Youth unemployment is one of the principal social and economic challenges of this decade in Europe, Africa and around the world. Long spells of unemployment can have serious long-term effects for individuals, such as reduced earnings and social exclusion.
Youth entrepreneurship can certainly be part of the response. To maximise effectiveness and efficiency, should target resources on young people with the best chance of success, provide sufficient support to allow them to start businesses outside of low entry barrier but high competition sectors, and provide integrated packages of complementary support rather than one-shot instruments.
The Centre for African Entrepreneurship has developed an initiative for providing tailored business support to young (under 30 year olds) British Africans in starting and running their own enterprises as a way out of the unemployment that this population disproportionately faces.
SYEN MEETS VALERIE MORAN
VALERIE MORAN is the first and only black woman to be featured on the Sunday Times Rich List, after 31 editions, making her the richest black woman in the UK.
She is worth £122 million for her Fintech company called Prepaid Financial Services. She is currently the Head of Client Relations and Operations, owning 81.5% of the company with her husband and business partner Noel Moran.
The Swansea Youth Entrepreneurs Network (SYEN) had the honour of meeting Valerie at the PFS offices in London on the 12th of July 2019.
It was a great session as the aspiring young entrepreneurs had an opportunity to interact with her, asking her a wide range of questions, from business ideas to questions on building self confidence.
Mrs Moran’s journey began in Zimbabwe, which is her home country. She was born and raised there, and only moved to the UK after graduating from college. She had studied Systems Analysis and Programming and had secured a well paying job when she moved. She however decided to quit her job, after seeing potential in the business idea her now husband had. The idea (payment solutions) appealed to her and she decided to take the risk of leaving a job and being business partners with Noel Moran.
Valerie started off as Implementation Manager and faced a few challenges in the early years because she did not have experience in the field. She had to learn everything about the industry as she went along, but this most definitely did not hinder her progress. If anything, it made her more knowledgeable as she was constantly learning new things and finding ways to be the best. And now, just over 10 years later she has become the richest black woman in the UK.
Being the sole black woman on the Times Rich List
Valerie says the Sunday Times had contacted her before publishing the list in May, wanting to do an article on her, but it didn’t quite make sense what the article would be about. It only made sense to her on the Sunday morning the article was published. For her, being named the richest black woman in the UK is indeed an honour, but more importantly, it’s a recognition of her success and she plans on continuing to succeed as she has been doing. She described her reaction as, surprised and shocked, more than anything. “I would’ve thought that in this day and age, there would be a lot more black people, black women, making that list more diverse. So being the only one shocked me, and being the first was even harder to comprehend.” , she said. She went on to elaborate that upon deliberation, she has seen that at a lot of business conventions, she has usually been the only woman in the room, not to mention the only black woman. Which all begs the question, why is that still the case? There is a huge gap, and not because of a lack of ideas, but just a lack of support for aspiring entrepreneurs of ethnic minority background.
This is where the SYEN project comes in, as the aim of the work is to bring together BAME aspiring entrepreneurs, to support each other and be connected with successful entrepreneurs, so as to accelerate their growth. Valerie is in support of our youth project, as she would like to engage more and support the black youths to grow in business. She has come to a more profound realisation of the lack of diversity, which is why she would like to engage more.
Valerie advises black women to never consider their gender and race as a negative. “If you have an idea you believe is good, push on, despite your race. It’s what you do with your idea that matters. Do you sit on it or make it excellent?”, she says.
From the beginning, they had the goal of expanding the business, making it intercontinental. They had hoped to develop it in Africa and wider Europe, in parallel, but regulations in Africa made it difficult. They decided to just focus on Europe, which has been a success. Only now are they getting back to Africa, specifically West Africa. She hopes to branch into her home country, Zimbabwe, in future.
Advice on failure
“If you have an idea, do not abandon it, pursue it. You would rather fail after having tried and you can at least say you gave it your best. What do you have to lose? Failure shouldn’t stop you from progressing, it should be a stepping stone to the next best thing.
If you fail, then give up, do not become an entrepreneur.
Remember, you will make mistakes, what’s important is what you do with the lesson.”
To small startups
Valerie comments on how phenomenal business ideas are all around, and how the challenge most budding entrepreneurs face is gaining capital to take the business to the next level. When they started PFS, they used their own personal savings. They couldn’t get loans from the bank due to the type of business it was. They couldn’t get anyone to invest as they were really small. This meant they had to work tirelessly to achieve their goals, as they could not afford to hire more people. She expressed that they got their big break when they landed their first client, who paid upfront. Things looked brighter from then onwards.
From her own experience, she advises start up businesses to only spend as necessary and try and invest back into the business. She encourages cutting down on the use of available finances as much as possible. Apart from capital, she also touched on the importance of making sure that everyone involved with the business understands the vision. This includes both employees and any investors. She advises bringing in people into the business who will enhance the idea with expertise, and further elaborates on the importance of gaining knowledge.
To women - motherhood and relationships
Valerie encourages women who would want to start families and also be entrepreneurs to do both. She advises women to find a balance and a way to juggle both. She encourages women to find partners who will help and support them, and so they will not have to neglect one aspect.
Also for those in relationships with their partners, she emphasises the importance of understanding each other’s roles and having the same vision.
African and proud
“I live in Ireland now and I might have picked up some Irish ways but I always identify myself as Zimbabwean first. My identity will always be African. I am an African woman, married to an Irish man.
I came to the UK and moved to Ireland, but I’m still African.”
She went on to comment on remaining authentic to oneself.
“What are you happy with? Who are you?
Embrace it. Showcase it. Only you know your background.”
General advice to budding entrepreneurs
There are no set rules, entrepreneurship is a journey.
Believe in yourself, if you do not, who will?
Find your inner strengths. They will build your confidence, so work on them and capitalise on them.
First impressions matter! Live to impress, sometimes you only get one shot at it.
Dare to take risks, that’s the only way you’ll move forward. You never know, it might pay off.
Do not be afraid to fail. Failure is part of the journey. Draw lessons from it and rectify your mistakes.
When seeking capital, do not give away your whole business just because you are desperate.
Knowledge is power. Educate yourself.