Entrepreneurship, it is a word we overuse. What does it mean anymore? Is it just a fad, an overhyped word used in corporate slides or a lazy term for those who haven’t made it yet?
Entrepreneurship means different things to many people. For me, in its purest form, entrepreneurship is about solving problems where there is demand. The Chinese community excels at this, we are one of the most competitive, determined and yes, entrepreneurial groups in the UK.
We are all aware of the stereotypes for Chinese enterprise, of traditional chinese takeaways and restaurants. Yet they are more than simply shop windows for food. These are enterprising ventures, led by entrepreneurs in fierce markets, willing to gamble everything to win customers, source great food, hire individuals from the community and ultimately add value to themselves and those around them. They are heroes in my eyes, especially the early pioneers.
Over time, these ventures have branched out, or gone more upmarket into every business line we can imagine. There are many studies that suggest that the second generation of British Chinese have moved on to professional service firms, to become lawyers, accountants or doctors. That could well be true, but I suspect there are many from that group, alongside the younger third generation, that are following their roots again to start their own ventures.
I have seen the evidence myself on how the next generation is leading the way, not just in the catering sector, but in technology, consultancy, PR and product design. Bolstered by an increasing confidence, new technologies (such as 3D printing and tech skills) and sheer hard work, the Chinese Diaspora in the UK are beginning to thrive. Just look at the CEO of Made.com, Ning Li. Hailing from China and France and now based in London, he has built a company that is truly disrupting the furniture market. Then there is Nat (Lord) Wei who is creating a new community of entrepreneurs through his Maker Wharf project, or Harry Huang, a tech entrepreneur who won the NACUE Varsity Pitch Competition last year.
It is people like this who inspire my mission as NACUE Chief Executive. I hope to encourage as many young people to take their first steps towards entrepreneurship, no matter their background or interests. The UK boasts many opportunities for budding entrepreneurs and I hope the Chinese community continue to seize them.
One of these opportunities is the Varsity Pitch Competition, brought to you by NACUE and Tata. I would encourage anyone with an exciting idea or early stage venture to apply. The winner gets £10,000 and the finalists gain in depth training and mentoring. They will also earn feedback from expert judges at the Grand Final, hosted at the China Exchange the heart of London’s ChinaTown.
Whether you apply for this competition or not, we should all remember the traditions of our ancestors and continue them if we can. Because entrepreneurship isn’t for the few, it’s for the brave. Often fraught with risks, difficult decisions and failures, it may seem like an undesirable career option. But to create something of your own, to solve people’s problems and to leave a legacy, the rewards can pay off in dividends.
So it’s time to decide. What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
This article was written by Johnny Luk for Nee Hao Magazine, Chief Executive of the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE)
To find out more or to apply for the NACUE Varsity Pitch Competition visit: varsitypitchcompetition.com