‘The French might not have a word for “Entrepreneur”, but we do’

The great American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist.”

If Emerson’s words ring true with you, if they trigger but the faintest voyage of contemplation about the land of opportunities that lies ahead of you, chances are very high that within you beats the heart of an entrepreneur and times could not be better for you. And this is why.

According to the teachings of the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, innovation lies at the heart of any profitable enterprise. This concept seems hardly revolutionary, in fact the realization that innovations can be transformed into economic goods may be as old as mankind itself. Just call to mind the now almost metaphorical invention of the wheel. In other words, man has always attempted to think outside the box, looked for needs not yet satisfied and scouted out new niche markets.

What is different about these times is that they are quite dire times and that is exactly the point. An entrepreneur’s raw material is a brand new idea – the birth of which requires creative thought and mental focus. Crucially, time-tested wisdom has it that struggle is the mother of everything creative. So, the thrust of the argument is that the currently limited employment opportunities for us graduates may just be a blessing in disguise because our minds are forced to focus on our more creative ideas, as well as on survival strategies that we would have never otherwise contemplated had we succumbed to cozy and predictable corporate life.

In the UK, approximately 500.000 new businesses are created every year which, according to a recent World Bank ranking, renders it the fourth easiest place to do business in the world, topped only by Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

This is in part due to a combination of measures that successive governments have taken , including the Companies Act 2006 as well as in fact EU membership itself – often seen as a red-tape wrapped obstacle to innovation – which affords the opportunity for UK entrepreneurs to export their goods freely right across the continent.

This recent tide can also be attributed to the substantive shift in the social landscape of this globalized, post-credit crunch where consumers are king again and can re-evaluate what and how they buy. There is a heightened demand for the kind of durable, high-quality products that small businesses typically specialize in, forcing the market gatekeepers to justify their price points and to live up to the quality standards and innovative force of smaller enterprises.

Nirvana-esque times for the aspiring entrepreneur, it seems, but this world is no utopia and so it is only pragmatic to note that one of the few obstacles left is access to finance. This problem, however, is more circumstantial than anything else and will not stand in the way of a business plan that is truly convincing on its merits. Moreover, it shall not be long until the government and our financial institutions understand that top-down solutions aimed at catalyzing economic growth must go hand in hand with bottom-up ones, and the long-term value of providing credit to business start-ups will be re-learned.

The bottom line is that ideas matter because they always have and will continue to do so for as long as man populates planet Earth. If you are lucky enough to have one of your own, a piece of intellectual property that might improve the lives of many – the way yellow post it notes have – then please consider this your very own Emersonian wake-up call.


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