Youth entrepreneurship has gained momentum across the world in recent years. Organisations like Young Americas Business Trust (YABT) and Youth Business International (YBI) help this young breed to achieve better social and economic development. They do this through business skills and training; competitions to develop business ideas and start-ups; connecting them with professionals in their fields; and financial support. Also, institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, and UN, have youth programmes that open up a window to more involvement in economic, political, and social issues.
Entrepreneurship has taken diverse forms, as the way businesses are done has undergone vast generational transformations. These youth programmes impart valuable lessons for creative thinking, innovation, problem-solving and understanding the latest technology covering the entire spectrum from conceptualisation to a full-fledged functional enterprise.
Miranda Wang, a US-based Chinese Canadian entrepreneur, and Jenny Yao co-founded BioCellection, a company that turns loads of plastic trash into more than $2,500 worth of chemicals, and prevents 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission. It is estimated that in most developed countries, more than 80 per cent of plastics are not recycled and end up in landfills. This duo identified the problem and invented a chemical recycling technology that breaks down un-recycled plastic into valuable base chemicals.
Another great example of youth in businesses is Cocoa360, founded by Shadrack Frimpong in Ghana. Cocoa360 runs on its 'farm-for-impact' model, a community development scheme, which works to ensure a better quality of life through education and healthcare. Members work in a community-run cocoa farm, and the proceeds from it are used to sponsor education and subsidised healthcare for its members. The 'farm-for-impact' adopts a cyclic approach. It first starts with community labour in the cocoa farms, which is supervised by the village committee (VC) and school PTA executives. At the end of the harvesting period, farm managers give an account of the cost and revenue generated. The VC provides options on which revenues are to be spent in the community, and the members vote on a tiered system for splitting the profits between healthcare and education. Cocoa 360 maintains an 'agro-campus', which includes a girls’ school, a community health clinic, and cocoa farms. In less than three years, the company has cared for 3,000 patients and currently educates about 120 girls.
These new kids on the block bring to the table a unique business approach that incorporates corporate social responsibility and covers the triple bottom line: economic, social, and environmental factors. According to a global survey by Nielsen, millennial (aged 21 to 34) are more responsive to sustainability actions. They are more likely to associate with companies that make a positive social and environmental effort, and this shows in the type of companies they choose to work with or the type of start-ups they launch. These fundamental characteristics can be adopted by businesses for long-term success.
Blake Mycoskie's TOMS company is an excellent example of the triple bottom line mission. It runs on a one-for-one model created to promote corporate responsibility and conscious consumerism. After seeing children in Argentina missing school for lack of footwear, Mr. Mycoskie was inspired to start TOMS. For every pair of shoes sold, TOMS provides a new pair to a person in need. Also, through TOMS’ eyewear and coffee sales, the company is addressing other vital needs such as eye care and safe water. These efforts show that TOMS is a value-driven brand, with emphasis on promoting social sustainability in communities around the world.
There is also a discernible shift to decentralised decision making. Unlike the traditional vertical organisational structure where top executives are the decision-makers, youth entrepreneurs are designing models that distribute decision making at all levels. A good example is the flat organisational structure where there are no hierarchies, and employees are self-managed. Valve, a video game company, is known for this setup, one they call “flatland”(Percival, 2017). Free of bosses or managers, employees have the freedom to choose the project they want to work on or create a new project, as long as it is important to the company and positively impacts customers.
It is clear that youth entrepreneurs are approaching business with a different mindset. They are playing an active role in pursuing and ensuring social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Businesses that embrace this culture can have a competitive edge and improve their brand image. The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility polled 30,000 consumers in 60 countries, and the results showed that 55 per cent of consumers are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. By adopting such eco-driven measures, companies will have better success at appealing to this increasingly growing number of conscious consumers.
Likewise, in adopting a flatter organisational structure, companies stand to gain from diverse inputs, which can result in better decision making. This system may not be implementable in big firms, but they can still find creative ways to reduce hierarchy and include employee-decision making at certain levels. Inclusion leads to employees feeling valued and can improve productivity.
Businesses stand to gain by adopting some of these business practices to prepare themselves for the socially-driven future.