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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July 2003, 07:13 GMT 08:13 UK
From classroom to boardroom
By Laura Cummings
BBC News Online business reporter

Education and entrepreneurship are unlikely bedfellows.

"They're two different things with different levels of success," according to John Devitt at Shell Livewire - an advisory body for people under 30 starting in business.

"Education is all about exams and grades.

"Entrepreneurship is about goals being set by individuals and how they're going to get there."

So what is it that makes some young people set their sights on business before leaving school?

Flying high

School was certainly ill at odds with the dreams of teenage entrepreneur Andrew Butt.

Andrew Butt
If you mix with successful people, there's a good chance you will be successful
Andrew Butt

The founder of software group Enable Software, now aged 20, got a taste for business at the age of 12.

His passion for helicopters led to an offer to 'make the tea' at the local helicopter training centre, Heli Air.

"I wasn't much good at making tea but was very good at programming computers," said Andrew, who began helping with the company's software.

After just a year, Andrew realised he had the ability to work for himself.

"If you mix with successful people, there's a good chance you will be successful."

But his interests were dismissed by teachers.

"Self-employment wasn't regarded as a career option in my school," Andrew said, recounting a teacher's refusal to allow his own business plan to form part of his Business Studies GCSE.

"They said it wouldn't work!".

Eighteen months later he had left school, hired a personal tutor and soon had a software business with an annual turnover of 200,000.

Getting started

Andrew's experience is not necessarily typical of all entrepreneurially minded teenagers.

It's about wanting to be your own boss, not wanting to work for someone else
John Devitt, Shell Livewire

The Businessdynamics charity was set up 25 years ago to bring business to life for school children.

"Something was missing in schools," said Catherine Swift, head of PR and marketing at businessdynamics.

Research by the group, which is funded by government and corporate sponsors, suggests 35% of young people want to start a business but don't know where to start.

"Our research has also found that as few as 34% of students between ages 14 and 19 have a positive impression of business," added Ms Swift.

After a businessdynamics programme, Ms Swift says this rises to 98%.

The projects offer pupils the chance to develop business plans, pitch ideas to an expert panel, meet with business leaders and entrepreneurs, and take part in in-school workshops.

Helping hand

Boyan Benev had already decided he probably didn't want to work for anyone else by the age of 14.

Boyan(in yellow) with school friends
Boyan's school contacts came in helpful

"I didn't want to get involved in the usual Saturday jobs...and I'd always been interested in business."

Boyan began by importing typically Bulgarian products - he lived in that country until 1991 - such as essential oils and jewellery.

He registered his first company, Empcore International, at the age of 16, then branched out into marketing.

A businessdynamics project in his school put him in touch with a publishing company, who gave him ideas to work on such as market research and analysis.

Unlike Andrew, Boyan believes the education system provides a good framework for his future success.

"I think it's quite important for me contacts-wise and business-wise to go to university."

The 18-year-old also has big ambitions for his fledgling marketing business, Critica Marketing.

"In five years I would like to have reached the pinnacle of Critica and... relinquish day-to-day control to another.

"By this time I would have liked to surpass 1m in personal wealth."

Taking risks

Money, however, is not the driving force behind most young budding business leaders.

Aspirations are as much about lifestyle choices as money
John Devitt, Shell Livewire
"It's a greater sense of knowing what they don't want to do," says Shell Livewire's John Devitt.

"Money is actually only about ninth on the list of reasons.

"But it's about wanting to be your own boss, not wanting to work for someone else."

Mr Devitt adds that the idea of a job for life is now gone.

"There's a big shift among young people... aspirations are as much about lifestyle choices as money."

"There's also a greater willingness to try things and not be afraid of failure," he adds.

High price

The lifestyle however, is not always as glamorous as it may sound.

Andrew admits he has "missed out" on much of childhood's usual antics.

"Having left school so early, I cut connections with a lot of people in my peer group."

"I do worry there's something missing. On a Friday night, for example, when I get in late and there's no-one there.

"But I can afford to be selfish at the moment, so I'm maximising that. "

Running a business




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