Dragon's Den is giving young entrepeneurs the wrong idea

On a path to failure.

It has never been easier to set-up a business, but too many are failing. The problem is experience. Sadly I’ve seen so many aspiring entrepreneurs fall short because they do not have the required knowledge in the profession they are looking to break into. The statistics demonstrate this too, with one in three businesses failing in the first three years. While knowledge is a key factor, the way the media heavily focuses on the entrepreneur does not help either. It’s almost as if it has become the new fashion to become an entrepreneur.

You only have to look at the likes of The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den to see evidence of this. While these shows can be great for the right person with the right idea, at the right time, the problem is that too many people watch these shows and think that in no time they can be driving around in a Ferrari and living the life of Peter Jones or Lord Sugar.

In times gone by, what used to happen was that someone would embark on a job and they first focused on learning that job incredibly well. Then, they would gain enough experience to feel confident enough to set-up their own business. The decision to do this could be for a number of reasons, for instance, perhaps they lost their job, perhaps they felt undervalued or maybe they felt that they could do the job better than their manager. The bottom line is that they had gained experience to start something on their own.

Unfortunately, the reality is that young adults leave school with very little experience in their profession, yet they want to set-up their own business. They think it’s glamorous and they think it’s easy. They come up with an idea and they just get on with it without the required knowledge. They lack life and employment experience and because of this they end up making a series of mistakes. However, if they had first learnt their trade then they would be in a far better position to start their own business.

While this situation is largely due to the current climate, in which graduates and school leavers are struggling to obtain a job in the industry or profession that they wish, there needs to be an emphasis on support, and we need to offer these young professionals the guidance they need. For instance, business owners need to be honest with budding entrepreneurs and tell them if they think they have a good idea – and if it’s not, they need to be told too.

I myself have worked with the Prince’s Trust and I am currently working on a project in Guernsey, run by the Chamber of Commerce, which has put together a business club where aspiring entrepreneurs attend. The club discusses business ideas, members have the opportunity to pitch them and they can receive investment if the idea is solid. They are then supplied with a mentor, like me, to help them achieve their goals.

While no one underestimates the hostility of today’s current market, we do still need to recognise the transformative power of start-ups and offer them the support and guidance they need to pursue their dreams. A community of entrepreneurs, mentors and educational resources is the key ingredient in a start-up’s success and I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity, to give back wherever you can. Business start-ups are the lifeblood of the UK and we need to do all we can to help it prosper and thrive.

Shane Turrell is founder of PracticePro.

This story first appeared on economia.

James Caan. Photogaph: Getty Images

This is a news story from economia.

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A new German law wants to force mothers to reveal their child’s biological father

The so-called “milkmen’s kids law” would seek protection for men who feel they have been duped into raising children they believe are not biologically theirs – at the expense of women’s rights.

The German press call them “Kuckuckskinder”, which translates literally as “cuckoo children” – parasite offspring being raised by an unsuspecting innocent, alien creatures growing fat at the expense of the host species’ own kind. The British press have opted for the more Benny Hill-esque “milkmen’s kids”, prompting images of bored Seventies housewives answering the door in negligées before inviting Robin Asquith lookalikes up to their suburban boudoirs. Nine months later their henpecked husbands are presented with bawling brats and the poor sods remain none the wiser.

Neither image is particularly flattering to the children involved, but then who cares about them? This is a story about men, women and the redressing of a legal – or is it biological? – injustice. The children are incidental.

This week German Justice Minister Heiko Maas introduced a proposal aimed at to providing greater legal protection for “Scheinväter” – men who are duped into raising children whom they falsely believe to be biologically theirs. This is in response to a 2015 case in which Germany’s highest court ruled that a woman who had told her ex-husband that her child may have been conceived with another man could not be compelled to name the latter. This would, the court decided, be an infringement of the woman’s right to privacy. Nonetheless, the decision was seen to highlight the need for further legislation to clarify and strengthen the position of the Scheinvater.

Maas’ proposal, announced on Monday, examines the problem carefully and sensitively before merrily throwing a woman’s right to privacy out of the window. It would compel a woman to name every man she had sexual intercourse with during the time when her child may have been conceived. She would only have the right to remain silent in cases should there be serious reasons for her not to name the biological father (it would be for the court to decide whether a woman’s reasons were serious enough). It is not yet clear what form of punishment a woman would face were she not to name names (I’m thinking a scarlet letter would be in keeping with the classy, retro “man who was present at the moment of conception” wording). In cases where it did transpire that another man was a child’s biological father, he would be obliged to pay compensation to the man “duped” into supporting the child for up to two years.

It is not clear what happens thereafter. Perhaps the two men shake hands, pat each other on the back, maybe even share a beer or two. It is, after all, a kind of gentlemen’s agreement, a transaction which takes place over the heads of both mother and child once the latter’s paternity has been established. The “true” father compensates the “false” one for having maintained his property in his absence. In some cases there may be bitterness and resentment but perhaps in others one will witness a kind of honourable partnership. You can’t trust women, but DNA tests, money and your fellow man won’t let you down.

Even if it achieves nothing else, this proposal brings us right back to the heart of what patriarchy is all about: paternity and ownership. In April this year a German court ruled that men cannot be forced to take paternity tests by children who suspect them of being their fathers. It has to be their decision. Women, meanwhile, can only access abortion on demand in the first trimester of pregnancy, and even then counselling is mandatory (thereafter the approval of two doctors is required, similar to in the UK). One class of people can be forced to gestate and give birth; another can’t even be forced to take a DNA test. One class of people can be compelled to name any man whose sperm may have ventured beyond their cervix; another is allowed to have a body whose business is entirely its own. And yes, one can argue that forcing men to pay money for the raising of children evens up the score. Men have always argued that, but they’re wrong.

Individual men (sometimes) pay for the raising of individual children because the system we call patriarchy has chosen to make fatherhood about individual ownership. Women have little choice but to go along with this as long as men exploit our labour, restrict our access to material resources and threaten us with violence. We live in a world in which it is almost universally assumed that women “owe” individual men the reassurance that it was their precious sperm that impregnated us, lest we put ourselves and our offspring at risk of poverty and isolation. Rarely do any of us dare to protest. We pretend it is a fair deal, even that reproductive differences barely affect our lives at all. But the sex binary – the fact that sperm is not egg and egg is not sperm – affects all of us.

The original 2015 ruling got it right. The male demand for reassurance regarding paternity is an infringement of a woman’s right to privacy. Moreover, it is important to see this in the context of all the other ways in which men have sought to limit women’s sexual activity, freedom of movement and financial independence in order to ensure that children are truly “theirs”.  Anxiety over paternity is fundamentally linked to anxiety over female sexuality and women’s access to public space. Yet unless all women are kept under lock and key at all times, men will never, ever have the reassurance they crave. Even then, the abstract knowledge that you are the only person to have had the opportunity to impregnate a particular woman cannot rival the physical knowledge of gestation.

We have had millennia of pandering to men’s existential anxieties and treating all matters related to human reproduction, from sex to childbirth, as exceptional cases meaning women cannot have full human rights. Isn’t it about time we tried something new? How about understanding fatherhood not as winning gold in an Olympic sperm race, but as a contract endlessly renewed?

What each of us receives when a child is born is not a biological entity to do with as we choose. It is a relationship, with all of its complexities and risks. It is something worth contributing to and fighting for. Truly, if a man cannot understand that, then any money wasted on a Kuckuckskind – a living, breathing child he could get to know – has got to be the least of his worries. 

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.