Claire Young is best known as an Apprentice finalist, but there's a lot more to her than that. Since becoming the show's runner-up in 2008 she has been busy proving herself as an entrepreneur. Focusing on the youth sector, she has co-founded two businesses: School Speakers provides motivational speakers for schools, while social enterprise Girls Out Loud works to raise the aspirations of 13 to 18-year-old girls. She is also making a name for herself as a motivational speaker and coach, encouraging young people into enterprise.
In November she will launch TeenBiz, a new scheme to provide teen entrepreneurs with the tools to start their own businesses. We caught up with Claire to get the lowdown on her latest project.
What have you been up to since The Apprentice?
Since leaving The Apprentice I’ve worked on numerous enterprise campaigns for young people who are still at school or college. The schemes are all brilliant, however things come and go and there is not one scheme currently available all year round. For enterprise to grow we need sustainability.
Why did you set up TeenBiz?
I think it’s wrong that the prime minister is stating that we’re in the most entrepreneurial decade when we’re not actually providing the tools to young people to make this happen. Enterprise initiatives and competitions are excellent for igniting interest among students but those who do want to take it one step further need to have the next step – that is why TeenBiz is so desperately needed.
I had a 14-year-old work experience student in my office – a bright, driven young man, he really is the next Alan Sugar! He does three part-time jobs to fund his business but in order to expand he needed approximately £350 for equipment. As he is under 18 there is literally nowhere he can go to for support. The aim of TeenBiz is to help 100 entrepreneurs get started over the next three years.
How does Teenbiz work?
Every month one student will receive up to £500 funding (they must match what we give them), a mentor and a start-up pack – we're calling it 'Business in a Box'. Ryman has provided stationery vouchers, a company has donated a four-page website, while others have donated business cards, office space and a virtual PA service.
What are you looking for in applicants to Teenbiz?
We want to support the next generation of young entrepreneurs so fresh ideas, hunger and drive in bucket loads please. TeenBiz is open to all students, of all academic levels – from 13 to 18-years-old, all over the UK.
With the right attitude and TeenBiz support we’re determined to make things happen. I'm looking for corporates to sponsor a student per month (£500), items for the start-up pack and good mentors. Each month the sponsor will be passed five shortlisted applicants and choose a winner.
Why do you believe it is important to engage young people with starting their own businesses?
Enterprise opens the mind and helps young people gain critical skills needed for life after school. Drive, creativity, problem-solving, team work, leadership, communication – the list goes on. Schools which have an entrepreneurial ethos have results proving that it improves all academia. With university no longer being an option for many students, we have a social responsibility to develop other structured avenues for them.
What do you think is the most important form of support young people need to start their own businesses?
1) Funding – Realistically most students will need a little start-up funding.
2) Information – Starting a business involves a steep learning curve, so easily available information is crucial.
3) Mentors – Mentors are key to keeping things on track and advising. We all need help to develop and grow.
What was it like meeting with the prime minister and what are the key messages you wanted to leave him with?
Meeting David Cameron was a delight – I really admire his freshness and energy, plus I do feel he’s picked up a load of baggage considering the UK’s poor state. I asked lots of questions about young people and was given long winded answers promising a lot. I'm yet to see it happen.
The government spends a fortune on enterprise education, but where does it lead? We need to take a business approach and track the investment. Let’s give students the opportunity to start a business and generate profit. There are many people working on the enterprise ‘agenda’ – yet unless we actually start doing something there’s no point. Less talking and more doing please!
What did The Apprentice teach you about good business?
Work as a team. Listen with two big ears. You need strong leadership. Have a clear strategy, know your tasks along the way, and don’t be blinkered. Always see the opportunities even when things go wrong. Be proactive and don’t wait for things to fall in your lap.
Were you entrepreneurial as a student?
I was brought up with a great value for money – and told that nothing was going to be given to me on a plate. If I wanted anything I had to go out and earn it. My entrepreneurial career started at nine years old when Mother Young showed me how to use an iron and I did all my father's sheets for 50p!
What kind of role model would you like to be for young people?
I think I’m a normal girl, from a normal family and a normal place (Wakefield). If I can do it with hard work and determination, I hopefully show others that they can do the same. Like the phrase says: ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way’. I’m very practical, straight talking and young people respond well to this. No fluff!
What do you believe makes a good mentor?
Someone who has the time, energy and patience to work with a young person during what can be an exciting – yet potentially challenging – time. You need to have an open mind and a good sense of humour, [as well as] business expertise.
What can businesses get out of sponsoring a student entrepreneur?
A day cannot go by without reading horror stories of youth unemployment in the newspaper. We’ve hit crisis point and now we’re faced with graduates unable to find jobs and a record number of students unable to apply for university. Over one million 16 to 24-year-olds are unemployed. We need to find alternative routes for young people and we don’t have a lot of time to do this.
Businesses can do their part by supporting a TeenBiz winner. By sponsoring, mentoring or contributing they’ll be ticking their community responsibility box – and hopefully enjoy helping someone. We all have a social responsibility to get the UK moving again.