Andrew Wood, chief executive officer at The Unlimited.
DURBAN - With the youth unemployment rate sitting at above 50%, growing numbers of young South Africans are considering entrepreneurship as a career option rather than competing for a limited pool of jobs in the formal sector or for a place at a tertiary institution.

That’s according to Andrew Wood, chief executive officer at The Unlimited, who said many young South Africans were forging a new destiny for themselves in a world where jobs were in short supply and where not all young people could afford to take three or four years to study before they started earning.

“Today’s youth are not the same as previous generations,” said Wood. “They are looking for mentorship, an opportunity to make a difference and a sense of personal empowerment. They want a sense of control over their destinies and the opportunity to grow at their own pace rather than needing to follow the template of a traditional career path.”

He said that to turn entrepreneurial activity into a viable career option, it was essential for the government and large organisations to provide young entrepreneurs with support and mentorship.

“Some of the factors that are essential in starting up a successful business include access to infrastructure like telecom and back-office services, a network of contacts, a viable product, and knowledge about how to run a business,” said Wood. “Large organisations can help empower young entrepreneurs by providing them with training, mentoring and access to facilities.”

Wood said The Unlimited had developed a business model that helped young entrepreneurs to start businesses of their own.

“We are always looking for self-starters to join our business and develop into business owners,” said Wood. “We call the sort of person we are looking for a Dragon Hunter - a courageous leader who is ready to go into uncharted waters in search of adventure and opportunity. We have developed an internal programme to help such young people develop into successful leaders and entrepreneurs. The Unlimited has more than 50 business owners serving its customers, many of whom are under 30.”

Wood emphasised the importance of having the right attitude.

“For us, what matters is someone’s personal qualities rather than their education and experience - we seek out people who are resilient, brave, and accountable,” he said.