This year’s online Festival of Youth Enterprise saw a top line-up of successful Scots businesspeople celebrate the cream of the country’s young entrepreneurial talent

At 14, David Duke would have seemed an unlikely role model for a future generation of teenagers. Trouble at home sent him off the rails and with little in the way of qualifications, he ended up rough sleeping.

Yet, the 41-year-old David Duke, who set up Street Soccer in 2009 and has steered its success ever since, provided the perfect inspirational conclusion to Young Enterprise Scotland’s Festival of Youth Enterprise, which took place earlier this month.

Speaking in the final session of the four-day online event that celebrated some of
Scotland’s most enterprising school and college students, David set out the  lessons he has learned on his own entrepreneurial journey in a very candid discussion with Young Enterprise Scotland CEO, Geoff Leask.

To an audience of young people and their teachers who have taken part in YES programmes over the past year to set up and run their own micro-businesses, David spoke about the mindset and the skills needed to take control of your own destiny.

“It is incredibly important for young people to hear the stories of others’ entrepreneurial journeys: to hear businessmen and women recount their personal entrepreneurial ride,” said Geoff.

“On the one hand it demystifies the concept of ‘setting up your own business’. On the other it shows that wherever you happen to start — in school, from a place of passion, or faced with few choices — it is possible to harness an enterprising
mindset and create something truly positive.”

This is the purpose of Enterprise Matters YE Scotland’s monthly LinkedIn broadcast, which is where David's interview can be viewed. Over the past few months, this series of interviews has included conversations with Chris van
der Kuyl CBE, Julie Grieve, and Mike Welsh OBE. Spanning very different backgrounds, business sectors and career paths, they, like David Duke, nonetheless display a commonality for drive, sucking in information and building on experience.

HeraldScotland:

“Mike Welsh paints this wonderful picture of himself as a young lad recording pirate compilation tapes and selling them to his neighbours,” Geoff says. “School wasn’t for him and he fell through the cracks.

“He was even ‘asked to leave’ his first job. But faced with limited options he found something he could do and with an insatiable drive and energy he built Black Circles and the rest as they say is history.

“What is so critical is that he was helped by people who recognised his enterprising spirit. It goes a long way to show that for those who don’t suit academic study — and even for those that do - enterprise skills and learning by doing can provide a meaningful career path.

“This is the message we want young people (and their parents and teachers) to
hear.”

The lessons that Mike wanted to pass on during his Enterprise Matters interview were that learning has to have meaning and for him he would devour business books while at school few things held his attention, know your market, have ambition and never be afraid to ask.

4J Studios’ boss, Chris van der Kuyl, who set up his first business in his early 20s, also believes in asking the advice of others and “surrounding yourself with people with great talent and great energy”.

An alumnus of the YE Scotland Company Programme, which saw him set up a tshirt business while still in school, he got a taste for enterprise early on and realised that the corporate ladder was not for him.

Chris also says that that Young Enterprise Company Programme experience helped to build resilience at a young age. He said: “The most important skill of an entrepreneur is taking risk.”

Not risk that poses an existential threat to the business but measured risk that
can be managed and corrected if it begins to go wrong. He added: “This is about constantly learning from experience.”

That was echoed by Julie Grieve, the founder and CEO of travel tech company Criton, whose career is characterised by taking chances, seizing opportunities and not being afraid to learn new skills. Julie only set up her business after senior roles in serviced office accommodation and hospitality.

In her interview, she talked about the excitement of trying something new and that starting up a tech business when she was no technologist as both “fabulous and terrifying at the same time”.

“Julic painted a picture of optimism,” said Geoff. “Having found herself in a sector hit hard by the pandemic, the resilience she had learned over the course of her career was palpable. She had vision and complete faith in what she was doing
and her product.

“The lesson she had for our young entrepreneurs was that success can take a lot of ups and downs, but if you have a passion and work hard you can take charge of your own destiny - and that was quite invigorating.”

The frankness and humility displayed by all the guests on Enterprise Matters have made the interviews eminently watchable by young people thinking about their own enterprise journey.

Like Chris van der Kuyl, many of those listening to David Duke at the conclusion of this year’s Festival of Youth Enterprise will have discovered something about what it takes to run their own business — resilience, creativity, communication - and discovered a new possible path for their own future. & yes.org.uk
 

This article was brought to you in partnership with Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) as part of The Herald's Future of Education campaign