Small Business Column: Teenage entrepreneurs

In this week’s column, Kehlan Kirwan talks with some of the country’s teenage entrepreneurs and says we must avoid putting an age limit on bright ideas.   

Imagine a star out in the emptiness of space. In this vast space there is nothing but vacuum and intense cold. Then imagine the sheer power that star has.

In this frigid, airless place there is something that burns with more power than a million nuclear bombs and whose light will stretch not only to places like our plant, but out into the vast cosmos.

If you have ever looked up at the night sky, the light you see from stars is the closest thing you’ll get to a time machine. For that light has travelled for tens of millions and even billions of years before it reaches your eyes. For all you know that star that you pick out from the vast quantity you can see on the universal canvas could have been dead and gone for millions of years, but it’s light is only reaching us now. That is immense power.

Last week I was again at the Limerick Student Enterprise Awards and the word of the day seemed to be ‘patent’. Talking with some of the best and the brightest in the county it seemed that unique ideas were par for the course

One business in particular, which will be meeting with a patent solicitor in the coming weeks, looks set to change a major aspect of agriculture forever. Social entrepreneurship was a winner too as one female entrepreneur developed a special sleeping bag for the homeless.

As part of her strategy she will put it on sale to the public and for every bag sold, one will also be donated to homeless people and organisations. The overall winner was Guide Key. It made an attachment for front doors which makes it easier for people with Parkinson’s disease or physical disabilities to get their key into the keyhole. These are students in secondary school, no older then 16 or 17.

What also stood out that day was comments from some businesses which had tried to get onto business programmes or digital incubations but were told they were too young. When did we put an age limit on bright ideas?

Here we have great young minds who are doing what we’ve been asking them to do. They applied themselves, developed an idea, sold that idea and when it comes to getting help to develop they are told there is no room for them? Confidence, it seems, is often confused with the impetuousness of youth.

We have for the past six years developed the fact that entrepreneurs are what make real economies function. Thankfully, it seems to become a reality. However, entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. They come in different ages too.

We need to develop more places where young teenage entrepreneurs can go to develop their ideas. Anybody in business will tell you there are no rules to building successful company, rules mean barriers and barriers mean nowhere to go.

These young people are the stars of the future. Trying to succeed in a climate that seems cold to the idea taking on the next stage of their journey. Instead we seem more interested in convincing them universities and books are the key to their success.

We need to stop sucking the life and light out of them. It’s time to let them shine.


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