Becoming a Young Entrepreneur in the UK and in Portugal

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal II (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Marina MENDONCA, Keele University, United Kingdom
Clare HOLDSWORTH, Keele University, United Kingdom
Promoting youth entrepreneurship has become a central EU strategy in addressing youth under and unemployment. Underling these policies is a narrative which suggests that securing a participation in the world of work depends on the individual’s competence and initiative – i.e. on building up an entrepreneurial self and engaging in entrepreneurial actions. Hence, attempts to promote youth entrepreneurship have been occurring under a cultural milieu that identifies young people as the main agents of responsibility for their professional futures (Bauman, 2001). Despite the numerous programmes developed to promote youth entrepreneurship, few studies have explored the experiences of young entrepreneurs and what the process of entrepreneurship means in different socioeconomic and cultural contexts. Indeed, statistics indicate that entrepreneurial intentions and activity vary significantly across European countries and that youth self-employment is more prominent in countries with high levels of NEETs (Eurostat, 2013). This finding suggests that both the motivations driving young people into ventures and the outcomes of entrepreneurship differs with context. However, the analysis of entrepreneurship in cultural terms has remained elusive. In this study we aimed to overcome this gap by analysing entrepreneurship as a cultural practice that is embedded in the experiences of young entrepreneurs and the forms they are compelled to take responsibility for their futures. This study uses analysis of biographical narratives of young people’s ventures (N=24) in two economically and culturally distinct countries: Portugal and the UK. Our interviewees reveal that establishing a business provided young people with a sense of control over their lives. More than financial opportunity, young people emphasized their need to exercise agency over a labour market that they perceived (and experienced) as instable and precarious. The presentation will discuss cultural differences regarding the processes of becoming a young entrepreneur in both countries and their implications for policies supporting entrepreneurship.