Roger Cowdrey - International Business Consultant. Writer & Motivational Speaker
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Is age or gender an inhibitor to entrepreneurship?

Recently I was watching a television programme where the basis of the programme was to bring in a young entrepreneur under cover to improve older people's business. Whilst I enjoyed watching the programme, I started to question the supposition by the programme that the fixer had to be a 'young' entrepreneur.

All to often these days the western world, in particular, believes that innovation and entrepreneurship has to be the prerogative of the young. This seems to be brought about mainly because people assume that all entrepreneurship revolves around technology and the internet.

The particular programme that I was watching used an entrepreneur that had been running a business for five years and focussed on web design. The business he was looking at was a garden centre. In his first days undercover he discovered many things that could improve the business. However, none of the things he discovered needed a technology entrepreneur. I have seen similar performances across a variety of businesses achieved by mentors and business councillors not to mention trusted friends.

Where he started to run into trouble was where he tried to force his own web based ideas onto the business. Firstly we saw the introduction of the iPad on the till counter to record email addresses. Next he started to try and get the owner to use Twitter. Neither of these could have been regarded as a resounding success.

What this programme did show to me was that entrepreneurial thinking is not the the prerogative of the young. I could have found twenty people of differing ages and gender that could have achieved the same as him without confusing the issue with forced technology.

Not only can anyone be entrepreneurial if they wish to, I often find that women make far better entrepreneurs than men. Whereas it has been proved, by recent surveys, that the male brain works in a very linear manner, the female brain can operate using both sides of the brain at the same time. This makes multi-programming much easier; a key skill for the start-up entrepreneur.

Other factors weigh in on the female side include the fact that they usually require less start-up capital to take the plunge and that they manage the finances of the company better.

Let me say, here and now, that I am not a Ludite that thinks all technology is bad. I am often left in awe at the things young people can achieve with technology. I for one would not be without my iPhone and Kindle. Young people are better than most at exploiting new technology.

What I am saying is that the entrepreneurial world is not composed solely of high-tech university drop outs. Every day one sees successful entrepreneurial businesses run by people of all ages, races and genders. 

Entrepreneurship means being in charge of a venture where not all of the variables are known and where there is a risk that it could fail. That is exactly what the smallholder in the market, the independent taxi driver or the private consultant knows and practices every day.

These people know that they have to understand their customer, they then have to deliver what the customer wants, they have to manage within a tight budget, they have to make informed choices and they have to work hard at it every day. 

None of this takes youth or technology. Our high-tech man from the programme is no different to these people. His business runs on the same principles as theirs. By implying that entrepreneurship is the prerogative of the high-tech young we rule out a large percentage of the entrepreneurial knowledge in the business world - including mine!

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