Global Entrepreneurship Week (8 to 14 November) celebrates entrepreneurship in all corners of the globe. In line with the latest theme of empowering innovators who face systematic barriers, two entrepreneurs who launched their business through ASPIRE reflect on the hurdles they felt, both real and perceived, in their journey to business success.
Elizabeth Simpson: “Don’t overthink or think about others”
Alumnus Elizabeth (pictured above) launched SOROTTEN, a clothing brand, through ASPIRE during her selfie year.
“I always say that you can’t rely on anyone but yourself, if you have passion, drive, and love what you are creating, then you’ve landed upon something. Self-doubt, beyond anything, is the biggest hurdle you will come across and I tell anyone to just go for it. People’s opinions can compound feelings of failure when all entrepreneurs get things wrong along the way.
“I was fortunate to have my mum as someone to look up to and that influenced the confidence that helps me overcome systematic barriers that could affect me such – as being a woman and a black girl. My mum used to have a nightclub and nail shop and now owns an African food store. I’ve always seen her work – and work very hard – from when I was young. Seeing this has always encouraged me to keep going.
“Barriers aren’t always psychological, though. Financial barriers are a big problem if you don’t have loads of cash to start with. You just have to make do with what you have. Don’t let money set you back and be very strategic, budget and don’t rely on loans, but as an entrepreneur, you also must ensure that you speculate to accumulate and invest where it is needed.
“Running a business in full-time education was also hard and by my final year, I decided to get my studies done and put the business on the backburner – I think accepting that I wasn’t superwoman was actually a positive thing. My studies have fed into the success of my business now, so it was all worthwhile.
“I would say to young people like myself wanting to launch their own business first – be yourself, you have to be authentic. Don’t overthink or think about others. The other thing that I’ve learned along the way is that if you have a plan, just go for it. Learn on the go, get feedback and fine-tune and perfect afterwards.”
Giovanni Morgan: ‘The hardest barriers are the ones we place on ourselves’
Giovanni, a final year marketing student, launched his denim label MGX Jeans in his first year of study.
“Barriers are a polarising subject to speak about in entrepreneurship because we now live in a time full of so many external tools, opportunities and initiatives promoting entrepreneurship as opposed to barricading it.
“I believe the hardest barriers are the ones we place on ourselves, the internal barriers. In my experience, it’s the fear of failure or the self-consciousness that present the biggest impact on my ventures. However, I can’t say that the external environment around me doesn’t influence the barriers I put on myself.
“For example, just looking at the world around me I can see that I’m not physically the typical idea of what a successful entrepreneur “should look like”, I’m an extremely young, black male from a not so fortunate background. Which is a complete shift in perspective from your Bezoz’s and Branson’s. Even when you’re not being subjected to prejudice or inequity, it can surely feel like it. It feels as if you’re being undermined or not taken seriously in certain environments. The reality is that both internal and external barriers here work extremely well together, creating the perfect storm.
“I would say the barriers are somewhat inevitable, both internally and externally but it’s our mentality that ultimately determines the potency of the barrier. Trying to believe in my ability, my validity and even using my unique circumstances to my advantage helps to keep me resilient and on my path”
ASPIRE, the Accelerator Space for Innovation and Responsible Enterprise, helps current students from any course to launch their own business ideas on the side or through a SELFIE year. The 12-week Business Start-Up Journey is an inspirational programme that brings student business start-up ideas to life.