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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 07:38 GMT
Breathing fire into baby dragons
By Guy Robarts
BBC News business reporter

Enterprise Week image
Events are taking place across the country to sniff out future tycoons

Four floors down in the cavernous basement of a London hotel movers-and-shakers met to preach the gospel of entrepreneurship at the start of National Enterprise Week.

Attending were today's business leaders who hoped to inspire and catapult future Richard Bransons and Anita Roddicks to the surface.

While established business people called for less government intervention, aspiring whiz-kids said they felt let down by the lack of encouragement in the classrooms, where too often, they said, children's creativity was stifled.

The collective message at the start of Enterprise Week, however, is that without the risks that entrepreneurs are willing to take, a country's economy will be stuck in the doldrums.

We need to nurture our future wealth gatherers. And we need to do it now.

"Entrepreneurs have never really been accepted in Britain, but we're now changing that culture," said James Braithwaite, chairman of the South East of England Development Agency.

'Too conservative'

Four people keen to be at the vanguard of that cultural shift were the winners of the BBC website's competition to identify the qualities an entrepreneur needs, who were attending the summit.

Paul Frossell
The idea of setting up your own business was never put in your head at school
Paul Frossell, entrepreneur

"Starting a business is always a challenge, having a support network is always important for business, " said one of the winners, Tushar Shah, 29, from Berkshire.

"If we are to foster an entrepreneurial Britain we need to develop those traits from school. We are too conservative. When we fail it is always looked down upon.

"What we have learnt from it is more important. In the US for example, failure is not seen as a negative, it is seen as a stepping stone."

"The idea of setting up your own business was never put in your head at school," agreed fellow winner Paul Frossell, 24, from Bedford.

Business as drama

Spearheaded by four top UK business organisations - the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) , the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Institute of Directors (IoD) - events are being held across the UK.

Roly Keating
BBC2's controller says audiences are hungry for business

Last year's inaugural Enterprise Week saw 1,000 events taking place. This year the number has doubled.

Funded by the DTI's Small Business Service, Enterprise Insight hopes to "kick-start an enterprise culture amongst young people," said the BCC's director general David Frost.

However, the success of TV programmes such as Dragon's Den and the Apprentice has shown that interest in business is growing in the UK and that the hunger to go it alone and start a company is growing.

"People can find the personal ups and down of business as gripping as fictional drama," Roly Keating, controller of BBC2 told the summit.

Battling red tape

The World Bank has identified the UK as ninth in the league of those countries where it is easiest to do business.

It's about enabling people to take risk
Sir Digby Jones, CBI

Meanwhile, the number of small businesses in Britain have risen by 500,000 since 1997.

"The only limits, I believe, are people's aspirations and their abilities," Cobra Beer founder Karan Bilimoria told the gathering.

"We still have huge challenges. Taxation burden, public sector spending, pensions crisis, regulation from Europe. There are lots of areas of concerns."

This was echoed by the CBI's director-general Sir Digby Jones, who said there was still much more work to do by the government to help would-be entrepreneurs and criticised the civil service for hampering the efforts of entrepreneurs.

"Do nothing. Let enterprise flourish," he advised ministers. "It's about enabling people to take risk."

He urged the government to avoid "regulating the lifeblood of enterprise out of people."

Back to school

Meanwhile, the BBC News website's four competition winners' concerns centred more around the education system.

A reform of the way business is taught in schools was vital to inspire tomorrow's business leaders, they said.

BBC Enterprise winners

"We have an education system that is totally out of key with what we've heard today," said Jasdeep Singh Bhatia, 17, from Derby.

"You leave school and nobody has even taught you about a mortgage," added Chad Millington, 30, from Leigh in Lancashire.

"I was born with this entrepreneurial spirit, but I couldn't use it anywhere."

They called on successful entrepreneurs to help inspire the next generation by visiting schools and colleges and explaining how they made it big.

"The best way to foster an enterprise culture in the UK is getting entrepreneurs talking to the kids of today," said Tushar Shah.

"And it has to start at a young age."

Smart work, vision and motivation
11 Nov 05 |  Business


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