Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Entrepreneurship – It’s not just about starting a business

I attended a conference last month in the UK, the theme of which was Beyond the rhetoric: Enterprise, engagement, employability. Each of the three days was dedicated to one of these E’s with the first being on enterprise.

Enterprise and entrepreneurship education is a growing area within the UK post-secondary system. I found the speakers and workshops I attended very timely because CAPS is planning a full week of programming the week of 4 November dedicated to this very topic. We’ve called the week StartUp U: Focus on entrepreneurship and self-employment.

In planning the programming for and talking to people about StartUp U, one of the challenges I’ve faced is ensuring that people – including me! - understand that it isn’t solely about how to start a business, although that’s part of it. A 2012 report by the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education distinguishes between enterprise and entrepreneurship in a way that I find very helpful. It defines enterprise as ‘the application of creative ideas and innovations to practical situations.’ The purpose of enterprise education is to develop ‘the mindset and skills to come up with original ideas in response to identified needs and shortfalls, and the ability to act on them.’ These skills include ‘taking initiative, intuitive decision making, making things happen, networking, identifying opportunities, creative problem solving, innovating, strategic thinking, and personal effectiveness.’

Entrepreneurship is defined as ‘the application of enterprise skills specifically to creating and growing organizations in order to identify and build on opportunities.’ Entrepreneurship education ‘focuses on encouraging students to apply enterprising skills and attributes to a range of different contexts, including new or existing businesses, charities, non-governmental organizations, the public sector and social enterprises.’

As noted above, one of the key enterprising skills is networking. Within career development, networking is about building relationships, particularly among people who can mutually support each other in achieving their career goals. As part of StartUp U, we are planning a networking event, called Entrepreneur Connect, to bring together students and alumni who are, or who are interested in, starting a venture but need the skills and expertise of others. Think aspiring children’s story book writer who needs to connect with an illustrator and editor, or a web developer who needs the creativity and talents of a graphic designer. Entrepreneur Connect is intended to introduce budding entrepreneurs to each other, to facilitate initial connections. If you are interested in participating in this event, register on the CAPS website, where you can also see who else is planning to attend.