We are taught that the best way to make a living is to go to university, get a degree, get a job and move on. I have found, during interactions with people my age, that few have ambitions to become entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship is not part of the broader pop/street culture in South Africa due to an array of reasons- some it out of our control. Some cite access to funding, others blame government red tape and a sluggish economy as reasons why entrepreneurship is often avoided.
I don’t have any scientific figures but a thumb suck would tell you that more graduates would prefer a steady job than risky entrepreneurship.
As a professional, I have been quite satisfied living from pay check to pay check every month and having worked my way up from a meagre salary to something much more substantive, I am satisfied that I am able to pay my bills and meet my responsibilities.
But living paycheck to paycheck doesn’t grow economies and allow for financial freedom. It only makes a few (often white) people rich.
On a trip to the Netherlands last November, I interacted with so many people my age involved in amazing start-ups.
Some jumped straight into the start- up world straight out of university while others maintained their professional day job and worked on their start-ups in their spare time.
I found that a lot of the Dutch start-up space is tech related while it was not peculiar at all that a law graduate would be the head of business for a company that makes rubber dams. Believe it or not.
In South Africa, a lot of the startup scene involves the hipsterish market. Think urban markets, handmade cheese, hipster coffee and afrocentric fashion. Think Woodstock and Braamfontein. While that should be supported and endorsed, I feel like we have a long way to go until small business becomes a way of life and small businesses grow and challenge the market.
I had an interesting conversation with an Uber driver in Pretoria last month. He is a university drop out because he could not afford the fees. He is now trying to complete his Bcom degree through Unisa while surviving on what he makes through Uber.
He makes a decent living through Uber, for now, and could have ambitions of working for a big banking institution in South Africa.
Instead, in the meanwhile he is trying to negotiate with a big property investment company to develop a shopping strip on vacant land his family in the Eastern Cape owns.
He looked well under 30 and convinced Shoprite to consider leasing from him when the shopping strip was up.
The land, which is now vacant and to no use, may soon be a job creator and economic hub for that rural town in the Eastern Cape.
I was so motivated by his story and commitment to his vision that I began introspecting on whether entrepreneurship should be my next step.
Not having a steady income makes me jittery, but after engaging with so many small business owners on social media, you can easily run a small business part time. The first question now is what area of business should one venture in. Then comes the funding part followed by an operational model. I don’t have all those questions answered and no guarantee that a startup would be successful.
Success starts with the first step right?