#10Q: Train youth to be entrepreneurs not employees

We should be training the youth as entrepreneurs instead of as employees, says Leon Lategan, School of Entrepreneurship founder.

Leon Lategan, conversion marketing and optimisation specialist and founder of The Lion’s Den, focused on growing entrepreneurs; yesterday launched a School of Entrepreneurship for school leavers. In a country with 3.5 million young people unemployed, entrepreneurship has never been more important to creating jobs. Lategan is encouraging school leavers to take a gap year with purpose and expand their horizons and business savvy and get exposed to 19 different areas of business: from marketing, sales, leadership, teamwork, innovation, social media, and so on. “What this course does, is it gives you an overall perspective of what is out there. It exposes you to business; you may come up with your own business idea; and now you may have a clearer idea of what you want to study.” Lategan says with high school and university drop-out rates, and the fact that even with a degree, graduates only have a 31% chance of finding a job, it is time to change our education system which is geared to creating employees, not entrepreneurs.

1. What is the School of Entrepreneurship?

The School of Entrepreneurship will equip South Africa’s youth through a highly practical (not only theoretical) online training programme, empowering them with the mindset, knowledge, insights, tools and essential business skills they need, to become confident, capable entrepreneurs who, within 12 months, will be enabled to actually start and run their own businesses.

2. Please explain the need for such a school?

There are five critical challenges facing our school leavers in terms of what to do they do once they leave school: The first one is that parents may not be able to afford to send their children to university or to college because of the cost of tuition. There’s a study that was conducted by Old Mutual where they said that the average three year degree is going to cost around about R192,000 for University fees, excluding accommodation and other living expenses if one is studying outside their home town. The second challenge is that some students simply won’t get University exemption. The third challenge is there might not be a place available at the University because they are on average 10 times oversubscribed (as an example, in 2020 Wits received over 68 000 applications for first year but could only take 4900). The fourth challenge is that if the student is unable to go to University, there is a 50% chance they won’t get a job, because there simply are not enough for everyone entering the job market. And, finally for those whose parents can afford to send their children to university, some may not be at all clear yet on exactly what it is they want to do in life and what they should study. Many end up not completing their degrees or using the qualification in a related job once completed.

3. How will it operate and train young entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurship Mastery is a virtual training and coaching programme. Over eight months, accomplished entrepreneurs show students on how to start a profitable and sustainable business by following the ‘Concept-to-Company’ Creator Formula. The curriculum covers all the areas of business and entrepreneurship in 19 masterclasses: Mindset and Motivation; Business Model; Product and Service; Market Research; Innovation and Change; Branding; Marketing and Influence; Sales and Closing; Customer Experience; Money and Finance; Leadership and Team; Creativity and  Design; Tools and Automation; Conversion and Optimisation; Reputation; Management; Referral Networking; Implementation; Growth Hacking; Investor Pitching.

4. What qualification do young people come away with?

A certificate of completion will be provided, but this programme is not so much about the piece of paper that one gets, it’s about empowering you to start and run a business. When you are your own boss: you are the creator of your own destiny – you are in control. The proof will be in the doing.

5. What impact do you hope to have on youth unemployment?

Together with my team of business experts and real-life entrepreneurs as coaches, I aim to create 10,000 new entrepreneurs within five years, who are capable of starting sustainable and profitable businesses that create jobs and reduce unemployment.

6. Are you born an entrepreneur, or can entrepreneurship be taught?

Yes, I believe it can be taught because most entrepreneurs don’t even know they could be entrepreneurs as they are not exposed to entrepreneurship at a younger age. Take me, working in corporate for many years before becoming an entrepreneur; and quite frankly, most people have the wrong idea about what an entrepreneur is… An entrepreneur is someone who takes a financial risk to possibly make a profit, that’s it. Most entrepreneurs don’t even realise they are entrepreneurs.

7. How can business help foster entrepreneurship?

That’s a great question and a difficult one because most businesses want to hold onto good staff so why encourage them to go it alone and possibly even start competing? Business could however sponsor currently disadvantaged Matrics who can’t afford to join the School.

8. How is your personal experience relevant?

As the School of Entrepreneurship’s founder, CEO and head coach, I have been helping businesses succeed for over 20 years – from large corporations to the entrepreneur on the corner of the street. I have experience working with some of South Africa’s biggest brands: Vodacom, Nedbank, Renault, Jeep, Pam Golding and many others. Plus, over 12,000 international entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized businesses. Internationally, I’ve worked with multi-million dollar entrepreneurs around the world in countries such as Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Botswana, Tanzania, Mauritius and Rwanda, among others. However, my story started out as one of failure and is rather unique. I went to university in 1986, studied for a Bachelor of Business Science degree in Marketing, but failed in my third year and was not allowed to continue. As a university dropout I help companies grow their businesses through real marketing, sales, customer experience and communication, and have subsequently become a leader in my field. My journey proves that you don’t necessarily need a qualification to succeed in life or as an entrepreneur.

9. Do you have a life philosophy?

I don’t have one overriding philosophy because that would make it seem too simple, however as a serial entrepreneur my one belief is Quicquid CapitWhatever it takes.

10. What is your superpower?

I believe I was blessed with an incredibly imaginative mind that sees opportunities all around not only for me and my team, but for my clients as I am an ideas engineer.


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