Every Millennial Entrepreneur that I speak with says that Edinburgh is a great place to start a business but the overall economic environment is limiting their dreams. I couldn’t agree more and the sad thing is that our country’s current financial issues have nothing to do with Millennials. You didn’t benefit from the property boom those born between 1940 and 1965 had, you also didn’t cause the Credit Crunch that the Baby Boomers caused (and that the early Gen Xers to a certain extent contributed to). So why are Millennials some of the most positive people I meet, especially in business? My feeling is that you have genuinely learned from previous generations. You have grown up in a world where you couldn’t just start a business by getting credit or investment, you had to have a unique proposition and be willing to provide services quite often for free, to increase your customer base. That, in turn, led to stronger businesses and a focus not so much on financial reward but on having a lasting impact on the life of your staff, customers, and families.
A recent survey in the US stated that over 62% of Millennials had or were considering starting their own business, and indeed it was due to stats like these that I chose to focus on coaching Millennial entrepreneurs. Unlike many of my peers when I started my first business back in 1999, I always like to say “Last Millennium”, I did it for many of the reasons that Millennial Entrepreneurs do it. I saw a generational complacency in the sector I had chosen and I wanted to shake it up, by offering cut price services to rapidly build my customer base. I was greeted with suspicion. How could I offer the same quality of service my prospects were used to for half the price? When I told them they had been getting over charged for years, they were sceptical, but over time, I started winning them over and by business grew rapidly. I was using a Millennial style business model that wasn’t going to exist for another 10 years or so, that is why I feel such a close affinity to Millennials as I feel I know the way you think.
But that said, I also started my first business in the pre credit crunch era, and I definitely benefited from having easy access to equipment finance, I bought my own office, and there were many more grants available than there are now. But what that gives me is huge respect for those “doing it” now without those “aids” I had. As I met more and more young business people in the late Noughties and heard about their struggles getting the kind of finance that only 10 years earlier I had accessed easily, I thought then, that this was something I wanted to help them with. At the same time, I had the opportunity to start my second business and purchase a third, so I really have had experience of business startups in all eras of economic security or, indeed, lack of.
But why does that make me say it’s a good time to start a business and more over to start it in Edinburgh? My immediate reaction is that there is a pool of young talent here that is not found in many other places in the UK (especially in the technology sector), there is also a level of camaraderie that no other generation has felt. No longer are your competitors your enemies, now more often than not they are your neighbours, as you share space in a Technolgy Hub. Information is shared like no other time in history and entrepreneurs genuinely want to see others succeed. For that reason, it’s exciting times, and times that I know I can be a part of bringing experience and solutions from two of the most economically tumultuous decades in nearly a century.