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Young home in on business careers

WITH the changing face of employment, small business is emerging as a viable option for young people.

Home-based businesses are becoming more accepted. Contract work and casual employment are becoming more viable career alternatives. Electronic commerce is a growing business option.

According to the latest ABS figures available on small business operators, 17,500 of WA’s small business operators are under 30. Of those, 11,600 were men and 5,900 were women.

That’s 11.5 per cent of the State’s small business operators. Small businesses make up 96 per cent of all businesses in WA.

Back in 1997, 6,500 small business were owned and operated by people under the age of 25.

Small Business Development Corporation (bgeneration.com.au) development officer Robin Binks said starting a business was an upward trend for the under-25 age group.

With the boom in high-technology companies, it is not surprising that many of the new businesses emerging in WA have a technology slant.

But among the small businesses started by young people are fashion design houses, training organ-isations, luthiers, horticulturalists, restaurateurs, retailers and even a horse physiotherapist.

Small Business Development Corporation managing director George Etrelezis believes age should never be a barrier to going into small business.

“There have been some very good examples of young people going into small business lately,” Mr Etrelezis said.

“For example, there’s swimwear designer Claire Metcalf, who is selling her designs around the world.

“We think going into small business is a real option these days.

“There’s a trend away from the career for life towards the self-managed career.

“Young people may find themselves going from one employer to another and from one career to another.

“There’s no reason why small business can’t fit into that career path.”

Mr Etrelezis said peer support was very important with young small business operators.

Ms Binks said bgeneration had been set up to help young people going into business.

“We’re talking about a new business generation and they need to know where to get help if they need it,” she said.

“In the mid-term it’s also important to raise general awareness of youth enterprise and its potential.”

Mr Etrelezis said giving young people access to business experience could prove to be a crucial factor in their success.

“We provide mentors for young small business people,” he said.

“The early days of establishment are crucial. These mentors don’t make the decisions for the business operators but help them consider and evaluate their options.

“We have some very experienced mentors on our books.”

Operation Livewire, a program that gets young people to create business plans to develop their business ideas, has proved successful because of its use of mentors.

The program matches a mentor with the young business person and together they create a plan.

Another critical issue is access to finance.

Many of these people do not have large asset or capital bases behind them.

Mr Etrelezis said access to finance was one of the biggest barriers facing potential young small business operators.

“But where there’s a will there’s a way,” he said.

“If the willingness is there, these people will overcome these hurdles.

“But they also have to make sure they’ve done the ground work beforehand.”

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