Give the older en­trepreneurs a fight­ing chance

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Zolisa Soji South Hills, Joburg

THE GOV­ERN­MENT and the pri­vate sec­tor are in a high gear to cre­ate young black en­trepreneurs who will help re­duce the chal­lenges of un­em­ploy­ment, poverty and in­equal­ity. This is all good and will trans­late to a strong econ­omy in the next two decades.

A lot of pro­grammes have been de­vel­oped to as­sist young mainly black en­trepreneurs to start and run suc­cess­ful busi­nesses. Small business in­cu­ba­tors are springing up, like mush­rooms, all in the quest to help young en­trepreneurs.

How­ever, in all of their good in­ten­tions, the gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor are ne­glect­ing mid­dle-aged en­trepreneurs be­tween the ages of 36 and 50, whom I think are still en­er­getic enough to start and run suc­cess­ful busi­nesses that can also play a huge role in dent­ing the un­em­ploy­ment rate and in groom­ing young en­trepreneurs.

Th­ese older en­trepreneurs usu­ally have more ex­pe­ri­ence in run­ning a business and have had their fin­gers burnt and what they need is some­one to be­lieve in them and support them, fi­nan­cially and morally.

They are more likely to be­come suc­cess­ful than their younger coun­ter­parts since they have ac­quired valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence from the ups and downs of run­ning a business.

For in­stance, you have an older en­tre­pre­neur who is un­able to get back to business be­cause he is black­listed as a re­sult of his failed pre­vi­ous business.

In­stead of be­ing helped, he is pun­ished for the rest of his life for hav­ing been in charge of a failed business.

Coun­tries such as the US invest more in en­trepreneurs who have had a failed business than en­trepreneurs who are just start­ing out.

The rea­son for this US logic is the belief that the en­tre­pre­neur who has ex­pe­ri­enced fail­ure is more likely to be­come a

Those who failed once have bet­ter odds at suc­cess

ma­jor suc­cess the sec­ond time.

A clas­sic ex­am­ple is that of the late Colonel Har­land San­ders who had a string of failed busi­nesses, but founded Ken­tucky Fried Chicken in 1930 and be­came one of the most suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs in the world.

If he was in South Africa, he would never had suc­ceeded in build­ing a business like KFC be­cause of the neg­a­tive at­ti­tude South Africa has to­wards start-ups founded by older en­trepreneurs.

Fund­ing in­sti­tu­tions and so­ci­ety in gen­eral fail to recog­nise the im­mense po­ten­tial of older en­trepreneurs.

Some of the older en­trepreneurs are for­mer em­ploy­ees who have been re­trenched or took an early re­tire­ment pack­age for one rea­son or another. Th­ese for­mer em­ploy­ees who need help in be­com­ing en­trepreneurs have in­valu­able work ex­pe­ri­ence that can be chan­nelled into run­ning a suc­cess­ful small business, how­ever they don’t get the nec­es­sary moral and/or fi­nan­cial support, and when they do seek that support, doors are slammed in their faces and are dis­missed as too old to start and run busi­nesses.

I think that a fund­ing and business de­vel­op­ment in­sti­tu­tion ded­i­cated to help­ing mid­dle-aged en­trepreneurs must be es­tab­lished.

The rea­son for this is that tra­di­tional fund­ing and business de­vel­op­ment in­sti­tu­tions have failed older en­trepreneurs.

So­ci­ety needs to change the way it views and treats older en­trepreneurs; it needs to view and treat them as gold mines who can make an in­valu­able con­tri­bu­tion in mak­ing South Africa a win­ning na­tion.

The per­son who is more likely to start a South African ver­sion of KFC is an older en­tre­pre­neur.

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