Students that received their A-level results this week should consider launching their own fashion businesses when they leave school, but more support is needed to help them to do this, retail experts have suggested.
Clare Rayner, the founder of The Support for Independent Retail Campaign, has warned young people are in danger of being held back from their dream to set-up brands or boutiques because of societal norms.
She has urged the government to ensure business skills, such as understanding VAT, were included in the school curriculum so students gain the necessary training to start a business straight away. She said this would also help reduce the stigma associated with choosing to going into business rather than higher education.
“The whole school system is set up in such a way as to reward schools for their achievement in putting kids in university, not on producing entrepreneurs or business people,” she said. “If you’ve got a business idea, you might consider funding your own business because there aren’t that many jobs for graduates. If a young person’s dream is to set up their own fashion business, I’m not sure there are qualifications that can help them with that.”
National Skills Academy for Retail head, Jane Rexworthy, agreed young people interested in setting up fashion enterprises should be encouraged to gain experience in ways other than university.
She said initial financial investment was a concern for young people, but they were often unaware of grants provided by local authorities and businesses.
“We support them in being able to find that start-up grant funding,” she said of the academy. “They might be able to gain access to several funding routes.”
She also highlighted how local markets can provide a platform for start-up trading. “We see a lot of ideas borne out of testing the marketplace by working in a market environment,” she added.
Two young entrepreneurs from Manchester have developed the opportunities offered by markets to provide young people with a first step into trading.
Joe Barrett, 21, and his 19-year-old brother Tom, set up the Teenage Market in 2012 with a local authority business grant worth £55,000 over two years. This offers young traders a free market stall to try out their ventures. Since then they have held quarterly events for 70 traders in cities across England. Stall holders have been aged from 10 to 25.
Barrett says several fashion traders have progressed from selling clothes on the market stalls to being stocked in local independent retailers.
He backs the call for young people to start trading younger. “At some point you have to find a way to commercialise whatever you do,” he said. “You can get a first class degree at university, walk out, and not have a pathway into employment. It’s more important to focus on developing skills.”
The Forum of Private Business chief executive Phil Orford said the government’s Start Up loans scheme was one of many “sources of support to help would-be entrepreneurs get their idea off the ground”.
The fund, launched in September 2012, has so far provided loans worth more than £27m to 18 to 24-year-olds – more than any other age group.