Fascinating and Frightening in Equal Measures?

Kanya King is a remarkable woman.  More precisely she is a very unremarkable woman with a remarkable story.  We all have the potential to do remarkable things.  She is best known for re-mortgaging her house to see her dream – The MOBO Awards – become a reality.

She is passionate about giving young people the opportunity to experience enterprise.   To inspire a new generation of business entrepreneurs.

To further this passion she has teamed up with Thomson Local – the database people – to challenge school children (16+) to develop business ideas that will benefit their local community.

The best will secure a  bursary of £100 and mentoring from a ‘business hero’.

Thomson will also build them a web site – apparently whether their business idea demands one – or not.  It might have been more interesting if Thomson helped them to develop a strategy to get to market.  The default position of ‘I need a website’ is not always the best one.

The overall competition winners will win a ‘money can’t buy prize’.  VIP experience at the next MOBOs perhaps?

I love the fact that this kind of stuff happens.  That people care about enterprise.

But I worry too;

  • I worry that they cite research (unreferenced) suggesting that 81% of British children want to run their own business – can this be true?  On what basis has this want developed?
  • I worry that combining the forces of a for profit like Thomson with a business planning competition will further distort what educationalists percieve enterprise education to be all about.
  • I worry that the emphasis on ‘pitching your ideas’ – letting others attach their valuation to your business dream – will emphasise an external locus of control that is unhelpful to the entrepreneur.
  • I worry that asking young people to focus on making things better in their community – perhaps before they have learned how to make things better for themselves might inculcate lessons of selflessness that could be unhelpful.
  • I worry that this type of scheme will attract those who are already destined for an enterprising future and turn off those who think that school based competitions are uncool and that business is for geeks.
  • I worry about the language of supplying ‘business hero’ mentors.
  • I worry about the volume of work that such projects place on students and their teachers at a really busy time in the their school life.
  • I worry about further strengthening the perception that enterprise = business and more teachers resisting the enterprise agenda as a capitalist plot to brainwash young people.
  • I worry about the fact that the website that is the home of the competition appears to have no RSS feed.  I am invited to ‘check back’ for updates!  As if web 2.0 had not happened!!

So I have signed up to offer to be a business hero – notwithstanding considerable reservations.

Let’s see where this takes us!


  1. My daughter is now on her second business.

    I encourage her because I was never encouraged to think of starting my own business. For me, I was told, get good results, go to university, get a good job (and if you are a lucky, a vocation such as teaching) end of story.

    I simply think kids need to have a variety of options presented to them. They are likely to have portfolio careers, and they need to understand it is their choice. They are not to be the victims of circumstance or the “way things have always been”. Unlike a whole generation, if they can’t get a job, they need to learn to make a job.

    I’ve signed up too. Let’s see what happens.

    • Definitley need to promote enterprise and entrepreneurship as options in the school system. With you 100%.

      I don’t think we do this effectively by direct promotion of business plans etc. We do it by helping people to become clear on who they are, who they want to be and the best routes for realising that choice.

      It is not about presenting them with options (focus on exploring the outside). It is about helping them to explore who they are and what they really want to become. If they can best do this working for someone else then great. If the only way they can succeed is to do it for themselves…

      The answer to the “is enterprise right for me” question lies inside the person – not a ranking of external opportunities.

      I think this is subtle – but important…..

  2. Surely its about both? It doesn’t make sense to suggest that the individual (what ‘lies inside the person’) is something completely separate from the world around them.

    • You are right Jonathon – balance in all things.

      When you look at most enterprise education stuff it is about the opportunities and other externalities. Very little is about introspection and sense of identity stuff. Indeed often we collude in helping people to lose sight of who, and what they really are, and what they want to be, in pursuit of their enteprising idea.

      This results in too many people doing work that they hate – ‘it is just not me!’. The current rush to enterprise is exacerbating this – let’s hear it for ‘slow enteprise’. Enterprise as a long term project – not a quick fix. Enterprise as making a living AND a life. Enterprise as a process for the pursuit of happiness – not just income.

      We seriously need to redress the balance. We don’t take seriously enough the relationship between the individual and their community/history. We just look at a community that ‘lacks enterprise’ and nag them into being more enteprising without any serious consideration of the stories that they are telling and the experiences that they are sharing.

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