Article by Columnist for The National.
LAUNCHING a business is a heart-stopping process; access to finance, prototyping a product or service, setting up or finding a manufacturing base, recruiting talent, finding customers are all massive challenges and a mistake in any one of these can halt a startup in its tracks. Add youth into the mix and you’ve got a whole new challenge to master.
But Scotland enjoys a wealth of young entrepreneurs, disrupting traditional businesses with youthful opportunism and energy, a focus on wellbeing and the environment, and not surprisingly a healthy disregard for failure.
Sydney Chasin launched The Healthy Crop LTD at just 20 years old after sipping trendy beers in Washington DC and casually noting current UK food trends — specifically the growth in the popcorn market.
She created lil’POP, popped sorghum grain that looks like miniature popcorn, but is made with a super grain that is both healthier and better for the environment; sorghum is a drought resilient crop that requires less water than most crops to grow and is packed full of nutrients.
“Not taking the idea seriously, and on a whim, I submitted an application to SIE’s innovator competition saying ‘this haggis eatin’, whisky sippin’, beer drinkin’ culture needed a super-grain to better their lives’,” said Chasin. She won the first round and the rest, as they say, is history.
Chasin believes youth is both a blessing and a curse. “People love to hear from young people doing cool things and thinking big.
“Where I feel it has been a hindrance is in manufacturing. As a young entrepreneur with little experience in the industry, I am seen as a big risk. Manufacturers see start-ups as a big risk, and then when you add young age, it can be even worse. As soon as I get more experience under my belt, I think age will be but a number.”
Craig Johnston launched Kitsch Drinks simply because “soft drinks are boring and dominated by massive soulless companies”.
“I just wanted to bring a little excitement to the previously bland and artificial world,” says Johnston. “Using the best natural ingredients we can get our hands on, we make drinks with a little craft, some care and attention, and a whole lot of soul.”
Just 22 when Kitsch was launched in 2015, Johnston said his age was largely helpful. “I’ve found that people are far more willing to offer help and forgive mistakes more readily.
“Those that seek to take advantage of you are fairly transparent, though thankfully few and far between.”
Both agree young people should consider starting a business.
“If you’re chasing a quick pay day then look elsewhere,” says Johnston. “But if you have an idea that can make the world a better place to live in, and care more deeply about that than you do sleeping or seeing your friends and family, then go for it.”
And as Chasin adds: “Being young, you have very little to lose. If things don’t work out, you are only making yourself more employable.”
Michelle Rodger is a communications consultant
Images are from the original article and not property of lil'POPs.