It feels like just yesterday that the Young Professionals Development Programme was kicking off with an Initiation Ceremony, and yet here we are at the final workshop. Fantastic relationships have been built between our fellows over the past three months; it’s only fitting to be directing our last efforts and energy towards taking on the topic of Entrepreneurship.
The YPDP Director, Charlotte Smith, introduced the ultimate mentors of this year’s programme: Julian Fisher, Co-founder of Venture Education, Vice-Chair of the British Chamber of Commerce and President of the China North Entrepreneurs’ Organisation; and Zhubei, Co-founder of Venture Education and Atlas Education. Our expert mentors set up the workshop by highlighting their objective, to provide an “authentic approach to a very broad topic and create shared meaning about the entrepreneurial spirit”. Our YPDP fellows eagerly anticipated the chance to discover what it really takes to be entrepreneurial.
Lessons Learned on an Entrepreneurial Journey
The mentors began by posing an important question to our cohort: what is the most entrepreneurial thing you’ve ever done? Our young-professionals reflected that entrepreneurship has actually come up in various aspects of their lives. After hearing a few of the entrepreneurial endeavours that our own fellows had undertaken, such as selling chocolates to their classmates or volunteering with a social enterprise, Julian and Zhubei shared their own personal anecdotes and experiences on their journey towards entrepreneurship, and what they learned along the way.’
7 Lessons from Entrepreneurs:
- When Julian was a young boy he traded himself a signed Manchester United football with a friend, only to get in trouble with the friend’s mom for an unfair trade later that day.
Only Negotiate with the Decision Maker
- An idea popularised by Jim Rohn, remember that we are a product of those we are around.
Hangout with Entrepreneurs if You Want to be One
- Julian talked about when he leased a parking space despite having to get over a few loop-holes in order to do so. “You have to break some rules to make opportunities.”
Opportunity is Everywhere
- Zhubei explained how a lot of her entrepreneurial ventures have come from an “obsession with different places on earth” and creating opportunities wherever she goes.
When There is No Opportunity, Create One!
- Julian compared travelling to countries like Syria and adapting his route to pursue adventure with the entrepreneurial excitement of adapting your plans as the market changes.
Entrepreneurship is More Effectual than Causal
- Zhubei shared how her sheer determination to work at the Olympics eventually led her to achieve this dream because “if you really want something, you need to send the message out into the universe.”
Law of Attraction
- Zhubei described how she was able to climb rapidly within her career by providing value and learned that, “it’s not about seeking financial rewards, it’s about creating value and seeing what comes back.”
Your ‘Self’ is a Brand Worth Branding
Intrapreneur: The Pinchot Perspective
Our mentors introduced a new term to our cohort, defining an ‘intrapreneur’ as simply “an entrepreneur within an organisation.” Similar to the qualities of an entrepreneur, an intrapreneur “has ideas, makes them happen and takes risks.”
Gifford Pinchot coined the term ‘intrapreneur’ in 1985 and his original “10 commandments of an intrapreneur” were bold, encapsulating the essence of an intrapreneur as a proactive, driven individual that bends the rules to fit their own purpose. The cohort expressed concern that they may be “fired” or “distrusted” if they followed these commandments. However, in 2011, the commandments were updated for the modern-day intrapreneur, encouraging one to:
- Build a team, as intrapreneuring is not a solo activity
- Keep the best interest of the company and its customers in mind
- Don’t ask to be fired, use all the political skills you can muster to move the project forward
The mentors proceeded to share some interesting data about employee engagement. We learned that a mere 6% of employees in the East Asia region declare themselves engaged, and furthermore, 87% of employees globally are not engaged at work. However, the nature of an intrapreneur requires a motivation to be actively engaged by seeking out where value can be added. Our mentors summarised that “we can all be intrapreneurs or entrepreneurs” and “we are all capable of creating create value for other people in different forms”, which leads to an enhanced sense of meaning, satisfaction and happiness in life.
