Once upon a time, the phrase ‘not enough experience’ or ‘under-qualified’ were more than just expressions that was all too familiar with young people in our society.
Inexperience stemmed from the lack of opportunities available within organisations combined with the small number of chances presented because of cultural heritage or age.
As a result, the age old question resurfaced, ‘how can a person gain the relevant experience required if similar companies and organisations are unwilling to hire them?’
It wasn’t surprising that this lead to many young people deciding to kick-start their own careers, in the industries they’ve always wanted, providing an alternative to rejection, future discontented and/or failure.
TIMES ARE A-CHANGING
Now-a-days it’s not unfamiliar to see individuals freelancing [occasionally on-the-side to their respective jobs], personal business cards, self representation, or people with multiple smart-phones, all in order to remain relevant, up-to-date, to be ahead within their chosen industry.
The explanations provided as to why many people started their own careers/businesses varied, usually depending on the industry. The main motive behind such a move did not rely heavily on the desire for fortune and riches.
“We no longer live in the ‘hip-hop mentality’ (where each individual perceives themselves as the next entertainment mogul), as Marvin Harrison of Awkward Star cleverly stated. The idea of a career built from hard work, passion has greater appeal, with many stating that ‘having a good career’ [which they created themselves] was more important.
‘I want to wake up in the mornings knowing that I love what I do’, said Sabrina Sarpong, who currently heads an Entertainment PR & Management business, which she runs solely by herself.
Kemi Folarin, Founder of South London based youth organisation, Young People Matter (YPM), added “that [a good career] is more important than money… you can be paid all the money in the world, but if you’re not happy or passionate about your job, then what’s the point?’
YPM was formed to help tackle youth and gang crime within the Lambeth area of London, by educating, supporting and providing the youth with alternatives. ‘I wanted to make a change in our area. It was one thing talking about changes, but another to get up and actually do something about it.’ Kemi has a Masters in Social Studies and has more than five years experience working within children and young adults. Her passion is helping tackle a serious situation widespread throughout the nation.
Within other industries, Marvin also decided to start his own company a few years ago, ‘there was a gap in the market, between corporate businesses and artists and I found a niche”. Having worked in the marketing industry for many years, as well as gaining a marketing degree, the start-up of Awkward Star was ‘inevitable’ and particularly easy for Marvin; he successfully utilised the skills and knowledge gained and developed from his past experiences, to help build his company.
Similarly, menswear designer, Patricia Williams studied at one of London’s most prestigious fashion schools, Central St. Martins, and now has her own fashion label, PC Williams. Patricia also freelances as a knitted fabric designer, and insists her degree in Constructed Fashion Design has been “essential” to her progression and development as a designer, however, maintains that a lot of business advice came from family members and lessons from experiences within the work place.
ON ANOTHER ROUTE TO SUCCESS
‘At university’, Mike King adds, ‘we were always told that there are specific routes that needed to be followed in order to be successful… and it was impossible to set up your own business while being so young. I now know that is not always true.’ Mike King co-runs Future Productions, an independent multimedia production company, having worked on Channel 4 documentaries, short films and music videos with the likes of Oz’iah and FDM (formally known as Fundamentals).
Contrary to many ‘rags to riches’ fairy-tale stories, many who studied at university do not always follow in the paths of their chosen industry. Irene Agbontean, Fashion Stylist, began her career in retail but has a degree in Forensic Science. ‘I’ve always loved fashion and I’ve always had a keen eye for it. But I studied forensics as more of a back up. The fashion industry is incredibly hard to break into.’ Irene now works as a fashion stylist at one of the biggest and well-known e-tailor, ASOS. She has also worked with international stars such as Daniel Merriweather, and more home-grown stars such as Donae’o, Bizzle, Natty and Sincere.
The multi skilled Mr Jay
Likewise with Sabrina Sarpong and Jay.
Sabrina’s background originally lies in finance and accountancy. However after seven years in the field of numbers and sums, Sabrina found new passion in PR and entertainment. Despite, no previous experience in the industry and currently studying for her ACCA (Association of Chartered & Certified Accountants) she is making a name for herself, listing her biggest client as Ciron [Big Brother 10]. ‘I started to fall out of love with finance’, she said, ‘I found PR interesting and I’ve always loved music, so I thought ‘lets have the best of both’’.
Similarly, Jay has experience in a techie environment with computers, designing web pages. Previous to this, Jay had worked several jobs, varying from being an apprentice at Silk PR, working with the likes of Kelly Rowland, Sienna Miller, Miss Black Britain and Dwayne Chambers, to being a the runner or ‘tea boy’ at press events, to handling VIP’s at award shows. However, he believes that the wealth of experience, contacts and knowledge gained at corporate level has been priceless. Jay said “I’m quite a geek. So I love this stuff. I’ve always wanted to create my own website as I’d previously been doing for other clients, so it was a case of fusing together the two things that genuinely make me happy”.
STRUGGLES MAKE THE VICTORY SWEETER
Left Irene above designs
However, starting your own business is never as easy or as glamorous as it sounds; Irene stated the difficultly to break into the fashion industry, often working for free, even after years of experience within the business, before she got her foot in the door.
Akua Afram, believes that ‘it’s more about the experience, but it helps that you have an educational background especially for the business side of things’. The music consultant from west London now works with a social enterprise agency Music4Good that works in partnership with the music industry providing accredited apprenticeships for young people of diverse backgrounds. ‘It’s hard on your own; you may make mistakes and come across time-wasters. A lot of the time you will be working on your own and you can be de-motivated if things go slowly. You could be out of work if freelance contracts don’t become regular, so it’s very important to promptly deliver and network as much as you can’.
‘Scarifies have to be made sometimes,’ says Jay, event’s organiser of Funkin Famous. ‘I’ve got no social life,’ he laughs, ‘it’s so weird. I’m out most nights but I can’t tell you the last time I was in a cinema, restaurant or something, because it just doesn’t leave you with much time. I think my friends have given up asking me out places, they all assume that I’m too busy.’
In spite of this, the benefits always seem to out-weigh the negatives of any job, whether the perks include travelling, meeting new people, freebies or changing the world, a person who has achieved such things on their own will always find joy and satisfaction in what they do.
Many advise that such a life-altering decision should not be taken light-heartedly; seek advice and do your research before you follow your passion.
Starting your own career is a decision that must be approached with caution.
Failure is not an option; individuals strive harder for success knowing that there isn’t another member of the team to delegate jobs to or a manager to care for mother them or over-see any tasks.
Your risk is your own, as is your success.
Words by Tolu Akisanya