and expertise is yet another reason why young people are reluctant to start their own businesses. In the western culture of working while studying, people earn and learn at the same time, making their journey less miserable and more adventurous.
Contrary to that, we are accustomed to focusing on one thing at a time, and generally, young kids are blindfolded and told to follow the educational path set by their parents or by society. This social pressure of having an honorable degree in hand makes students vulnerable to experimentation. That’s why we have wasted a whole lot of talented peeps who drained themselves while entertaining the orthodox approach and neglecting their own life choices. Areeba also deliberately mentions the awful reaction of the society towards entrepreneurs:
“My school didn’t help me in growing my business or getting into it. People were not supportive of me and I even got bullied in school. They always told me that you need to have a real profession as you cannot do baking for the rest of your career. My father was not a fan of working women. It was tough for me to live in the same house, working in the kitchen. He had always wanted me to only focus on my studies. It took me years to make him believe that what I am doing is something valuable. Overall, this criticism made me work even harder to make him understand that this profession is not less than anyone else’s or anyone who works at the office. It takes a lot of strength, hard work, and patience to overcome the stress laid on working women and make your brand worth spending.”
The way she got bullied for choosing passion over following the herd mentality depicts the narrow closure where people with different professions cannot survive. Perhaps, it is the denial of those products and services people are not used to, even in the 21st century. Although our social and cultural norms have evolved, people still have old beliefs where innovation sounds strange.
Entrepreneurs truly take the crown amidst the days of the pandemic as they are the ones who flourish when everything is going down. Many have successfully landed into entrepreneurship during Covid-19 days and didn't need to struggle to establish themselves. Surprisingly, people choose entrepreneurship, not because of passion but to overcome the financial crisis they face because of the increased unemployment rate. Many people lost their well-settled jobs during the lockdown phase. But as said, every difficulty comes with an opportunity; many people took a brave stance to initiate their small setup and Sadia Hassan is one of them. She owns an online platform Let’s get accessories, selling merchandise of women's footwear and accessories of international brands. She was the one who accidentally fell into entrepreneurship, owing to the positive response and encouragement from her parents and her husband. She summarizes her journey as;
“This business idea didn’t come as a passion but to fulfill the basic financial needs as we were even out of our savings. I had no investment when I started my business and had no idea how things would move forward. I was running my business through Social Media which faces many ups and downs, but luckily, I got where I am today. It's not easy to manage things while being married with a daughter, but now, it eventually became a habit to balance work and family.”
Considering the lifelong hardships an entrepreneur faces, it will be unjust to compare entrepreneurship with the traditional businesses whose primary and, if not mistaken, only purpose is to be a money-making machine. Although entrepreneurship culture sounds more or less like a one-man show at the back-end, there lies a whole team of talented and hardworking coworkers. Unlike other gigantic corporations, which seem self-centered with homogenous values, entrepreneurs have mutual revenue that trickles down to local workers and neighborhood economies.
An entrepreneurial mindset thinks about catering to their financial needs while eliminating social crises among the people. They have a marginal approach to create something that has every element from innovation to the quality needed to grab people's attention. Entrepreneurs think out of the box which means that they are a source of cultural diversity and revolution among society. They always thrive on new ideas and inventions to improve the livelihood of the community. Now, it's about time to change the perspective and develop harmony, a positive attitude, and acknowledgment towards entrepreneurs for a better and brighter future.