Why Wyndham City Should Pioneer Youth CoWorking Spaces In The West. (Opinion)
About this same time in June 2017, on my visit to a leadership program held at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts USA, I was opportuned to see why in so many ways young people on this side of the world have a clear purpose of what they wanted to do at a very early age and strike it big in their late teens and early 20’s while a majority of others struggle into their 30’s changing careers and dissatisfied at every turn.
A key reason in my opinion is the early exposure to a variety of interests and permission to fail early while making bold attempts to change the world or put moderately, find their lifepath.
Entrepreneurship is a game of experience - experience shaped by false starts, trial and error, failures and eventually success. A statistically large portion of platforms, products and companies that we interact with to simplify our daily lives have been inventions of youth.
Why is it so important to encourage youth entrepreneurship?
Reading through biographies of inventors and innovators it is easy to say that a majority of these people would hardly have brought anything to life if they had waited to finish their undergraduate degree, acquire work experience, get married, have kids, save $100k before launching their first business idea - all the sensibilities of conventional wisdom. These people went against the grain by starting early when energy is prime, responsibility is low and awareness of risk rarely diminishes action.
Ulrich Schoof on youth entrepreneurship:
"Within the framework of potential efforts and strategies to boost employment and
job creation for young people, entrepreneurship is increasingly accepted as an important
means and a useful alternative for income generation in young people. As traditional
job-for-life career paths become rarer, youth entrepreneurship is regarded as an additional
way of integrating youth into the labour market and overcoming poverty. Supporting this
shift in policy is the fact that in the last decade, most new formal employment has been
created in small enterprises or as self-employment. Given global demographic trends, it is important that the social and economic contributions of young entrepreneurs are
recognized. Entrepreneurship can unleash the economic potential of young people."
International Labour Office, Series on Youth and Entrepreneurship, Ulrich Schoof 2006
Benefits of Youth Entrepreneurship
Bringing alienated and marginalized youth back into the economic mainstream and giving them a sense of meaning and belonging
Creating employment opportunities for self-employed youth as well as the other young people they employ;
Helping address some of the socio-psychological problems and delinquency that arises from joblessness;
Helping youth develop new skills and experiences that can then be applied to other challenges in life;
Promoting innovation and resilience in youth;
Promoting the revitalisation of the local community by providing valuable goods and services;
Capitalising on the fact that young entrepreneurs may be particularly responsive to new economic opportunities and trends.
Wyndham is home to over 217,000 people and one of Victoria's most multicultural cities. 24% of the population are between 15 -24 years. 10.8% of the youth population are disengaged with education and employment.
While there are hosts of infrastructures catering to youth needs such as sporting facilities, libraries, recreational parks and centres, a dedicated space where youth can co-work with one another and the community as a business is apparently missing.
Why Youth CoWorking Space?
An important question comes to mind. Why not a general co-working space such that if there are any interested youth, they can hop in?
Let's consider some issues that may arise from a demographic mix in a co-working space.
Generational Conflict: Generational conflicts are well managed in office environments where team members have to work together on common goals. Conflict of this nature is harder to manage in a co-working space where individuals work for themselves on differing goals. Cooperation isn't as required as much as respect is. Methods of communication and activity preference such as loud music which increases motivation level for the younger can be a major area of frustration to the older demographic. Preference for a particular spot by the older demographic which gives them a feeling of control and predictability can be frustrating to younger ones who prefers to explore different seating arrangement for the sake of variety or seating closer to a mate.
Affordability: The adult demographic may have supplementary income to cover rent expense but a youth who is just starting out may have difficulty keeping up with the initial costs to sustain rent till the business begins to attract clients. This may eventually lead to the adult demographic out-renting the youths. Except there is a quota system to manage space allocation.
Audience Specific Design: Spaces designed to appeal to the adult demographic may not necessarily appeal to the younger demographic and vice versa
Social Impacts & Benefits of Youth Co-Working Spaces:
Re-engagement of youth disengaged with employment and education
A focal point for aspiring youth entrepreneurs and the Wyndham business community
An opportunity to promote social responsibility in the Wyndham business environment by giving opportunities to youth freelancers and entrepreneurs.
Income generating avenue for youth; a healthy alternative to the financial rewards from crime.
Promotes an entrepreneurial culture among young people.
Overcoming the barriers to youth entrepreneurship to encourage patronage
Young people, willing to engage in business, have to cope with the
particular reputation and stereotypes given to young entrepreneurs in society and in the
business world. Due to their limited life and work experience, young entrepreneurs are
often not taken seriously by older colleagues or business contacts.
Below are known barriers that have had major influence on young people venturing into self employment:
Not being taken seriously by colleagues or business contacts
Age discrimination by suppliers or customers
Difficulties in attracting funding to the business
Age discrimination by institutions or the Government
Lack of support from family or friends
Administrative and regulatory framework
Demonstration of Skill: Youth seeking to work as a business in the co-working space should at least have demonstrated ability to deliver by having a portfolio of completed projects/tasks relating to the service they seek to offer. At the very minimum should be able to show any training undertaken or completed in preparation for the business. These qualifications or portfolio will be visible on their online profile on the hub’s website. This will help overcome skepticism among suppliers and customers.
Customer Management: To mitigate disputes arising from customer dissatisfaction with jobs outsourced to the center, the co-working hub should be linked to an online management/booking portal where clients can hire talents online and make payment to an escrow “holding” account and only released to the talent upon completion of the job to customer’s satisfaction. Customers also will leave reviews to guide future hirers on expectation.
Promotion of Role Models: There are not a few young entrepreneurs who have started out in their teens in Wyndham. A good example is Kate Matheson - founder of Cake Creations by Kate. She started out baking in her mother’s kitchen at 8, became a business in her mid-teens and a successful business woman with three stores around Melbourne before 21. Examples like this displayed around the co-working space like photo inspiration or invitation to speak to youth on a Friday can help with motivation.
Youth In Business Events: Recognition of Wyndham youth in business through awards or open networking events at the hub will give them the opportunity to connect to other businesses, create opportunities for hires and attract investors and financial institutions.
Training & Workshops: Hosting entrepreneurship training programs for micro business owners in the hub such as bookkeeping, business registration, creating business plans, financial statements, tax obligations, marketing, insurance etc will help young people navigate the administrative and regulatory responsibilities for business owners and also attract new users to the hub.
While the youth hub should be run as a social enterprise, having a sustainable model is essential.
Venue hire and rental of private spaces within the hub can be a means to generate income for the centre.
Brand advertising at the centre or venue sponsorships can also contribute to revenue generation for the center.
Subscription based Model. The core mission of the hub is to support the youths, hence a flexible pricing model will be best suited to this demographic. A freemium plan can be offered to new users between 30 - 60 days to attract young people between 15 - 24 while their business is displayed on the hub portal for lead generation. Minimum hours commitment per week will also be a requirement to measure engagement. Earning per user should tracked by the center management and rental fees activated upon first earning. Subscription plans can be tiered in proportion to earnings.
I will be happy to be involved, contribute or share ideas and studies I have conducted on using youth entrepreneurship and co-working spaces to re-engage youth currently disengaged with employment and education.