#11 youth
Jonathan Pfahl / Chelsey Baker / Ross Murphy

The Rockstars of Business

Since the economic crisis hit Europe, unemployment rates among young people are increasing. But some youngsters rather resort to setting up their own businesses than waiting for a job offer. Rockstar Youth UK supports these young entrepreneurs.

Rockstar Youth is a subsidiary of the Rockstar Group, the UK's leading private mentoring organisation that supports entrepreneurs, business launches and growth. Rockstar Youth is the leading delivery partner of the UK government's Youth StartUp Loans Programme. Launched in 2012, StartUp offers up to £ 10,000 in funding and free mentoring to 18-30 year olds who present a viable business idea or have an existing business with a growth plan.

This article offers you a manifold view on the programme: the management as well as the participants' perspective. Read about the experiences of the founder of Rockstar Youth and of one of the mentors, as well as the story of one of the Rockstar Youth mentees.

Let's start with its founder Jonathan Pfahl, 31, entrepreneur and MD of Rockstar Group & Rockstar Youth:

I established Rockstar Group in 2007 when I was 25, following my own financially successful experience of mentoring. Goldman Sachs was where I had my first experience of being mentored. My mentor was a very Senior Manager who had been in the sector for over 20 years. He helped me establish my business within Goldman. From there I was hooked on what I still call "Real Mentoring". That is when you are being given the guidance and contacts of someone who has genuinely achieved what he wanted to.

I moved to the UK in 2005 to start something new with my life and sought and paid for a mentor who was instrumental in my building up an impressive London property business. I myself became a mentor and knew I had to create the same opportunity for others. I set about creating a mentoring service like no other, bespoke to businesses in different sectors and at different levels. Rockstar mentors are the "rockstars" of business in their sector with the average Rockstar mentor having started, built up and sold their company for an average sale price of £ 18 million. In creating Rockstar Youth, we are now able to offer the service free to StartUp Loans recipients; talented young people who would not have otherwise had been able to afford it, but whose business dreams would also be realised through it.

"In the midst of the worst employment market for 20 years, many young people are opting to start their own businesses."

Living in the UK in the midst of the worst employment market for 20 years, I've been inspired to see that many young people are opting to start their own businesses rather than waiting for major firms to begin hiring again. But research showed that young people in the UK are less likely to be accepted or even considered for a business loan from the banks, based on their age and perceived lack of experience.

It was therefore welcome news when Prime Minister David Cameron backed the £ 112 million initiative for young aspiring entrepreneurs. The government understands that supporting youth enterprise is key to tackling youth unemployment across the UK and stimulating growth. When it was agreed that the student-style, low interest, flexible terms loan would be accompanied by compulsory mentoring, giving sustained support in turning business ideas into long term business successes, I knew it was my chance to make a real difference by extending the service of our Rockstar mentoring to the overly talented and under valued youth sector, free of charge. Rockstar Youth was born.

Rockstar Youth's application process is uniquely simple and begins with four simple questions. We understand that a great idea must not be stifled by lengthy applications and requirements for 60 page business plans. Instead, we work through applicants' business concepts at an energetic, fast paced incubator day, where we show them vital steps such as how to prove their concept and secure orders. The incubator events allow applicants to assess the merits of their own business idea and have proved hugely popular and successful. They are a crash course in the fundamentals of any startup business. If an applicant is not approved by the end, he or she is advised the steps to take in order to return to gain success not only in the application, but in the business. These events are key as they connect entrepreneurs to their peers, who we emphasise to them are their potential customers. Lasting relationships are formed and Rockstar Youth supports that by providing an online platform for our community of mentees. There they share ideas, tips and tricks and even promote their product and services at Rockstar preferential rates, always learning from and supporting each other.

