Parents: The Forgotten Players in the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

The Entrepreneurship”Ecosystem” is defined as the individuals, organizations, or institutions that are outside the individual entrepreneur, that are either conducive or prohibitive to their entrepreneurial activities. The players often referred to are those institutions that are perceived best placed to solve some challenges for entrepreneurs- venture capitalists, support organizations, universities and service providers. Very often, individual contributors are also not considered, except for mentors and angel investors and the like.

The influence of family on entrepreneurial mindset is crucial and indisputable. Research and anecdotal evidence has drawn a very strong link between entrepreneurial aspiration and family background. Often, individuals that become entrepreneurs were either raised by entrepreneurs themselves or had some early exposure to entrepreneurial practice.

In addition to this, there are at least three reasons why parents should be more directly considered part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem rather than as complimenting it.

1. Parents have a direct influence on the career trajectories of their children.

The impact of parents on career choices are wide and varied. These range from the experiences of the parents themselves in their own careers, the behaviors they encourage and those they do not. Famously, there are a lot of anecdotes of how parents want their children to be a particular profession, especially for professions such as medicine, law, accounting etc. This is understandable as parents want their children to succeed and have financial security.

Becoming an entrepreneur challenges this perception of stability, soliciting a wide range of reactions from parents. Parents need to increasingly become empowered to collaborate with, instead of overruling their entrepreneurial children. Of course, parental guidance is very crucial, especially when entrepreneurs are young.  Parents can build communities of support to engage with their peers on the challenges and best practices in raising entrepreneurial children. Such spaces are not often created in the ecosystem.


2. Entrepreneurs will become younger, particularly in Africa

The demographic movements in Africa indicating that in just a few years, most of the population will be under the age of 24. Subsequently, as we have seen in the pool of over 6000+ applicants since the inception of the Anzisha Prize, a significant number of entrepreneurs become younger than usual. This has vast implications.

There are legal implications to having younger than usual job generative entrepreneurs. In addition to these, there are also guardianship implications, a 15-year-old entrepreneur cannot just leave home (or their country) to attend pitching competitions, investor meetings etc, without the consent of their parents. In this way, the parent becomes an enabler in the relationship should they be also invested in the validity and success of the entrepreneurial endeavor.

3. Parents can directly contribute to the success of their child’s business

Parents are always proud of their children for their achievements. In a business venture, imagine that a parent is as excited and bought into the idea or product. They can become the biggest evangelists for its success!  Marketers worldwide realize the value of having passionate ambassadors for products and services, and big firms spend a lot of time and money trying to get such support. As a parent, not only can you contribute your support, but also share your networks and sometimes financial support.