What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur or Intrapreneur
Our mentors explained how “everyone on this planet has four fundamental resources available to them.” These are: who you are, what you know, who you know, and where you are. Julian emphasised that these factors are “the core of everything” and it’s important to know that “you have resources that are unique to you.”
- Managing the Self
Our cohort described the inner challenges that stand in the way of our entrepreneurial enthusiasm. They offered reasons such as lack of money, lack of motivation, lack of skillset or lack of passion. The mentors made our fellows dig deeper to reach the core of these perceived issues, which have more to do with having a fixed mindset, lacking confidence and a fear of failure. Understanding and improving our inner selves is crucial to being an entrepreneur. Julian stated that “if you’re not in control of your self – then you will fail –the idea doesn’t matter.”
Everyone should begin by “knowing who you are”, “knowing your qualities” and then working on one of the biggest determining factor, “self-efficacy” which means being able to “have an idea and make it happen.” Our mentors concluded that your ‘fundamental resources’ and ‘the self’ are the essence of entrepreneurship; with these two things you can achieve anything.
Our YPDP fellows thoroughly enjoyed gaining this new perspective on entrepreneurship, as Yiwei Zhang, CKGSB said “Thanks to our mentors, they helped me understand how to turn entrepreneurship into an attitude toward life. Starting a business is actually simple: goals, persistence, patience and courage.”
The Challenge: An Elevator Pitch
Our cohort faced one final test in the Entrepreneurship workshop. In Dragon’s Den style, we were challenged to work in groups to design a product or service that helps people face and overcome their inner demons, ready to pitch in front of our two mentors.
The room burst into discussion as each group came up with ideas to solve the inner challenges entrepreneurs face. Everyone felt that the stakes were high, as the winning team would be awarded the highly-coveted prize of chocolate biscuits.
The final pitches saw every group in the room present their innovative ideas, which included a top secret travel experience, a PD programme (much like YPDP) and a soundproof box for screaming your anxieties away.
As our mentors prepared their final judgement, they had some words of encouragement for our fellows. Zhubei commented that “everyone came up with great ideas and expressed them passionately”, and further noted that “entrepreneurship is definitely within you, everyone should simply get out the room and get going.”Julian reiterated how there was “great passion in everyone’s presentations” but warned that apps and websites are an oversaturated market and that feasibility should be taken into consideration. After two teams were crowned joint winners of this year’s entrepreneurship prize, we shifted into a time for reflection. Our fellows were encouraged to meditate on their next steps and take their entrepreneurial spirit to drive on into the world. Our mentors signed off the final workshop with the resounding note that “if you can understand yourself, it will not only make you more entrepreneurial, it will make you a happier person.”
The YPDP proved a valuable experience for our mentors as well:
ZhuBei, Co-Founder, Venture Education: “It’s such a rewarding experience to spend two hours with a group of open minded young people who are willing to step out of their comfort zone! I hope all of you leave with the thoughts, reflection and ambition to challenge yourself and be the change you want to make!”
Julian Fisher, Co-Founder, Venture Education: “The YPDP cohort was incredibly positive, incredibly engaged and very brave. In many ways they encapsulate the entrepreneurial spirit just by being on the programme; they have given their time and energy to engage in self-discovery and continual growth. In Charlotte, the YPDP Director, they have an incredible role model of someone who makes ideas happen.”
The YPDP Journal helps present a picture of the week-by-week progression of our YPs. This week’s entry is from Peter Grinsted, Economist, Development Reimagined and Camellia Gao, Community Programme Manager, Dulwich College Beijing who discussed their reflections on their continued progression through the YPDP.
“The YPDP has been a great experience. I’ve gained new skills, got to know some brilliant people and had fun along the way!”
“It’s been such a wonderful experience joining the YPDP. It is a great platform where you meet brilliant young professionals and mentors with great vision and passion.”
Key Takeaways and Actionable Steps:
- “When you don’t feel confident, give it a try – you may surprise yourself.” – Zhubei
- “You don’t need to do it alone, find a team to support you.”- Julian and Zhubei
- “Entrepreneurial skills are not only about entrepreneurship, they are about life.” – Julian