The StartUp initiative has already surpassed a landmark 2500 application approvals as part of its pilot scheme. Having approved over 650 of these, awarding around £ 5 million in start-up funding, we are proud to say that Rockstar Youth is the leading delivery partner for this initiative. Why? Our applicants tell us that we are the obvious choice for any young person looking to access startup finance, due to the roster of quality mentors, business incubator application system, lack of bureaucracy and the Rockstar Youth peer-to-peer support structure.

The ways in which we cut red tape and empower young people in business highlight the new methods that are being adopted throughout business organisations in the UK. For me these trends indicate a key shift in industry and enterprise culture in this country, a culture which recognises not just the importance of business finance, but that of a holistic support, an eco-system consisting of real relationships; mentor to mentee, peer to peer; systematic and bureaucratic. We are proud to be part of changing the face of youth enterprise in the UK.

Chelsey Baker is a Rockstar Youth mentor, entrepreneur, author of "The Pocket Mentor" and creator of the pitch, press & publicity programme "Broadcasting Your Business":

As a successful entrepreneur, I know first-hand how difficult running a business can be. That's why I first became a private mentor, sharing my experiences and knowledge with others.

Since the Start-Up Loan initiative for 18-30 year olds in the UK was launched, I have seen just how crucial the mentoring is in the success of these young business people. The fact that the Start-Up Loans programme has made its mentoring compulsory to all the entrepreneurs who receive a loan is testament to its value.

As a leading delivery partner Rockstar Youth is able to offer the start-up funding plus free of charge mentoring from experienced business people like myself, which is making a huge impact amongst the youth community. This initiative is encouraging business start-ups and is crucially important for successfully competing in the global marketplace and promoting social progress. With it being so difficult to get on the career ladder through traditional recruitment, this initiative gives young people the opportunity to carve their own career path and work for themselves.

"Getting real entrepreneurs like myself involved in the mentoring process has a profound effect because rather than just teaching from theory they can teach from experience."

Getting real entrepreneurs like myself involved in the mentoring process has a profound effect because rather than just teaching from theory they can teach from experience. This approach is highly practical and gives the recipient a far better grasp of the actual business process involved.

By offering a different perspective I can help to spot potential problems. I've received more than a few 'thank you' emails for recognising what could have been potentially huge and expensive mistakes. Offering a second opinion, giving honest and constructive feedback and acting as a sounding board to suggest there are alternative options available are key to my role.

I know that I can and do make a real difference in helping other young entrepreneurs overcome many of the worries and difficulties that they are faced with. When I started out there wasn't any business mentoring available, it was a case of learning from your mistakes – a fundamental reason why I try to ensure business owners have a true and realistic perspective of the challenges confronting them. Start-ups don't typically have a wealth of experience or intuition to fall back on or the foresight to see further ahead. This is where mentoring really pays off.

"I have witnessed extreme talent in so many diverse areas from technology and tattoos to ice-cream and dry cleaning."

Working in youth enterprise is its own reward: every day I feel inspired and encouraged, not just by their skills and ideas, but by their sense of purpose and drive. I have witnessed extreme talent in so many diverse areas from technology and tattoos to ice-cream and dry cleaning. It never ceases to amaze me how innovative and creative they are.

I am delighted with the results I am seeing and this inspiring initiative, encouraging and promoting the opportunity for young people to work for themselves; a choice has now been made much more of an available reality. The benefits both for the mentee and mentor, as well as the UK industry are huge. The UK Government has fully endorsed and recognised that effective youth mentoring can support young entrepreneurs in the crucial phases of their lifecycle and can help them become the innovators of tomorrow. The need for new innovations as well as enterprise creation is constantly growing due to tougher competition and an ever tougher world market place. It therefore follows that the primary objectives are to encompass professional mentoring services, access to funds and to provide support networks in favour of youth entrepreneurship.

Rockstar Youth are helping to identify young talent which will have an effect on youth unemployment; vital for the future of our economy. The application process is quick and simple making entrepreneurship available to 18-30 year olds with a viable business idea who may not otherwise have been able to fund their startup, let alone afford the invaluable mentoring service.

