By CEO Diana Sterck

Our business is all about supporting people in business so I was very pleased to facilitate a workshop at a meeting of organisations that support enterprise in February, as part of my role as a Director of Capital Enterprise.

There has always been a lot of talk about entrepreneurship – and what that means. It seems that there has been more research into the behaviours of entrepreneurs, than defining what it means to be enterprising and an entrepreneur! Interestingly, we are privileged to have a former Entrepreneur of the Year in our patch – Ben Allen from Oomph.

At our workshop we explored 3 key questions:

1. What can business support agencies in London do collectively to better support all communities into entrepreneurship? How do we encourage people to see entrepreneurship as a viable career option?
2. How can we make our co working spaces inclusive and accessible for all of London’s entrepreneurs?
3. How can we help London’s start ups to access talent and skills from all parts of our communities?

There seemed to be an appetite for Capital Enterprise to broker a collaborative programme and some of the suggestions for collective action are summarised here. Capital Enterprise and its members have an unrivalled offer and reach in London in terms of supporting individuals into entrepreneurship. Together we could:

• encourage the start ups we support to offer work experience, internships and entrepreneurship apprenticeships
• develop structured signposting / referrals to facilitate navigation of the entrepreneurship ecosystem and open up networking opportunities to all parts of the community and all types of entrepreneur
• encourage local authorities to open up existing (unused) public buildings to be used as co working spaces, (especially libraries) and / or to offer them at peppercorn rent to co working operators in return for a proportion of the spaces being offered at subsidised rates
• gather evidence to demonstrate the added value of co working spaces to entrepreneurs
• develop a ‘bursary’ programme to ensure that a proportion of London’s co working spaces offer membership at affordable prices
• consider developing a kitemark for co working spaces which are open, affordable and accessible for all
• promote the provision of childcare in co working spaces to make them more accessible to working parents
• work with education providers (FE colleges and Universities) to understand where entrepreneurship education sits within their curriculum and campaign to give it more equal ‘billing’ to academic educational attainment targets
• develop a clear policy message and encourage policy makers such as the GLA to develop case studies to demonstrate how we support people from all communities into entrepreneurship (which will also help with the lack of entrepreneurial role models in some communities)
• diversify existing sectors e.g. tech where women, black and ethnic minorities and older people are under represented
• unlock existing funding mechanisms (such as Section 106 and Big Lottery) and campaign for additional public funds to support a collective approach

There was also an interesting discussion around the definition of ‘entrepreneurship’. Some members clearly include most forms of self employment in their definition where others seemed more selective with greater focus on entrepreneurs embarking on a potentially high growth start up journey.

The French economist Richard Cantillon is generally accredited with being the first to coin the phrase in the context of what we view today as entrepreneurship in about 1730. Loosely, he defined entrepreneurship as self-employment of any sort, and entrepreneurs as risk-takers, in the sense that they purchased goods at certain prices in the present to sell at uncertain prices in the future.

However, perhaps not surprisingly there is still no universally accepted definition of entrepreneurship. In fact there are far more definitions of, and pieces of research about, it than there are members of Capital Enterprise. It is definitely helpful to pin down our own interpretation – perhaps drawing on the following examples:

• The activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.(Oxford English Dictionary)
• The capacity and willingness to develop, organise and manage a business venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit. (www.businessdictionary.com)

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