“An entrepreneur is not what you call yourself, it’s what someone calls you in recognition of what you’ve achieved. I call Richard Branson an entrepreneur. Rupert Murdoch called me one. Anybody who stands up and says: ‘I’m an entrepreneur’ needs shooting.”
So says the uncompromising Lord Sugar and you have to agree that the words ‘enterprise’ and ‘entrepreneur’ have become a bit overused in the PR business.
One of the most interesting aspects of working in PR, is the diverse cross section of businesses we work with and promote. It’s perhaps not that surprising that companies who are by nature ‘entrepreneurial’, tend to favour PR.
Working at CubanEight has recently brought me into contact with one of the purest forms of the entrepreneurial spirit I have come across – direct selling. This is where goods are sold direct to consumers, in other words, outside the traditional retail environment and those goods include anything from cook wear, to home interiors, food, books, jewellery, fashion, health and skincare products.
In spite of the recession, the direct selling industry is booming. There are currently over 400,000 direct sellers in the UK, generating £2 billion worth of sales annually.
At the Direct Selling Association’s annual conference, I met recent immigrants to the UK, whose businesses are flourishing, a successful direct seller who is 80 next year and a panel of under-25s, some of whom tried direct selling as a stopgap and never looked back. Of the 400,000 direct sellers in the UK, 75,000 are now under 25. In the last year, numbers of young direct sellers have increased by nearly a third.
It’s good to see that while the next round of Apprentice candidates are jostling their way to the top spot, one of the more charming candidates from the last series is out there, working away and fast becoming a big success story.
Susan Ma founded Tropic Pure Plant Skincare and while she may not have won The Apprentice, she later secured investment from Lord Sugar. One of the first things they have done is set up a network of direct sellers to help expand her business.
It seems that for all sorts of reasons, Generation Y are ‘entrepreneurial’. They are seizing the opportunity that direct selling offers them – a minimal outlay, the chance to be their own boss, flexibility and a clear reward for their own hard work.