Wednesday 22 February 2012

Enterprise in Athens

I graduated from university in Summer 2010. Unlike the previous year's cohort, I didn't quite walk into the darkest months of the recession - but I didn't exactly bound into the working world as a shiny new Bachelor of Science and drown in amazing job offers, either. My exit from education saw me enter a working world that was tentatively trying to keep itself ticking over, bravely trying to hold it's head above the water and prevent another downturn.

When I decided I wanted to start my own business, I was somewhat afraid to say it out loud. My fellow graduates were all frantically job hunting - some gratefully accepting any role they could get - so it seemed almost selfish and whimsical to confess I wanted to do something my own way instead. Truth be told, it received a mixed reaction. My parents, after patiently supporting me through my six years of university (yes, six, you read that correctly) looked like they didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Some of my friends told me it was a "great idea!!" but I could see the looks of "rather you than me, I'll keep job-hunting thankyouverymuch!" flashing across their faces. Sadly, a lot of people were negative about it. My product, Pillow Talk, is obviously very technology-driven and required a lot of initial development funding and I met many people who deemed this a good enough reason to not even try. "We're in a recession" they told me, "you'll never be able to make it happen".

Well, the joke was on them because within two weeks of officially forming my company, I had Government backing and the funds in place to develop a proof-of-concept prototype. Someone gave me a chance and it was all I needed - and that's how it works. I'm running a start-up now, but it is me - and others like me - who will go on to create jobs and opportunities.

This week I am visiting Greece as part of the UK delegation attending Entrepreneur Week Greece. I was offered the opportunity by Shell LiveWIRE and I couldn't say yes quick enough. I love enterprise events and meeting other young people who are facing the same challenges as me, so the idea of doing that in another country was naturally very appealing. It may sound silly, but having previously only networked a lot in the UK, having the opportunity to travel abroad feels a lot like I'm stepping up my game! I'm also very proud to have been chosen to represent the UK as an example of a successful young entrepreneur - it's a big honour and a big responsibility.

I am in Athens with four other young entrepreneurs; Marty Bell, Nathaniel Peat, Glynn Pegler and Nathan Dicks, headed up by Alex Mitchell, Co-Founder and Chairman of Young Brits. Starting today, we will participate in three days of panels and discussions about the positive impact entrepreneurship can have on an economy and how young people can be supported and encouraged in such a tough climate and when resources are limited.

I'm looking forward to learning more about the attitude to entrepreneurship in Greece and exploring any parallels to my experience of starting a business in the UK. It's an amazing experience to network internationally and I suspect the visiting entrepreneurs from around the world will be able to take a lot away from the event. Similarly it will be really interesting to see if, as young British business owners, we can share any of the lessons we have learned along the way with Greek delegates to give them the confidence to pursue entrepreneurship in tough economic times. Looking forward to being a part of it. 


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