While the global population may be aging, the world’s youth are certainly a force to be reckoned with. As we collectively work to battle a pandemic, climate change, and socio-economic injustices, young people are at the frontlines developing novel solutions to modern problems.
The pandemic has disproportionately impacted youth employment with the percentage of job losses for the 15–24 age group being 5% higher than older adults. Despite this, social entrepreneurship among the world’s youth is on the rise. In fact, there is significant research suggesting that young people are increasingly motivated to generate positive social change.
Young people are better positioned to spearhead social entrepreneurship because, according to the World Youth Report, they are willing to take risks, display creative thinking patterns, and are highly adaptable to changing circumstances. Yet despite the energy that they bring to launching a business, young entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges including:
- Lack of professional experience
- Limited savings
- Not being taken seriously by others
- Restricted access to start-up capital
- Student debt
- Smaller social and business networks
One of the biggest obstacles faced by young entrepreneurs is a lack of the resources—both social and financial—needed to turn their vision into reality. The support systems that allow people to connect with more experienced business owners and learn and share ideas are often missing.
MicroMentor strives to bridge this gap for young entrepreneurs by providing access to social capital in the form of pro-bono mentorship. We deliver a global community of business knowledge directly to the fingertips of young entrepreneurs around the globe. Since its inception in 2014, MicroMentor has helped over 40,000 young entrepreneurs by connecting them with mentors through our online platform.
Read more about three young entrepreneurs from the MicroMentor community who are creating an impact through entrepreneurship.
Creating Educational Access in Rural Nepal
When COVID-19 forced the closure of schools in 20-year old Bipana Dhakal's hometown in rural Nepal, she felt compelled to step in and make a difference in students' lives. The lack of broadband infrastructure made it impossible for many students in Bardiya district to access virtual classes. For many, their education had come to a complete standstill.
A final-year student of Social Work, Bipana wanted to use her education to directly impact her community. The impact of COVID-19 made it clear to her that the children in her district were not getting the education they deserved and without access to formal classes, she could see that students were losing interest in their education altogether.
Even though there was no pandemic when she was a younger student, Bipana felt that she faced the same issue students are currently facing: an educational system relying solely on rudimentary and outdated textbooks. Bipana knew from her own experiences that education is more powerful when it is open to more holistic development than rote memorization: “If I had access to more resources back then, I could have done so much more.”
Bipana started the Learning Fortress in early 2020, teaching soft skills and leadership development to cohorts of students between four and fifteen years old. She draws inspiration from her childhood to determine programming for The Learning Fortress: “I just think about what I wish I had when I was a kid and try to make that happen for these students.” Her goal is to keep students engaged and interested in learning, with or without access to formal education. Bipana works with a group of volunteers who she trains to deliver a variety of classes. “The children are my motivation,” she says.
Bipana’s introduction to the MicroMentor platform was no mere coincidence. When she first started The Learning Fortress, she recognized that she would need some help. A simple Google search for “online mentoring” brought her to MicroMentor, where she connected with Vanessa Robinson, a Miami-based management consultant. The two share a great relationship, meeting three times per week virtually for an hour or two.
With Vanessa’s guidance, Bipana has learned crucial skills for maximizing her organization’s impact, including grant writing, fundraising, and website building. For the past year, the pair has moved from working on program development to building Bipana’s leadership skills. Developing her programming and curriculum during COVID and securing funding for the program were some of Bipana’s biggest challenges—but Vanessa was ready to support her through it all: “She was that dedicated and motivated to get this done right so I wanted to make it work.”
With Vanessa’s help, Bipana secured a grant to be able to purchase supplies for the students. She also got a professor of hers to support her in this project and amassed support from friends virtually to volunteer as teachers and class facilitators. Vanessa loves that Bipana is a quick learner: “In a matter of a couple of weeks, we managed to refine some of the key areas she needed to work on to make the program stronger and get more buy-in from stakeholders”.
“Mentorship has helped me see different perspectives, think professionally, and become more confident in the steps I take for my project,” says Bipana. She also sees mentorship as a valuable learning process that facilitates both personal and professional development: “It is definitely a two-way learning process and I think mentees have a lot to offer as well.”
Bipana is one of many young entrepreneurs that have used the MicroMentor platform to connect with mentors so they can bring their visions to life.
Building a Long-Term Career in Indonesia
Full-time student Rizkia Shafarini attends classes at two different universities while developing her entrepreneurial venture, myproperty. Id, a property advertising platform. When she started her company at age 20, Rizkia put on several hats at once by taking charge of content design, managing social media, looking for agents, and more. Eventually, she felt like she needed some additional assistance with developing an effective strategy for business development.
Rizkia met her mentor Fariz in June 2020 through MicroMentor Indonesia. Fariz helped Rizkia better understand strategies for developing her business. After creating a mentoring connection with Fariz, her advertising platform was successfully launched in October 2020 with more than 200 listings registered on the platform, some of which had already sold. Her operational team also improved rapidly with the internship strategy that Rizkia advised her to use.
“MicroMentor made it easy to find a business mentor. Even though my mentor explained and taught me everything from basic to advanced, I did not have to compromise my original vision. I really like to learn new things and build relationships, especially in terms of business, that's why I really appreciate MicroMentor,” said Rizkia.
Developing a Sustainable Business Model in Jakarta
Nour Aulia, a young entrepreneur from Jakarta, started her first business when she was only 16 years old. After graduating college, she began selling products on Instagram and working at a desk job. Aulia soon realized her dream to follow her entrepreneurial spirit full-time and in 2019 she quit her day job and opened a food kiosk in the canteen of her former university.
Thinking strategically about the future of her business, Aulia decided to seek out guidance in managing business finances and online marketing and joined MicroMentor in September 2019.
Since joining, Aulia has been connected with 5 mentors who have guided her as her business has grown: "I have become more confident in making decisions, and my business income has increased.” With a boost in confidence and the tools and guidance she needed in hand, Aulia’s business is growing and she is looking forward to a bright future.