Most people would probably agree that it’s not the easiest time to start a business. Even in the good times, many new ventures fail to get off the ground – but with a backdrop of the gloomiest economic climate for decades, you could forgive budding entrepreneurs for thinking that this might not be the best time to try and strike out. So Shell wants to improve their odds: the oil company is offering up to five monthly cash prizes of £1,000 to young people aged 16-30 who have a big new idea – and are brave enough to try and make it work in 2009…
Shell is offering the prize through its LiveWIRE programme, a young enterprise scheme that’s been running for over 25 years. All in all, there’s a pot of £70,000 up for grabs in the coming year: £60,000 in monthly prizes, and another £10,000 for the winner of the annual Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition. Shell’s argument is that the economic gloom actually makes it more important than ever to encourage budding entrepreneurs – because their success can help drag the UK out of recession. ‘They can be creators of jobs, prosperity and the innovations of tomorrow,’ says Shell’s UK chairman James Smith.
Of course you might argue that £1,000 is not going to get you very far when you’re starting out (about one month of electricity bills, probably). And you’d probably be right. That’s why LiveWIRE has also gone one step further in its bid to help start-ups by revamping its website: as of next week, it’ll also include things like online guides to market research and legal issues, and a discussion forum where you can chew the fat with other entrepreneurs ‘from Doncaster to Dubai’ (since the scheme now operates in over 20 countries). And best of all, the whole thing is free.
As LiveWIRE alumnus Jamie Murray-Wells (the Glasses Direct founder, who won in 2005) points out, good businesses can flourish even in tough times: ‘It’s a tough economic climate, but that shouldn’t put off entrepreneurs with sound business ideas being brave and going out on their own. Many successful companies like Apple and Microsoft actually started in economic downturns.’
And as always, necessity may be the mother of invention. We’ve been hearing recently that university graduates are going to find it increasingly hard to get on the career ladder in the next year or two. So maybe this is the perfect opportunity for them to try their own thing. Just don’t spend that £1,000 all at once...
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