Katie Watkins is 17 years old and studying Spanish, English and Sociology at A Level. She is also studying for the Welsh Baccalaureate at Advance Level and is enrolled in the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme. As a possible future entrepreneur, I was interested in speaking to her about her experiences of and attitude towards business and entrepreneurship and whether she felt it could be a possible future career path for her.
Have you ever been taught anything or had experiences of entrepreneurship in or through school? If so, was it helpful? What did you learn?
We have studied business as a subject in school. But this was quite basic – more ‘an introduction to…’ perhaps. Otherwise, no.
Have you ever considered starting your own business or working in the self-employment sector? Why?
Yes! I am currently working in Llety Cynin Leisure Complex and am learning all aspects of the business both front and back of house. I am also working as a cashier in Tesco Plc in order to gain some retail experience. In future, I would much prefer to work for myself and am considering a career in photography or owning a retail shop of some kind. I find the idea of being my own boss very appealing. I enjoy being able to do things my own way, I think you learn more than if you’re an employee only doing what someone else tells you to do. I imagine it’s quite difficult to try your own thing and test your own creativity as an employee?
What, in your opinion, are the main obstacles you are likely to face if you wanted to set up your own business?
My age… I don’t think that I would be taken seriously by adults, bank managers etc. I would have very little money to get things off the ground and would probably have to borrow money. I am planning on going to university so I will need all the money I have already saved to pay for tuition, living expenses or on running a car. As with most young people, I will probably have to move from my home in rural Carmarthenshire to a city in order to have more opportunities.
What do you perceive to be the pros and cons of working on a self-employed basis?
A big plus would be not having anyone ordering me around! I would enjoy being able to organise my own work schedule and picking when I take holidays or free time. I would possibly earn more money too? On the other hand, the thought of being on my own when things go wrong (which they will!) is quite a scary! I know that I would have to work extra hard and know a lot more about business, the law, the economy etc. than I do at the moment. Whilst I’ve said that I would get to choose when to take holidays I also know that the buck would stop with me, this could mean no holidays or no days off at all… at least initially. Whilst it could be more stressful than working for someone else, I think it’s a trade-off: more responsibility, longer hours and less certainty in order to gain greater autonomy, greater job satisfaction and, in the longer term, more freedom.
What do you believe would be most helpful to young people wanting to pursue entrepreneurship? E.g. walk-in services, websites, mentors etc.
It would be really helpful to have someone in school who was able to talk you through the realities of business. I found the Business Studies courses boring and dated. With the advent of the Internet, Kitchen Table Talent and Home Business Startups and the likes, business has moved on but the guidance just isn’t there for young people. “Business” is still just an academic subject in schools. A modern take on Business Studies is needed, possibly a short course with some sort of certificate at the end that covers innovative ways to entrepreneurship. It’s the same with work experience – spending a week or a day in a business of your choice is fine, but what do you really learn? Do you learn enough to decide if you want to do it for the rest of your life?
What would be your greatest fear or concern if you had decided to start your own business?
I would be afraid of failing and losing all my money! You hear some real horror stories about people’s lives being totally destroyed when a business fails. If that happened to me I would be so embarrassed. I’d also be afraid that it would then be too late to do something else. I think it is fears such as these that make most people stick to the safer route of being an employee even though they may be yearning to work for themselves.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with me today?
I’d like to add that I would have carried on with Business Studies if the course had been more hands-on and relevant to what I wanted to do. Theory is fine, but I don’t see why it cannot have a practical element, why it has to be from behind a desk or in a gloomy lecture hall. To me, entrepreneurship is dynamic, innovative… all about testing ideas… getting out there. That has not been my experience so far. Many students in my class felt the same – Traditional Business Studies pretty much killed off our entrepreneurial ambitions. It would have been really great to have had local and/or famous entrepreneurs come and give inspirational talks to us, to share their experiences both good and bad. If nothing else it would have been a lot less boring!
Diolch yn fawr, Katie. Thank you very much for your time, chatting to you has been very enlightening!
Croeso, a diolch i chi hefyd.