And here's the story of Ross Murphy, a Rockstar Youth mentee, 23, who launched the first ever Green Deal comparison business "greendeal-compare.co.uk":

Business has always fascinated me. From a young age I have been "hustling" – from selling sweets at school, to starting ventures like a car washing service at 13 to running 'sell-out' music festivals. This led me into studying Management & Strategy at university and deciding that entrepreneurialism was the right path for me.

"I really like the idea that you can make money and improve the world in a significant way at the same time."

More recently, the field of social entrepreneurship has caught my attention, and I really like the idea that you can make money and improve the world in a significant way at the same time. After graduating, I was searching for a good business idea that could satisfy both these criteria. As climate change is one of the world's biggest challenges, I wanted to do something that would contribute to solving this issue.

My first idea was to persuade people to switch electricity providers, away from the 'dirty' big six companies and to the one I partnered with, Good Energy, whose supply is 100% renewable. In order to scale this, I set up an affiliate scheme working with students to persuade their parents to switch. However, because of the complex business model, and the students having to wait 3 to 5 months to get paid, this idea didn't quite take off.

So I "pivoted" – "pivote" is an entrepreneurial buzzword to describe changing your idea when it doesn't work. I heard about the UK government launching its new scheme in January 2013 to tackle carbon emissions and fuel poverty, the Green Deal. The Green Deal enables people to get up to £ 10,000 worth of home retrofitting improvements, to save money on their energy bills and make their homes warmer. This is funded from some of the savings made in your energy bill – 'pay as you save' – so to speak.

However, organisations such as Which? and the Office of Fair Trading have identified a lot of mis-selling and poor workmanship in this sector. I knew this was the opportunity I was waiting for. Having a keen eye on tech type businesses, I went about setting up the UK's first Green Deal comparison and review website.

Our website allows you to read reviews and find the best certified Green Deal companies in your local area. This is particularly important because you might have to stay with these companies for up to 25 years for them to regularly do maintenance and repair work. My hopes for the business are to become the leading Green Deal website in the UK.

I have really enjoyed my entrepreneurial journey so far because I really like inventing and I like learning and both activities seem to be essential to the process. I love meeting other entrepreneurs, feeling the passion they have for what they are doing, and just the fact that they are doing their own thing in a world where most people expect you to get a job.

However none of this was possible without the funds and free mentoring I was able to access as a result of the Government Youth Enterprise initiative, StartUp Loans, and Rockstar Youth, the leading delivery partner. Not only has the funding allowed me to do things such as hire a programmer to build the site, outsource the SEO and fund various marketing activities that I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. The mentoring from my Rockstar Youth mentor Chelsey Baker has really helped me beyond measure, in learning how to start up a company on a budget and avoid common pitfalls and much, much more.

Its great to know she and the Rockstar Youth team are there when I need advice (which is quite a lot!). Also the whole community they have created of young entrepreneurs supporting each other is so vital, and it's great to have this support because when you are going through it alone it's quite a psychological battle with your "limiting beliefs". It's great to be able to connect with other young people going through the same experience. It massively boosts your confidence which is vital when starting-up! I can confidently say that as a young person in the UK today, I feel empowered, supported and connected in my dreams, instead of stifled and alone as it was before the government launched their StartUp initiative and partnered with Rockstar Youth to give me the best possible chance in launching and succeeding in business.

Related Articles

Fighting Intolerance

Thanks to a young entrepreneur, Swedish companies finally start employing immigrant workers.

» more

Africa's Amazing Tech Potential

Believing in young talented Africans pays off. Read about the success stories.

» more

Social Entrepreneurs – Bottom-up Innovators for Development

Why are social entrepreneurs so important?

» more

Rwanda: A Young Entrepreneur in Plastics


» more

Morocco: The Courage of a Young Returnee


» more