From education to employment

The Age of the Teen Entrepreneur

Cailean Carvalho, Executive Director, SFS Media

There are over 100,000  young entrepreneurs hidden in the corridors of your campuses. On average their earnings are outstripping those of teens who work part-time by 3 to 1. They are running businesses that I would not have been able to at the same age and driving adult envy by being adept in the worlds of cryptocurrency, drop shipping and social influencing.

It has been widely reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has, through its many challenges, given rise to an entrepreneurial spark; a tidal wave of newly self-employed adults who are choosing to be masters of their own destiny rather than relying upon an employer to make sure their bills are paid. It’s no different for teens. Through further investigation into this headline-grabber of a statistic, it becomes evident that this self-employed tsunami is being matched by young people.

In a survey conducted by accountancy firm Ember, data from Companies House uncovered that 49% of new businesses set up since June 2020 were started by 25 – 40-year-olds.  But, and this is the really interesting bit, the data also showed that 7.8% of new companies were set up by Gen Z – 16 – 24-year-olds.

Here at SFS Media we like to take the conversation a little deeper… recently we carried out our Youth Culture Survey which asked the nation’s 14 – 19-year-olds about how they spend their time, make their money, their relationship with brands, and their access to technology.

We had a HUGE response.

Over 4,500 young people responded with answers to 72 questions, generating over one million points of data to process and analyse.

In amongst all of that juicy data, young people told us that 28.3% of them were working a part-time job and generating on average a monthly income of £102. However, what we found most interesting of all was that 3% of young people said that their main source of income came from working for themselves.  If you scale this figure out to a national level, that equates to almost 134,000 young entrepreneurs who are finding ways to make money for themselves, and that number is likely to be even higher as this figure represents just the young people citing working for themselves as their main source of income. 

It is lucrative too! The young people in our survey told us they earn on average over £300 per month from their self-employment, which was the largest single income stream in our survey.

Our survey respondents told us they are making money from cryptocurrency, social influencing, drop shipping, selling handmade bakes, arts and crafts and tutoring. In doing so, they are earning three times as much as their peers who work a part time job!

Why are young people turning to self-employment at such an early age? And why now?

The pandemic seems to have only amplified a trend that was already beginning to take shape with some bodies citing the 2008 financial crash as the initial catalyst. The Prince’s Trust mentions this in their “Young Entrepreneurship Review 2019 – 2021”. They also state that in some of their recent research it was found that 44% of 16-25-year-olds felt that the pandemic has “made them more interested in entrepreneurship” and 46% said they thought that “running their own business would give them ‘more job security’ in the current economic climate”.

Other driving factors could be financially motivated whilst coupled with ambition. Our 2022 Future Career Pathway market research found that 90% of the young people we surveyed are considering university as their gateway to a future career. With tuition fees historically high, young people tell us they are developing a self-sufficient income stream to help combat this.

How can further education establishments support young entrepreneurs?

Further education providers are passionate about inspiring skills and confidence in young people. We would love to see further education take steps to celebrate and certify the young entrepreneurs that are running around their corridors.

Colleges could offer support and additional training to develop the entrepreneurs amongst their student population. Show that you recognise the growing trend – call it out and help young people see for themselves how this is helping towards their future careers. Also help them to recognise the skills they are developing for themselves and show them how managing their own small enterprise will give them building blocks for whatever career pathway they choose for the future.

Where next?

We can’t wait to see what comes next in innovations from the commercially focussed Gen Z and Gen A that are moving through the education system right now! It will be so interesting to see how the appetite for new media and new technologies from these generations will shape the skills and opportunities they create for themselves.

We’re also looking forward to seeing how further education will support these young people – what will you do? How will you adapt?

By Cailean Carvalho, Executive Director, SFS Media

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