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From unemployed to entrepreneur - Startacus chats to YES Network Founder - Carly Ward

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by Startacus Admin

From unemployed to entrepreneur - Startacus chats to YES Network Founder - Carly Ward

Here at Startacus we like to think we are pretty good at spreading the word on the people, places and spaces that make a difference to anyone with an idea for a business, who doesn’t necessarily know what to do next. After all, self-starters everywhere often need that proverbial shove in the right direction and then they are flying. One such person is Carly Ward.

Carly Ward was unemployed and aged just 19 when she founded the Young Entrepreneur Society Ltd (YES) a network and programme that Carly Wardteaches young people entrepreneurial and life skills. Now, very much a well known voice and advocate for entrepreneurship, we wanted to chat to Carly to find out more about her own journey, the barriers young people face in starting a business and why self employment as a career option is on the up...

After being unemployed and looking to start a business, what barriers did you face in terms of the provisions available to help develop your business idea?

The barriers I faced were a lack of help and resources to start a business. This made me come up with my business idea - the YES Education/YES Network. We created a programme with interviews, videos and workbooks for young people to learn entrepreneurial and life skills which the Government accredited and made funding available for schools and colleges to run. The programme is called The 12 Steps to Success and is my own 12 Steps which I now share with hundreds of young people. There was no network for young entrepreneurs either! I was fed up of being the youngest person while out networking so we started a network for under 35’s which is supported by Mishcon de Reya law firm and Dell.

At what point did you feel you could do a job at supporting other wannabe entrepreneurs?

As I mentioned, I couldn’t find the help myself so I wanted to help others so that they had support from my company. Back in 2009 when I started the company I was 19 and couldn’t possibly give other young people business advice so I interviewed some of the top entrepreneurs in the country such as Levi Roots, Reggae Reggae Sauce, Julie Meyer, Innocent etc. and asked them how they made it. These interviews form the main foundation of our programme.

So, aged 19 and with grand ambitions, how well received was the YES network initially?

The YES Network has been faster to take off than YES Education because education can be slow to respond - especially to entrepreneurship which is a whole new ball game that they are now expected to teach! YES Education is now starting to run more smoothly with more schools/colleges coming on board and the network needs to grow so we are currently talking to some young entrepreneurs about helping us expand. The whole idea of what we do is pioneering youth entrepreneurship and overall the response has been amazing. It is starting to grow into something I didn’t really expect which is a good thing I suppose!

Why do you think so many people are now considering self employment?

I was interviewed and featured on Channel 4 News talking about this recently you can see the video here. 

Nowadays, jobs are not easy to find and people are starting to realise spending a fortune and working hard at University is not going to in most cases guarantee them a good job at the end of it. Some people HAVE to consider starting a business to survive! Lots want to start a business too of course and will put up with the stress and hassle of being an entrepreneur in return for the independence and freedom it gives you. However there are many redundancies and fewer jobs so what other options are there other than becoming self employed or continuing to look for a job for who knows how long?! In the long term, being a successful entrepreneur reaps many more rewards than being an employee where you are making other people rich and helping build other people’s empires for not much money or thanks!

What do you think are the most typical reasons why business ideas don't become business realities?

Probably because people always find a reason NOT to do things. We are unfortunately a nation of pessimists. Everywhere you look you see YES NETWORK UKnegativity, it’s engraved in society! The newspapers want to rip people apart at every chance they get, all we hear on the news is suicides, rapes and murders. There are lots of great things going on but we never hear about them! It’s very sad. I think the whole conditioning of people is wrong, we are supposed to go to school, go to Uni, write a CV and then get a job. The world is changing and this is no longer a viable option for many people. Whether some people like it or not they are going to have to ‘think outside the box’ as they say and entrepreneurship might be the only option for some unless they are long term unemployed and joining the dole queue. I joined it for 14 months before starting YES so I know how depressing it can be, but I had no choice at the time - thankfully however I did something about it! So really I think it’s down to mindset and excuses. It’s raining today so I can’t, or the Government are stopping me move forward, or the economy is bad, I don’t have any money - people will always think of something. Perhaps they don’t have the confidence or the self belief to do it and if so maybe they aren’t cut out to be an entrepreneur quite yet, reading personal development books (anything by Jack Canfield, Rhonda Byrne or Wayne Dyer) will help build up to actually having a go. Taking action and having strong self belief is key. Don’t sit around thinking and talking about it get out there and DO IT!

What’s next for you and the YES network?

YES Education is expanding into many more schools and colleges, having just partnered with the leading awarding body OCR (Oxford and Cambridge RSA Exam Board) who work with 13,000 education centres and have marked 6 million exams this summer! They have a new entrepreneurship unit which we are being built into across the board and we will be marketed to many centres from September. We are so excited that entrepreneurial skills will be an option for many more young people. The YES Network is ticking over in London and we are speaking to various young people about taking it over and building it up more in London and other areas as we do not have much time for the network with YES Education being our core business. There are many opportunities that we can take advantage of once we get the right people on board! The long term vision is to be in many colleges and schools, have a YES Network in every city in the country and then expand globally. Our brand is becoming strong and people recognise it. We have worked hard to always try and do the right thing, be professional and we have a great reputation because of that. My dream is to sell out to a company like Pearson but I would always have to be involved somewhere. YES is my baby and I could never just give it away and move on! Until then we have many more challenges and obstacles to overcome and lots of hard work but I’m loving every minute (most of the time!)...

Cheers Carly and good luck with whatever you do next. 

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Published on: 20th August 2013

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