21-year-old inspires a new generation of entrepreneurs

Carly Ward, founder of a network for young entrepreneurs, is helping other young people develop personal skills

At the age of 19, Carly Ward decided she wanted to go into business. She had left college with high hopes but soon found there was a frustrating lack of help available to young people determined to make it on their own.

Then she had an idea: what if there was a programme that helped young people develop entrepreneurial skills and discover their full potential? With that, the Young Entrepreneur Society (YES) was born.

YES has come a long way since it was established in 2009. Having gained vital support for the company from the Prince’s Trust and Fredericks Foundation, Carly has been able to expand her efforts to nurture the businessmen and women of the future. Launched in April this year, her new initiative, the YES Network, is the first network for entrepreneurs under 35, providing a hub where aspiring young people can meet up, make connections and exchange ideas.

“The YES Network has so far held 4 events, with our launch attracting over 100 people,” says Carly. “We also hire business advisers including lawyers, accountants and 15 mentors who are always on hand to offer professional advice and support when you join the scheme.”

Carly has also successfully created the 12 Steps to Success Programme, which has harnessed the influence and expertise of leading UK entrepreneurs, such as co-founder of Innocent Drinks, Adam Balon and Reggae Reggae Sauce pioneer Levi Roots, to provide invaluable advice on how to thrive in a competitive market.

“Entering the world of business can be daunting, and young people can often find themselves quite severely depressed with no foreseeable direction,” Carly explains. “12 Steps is the latest project to enhance the personal development skills of under 25’s.”

Carly’s work is at the forefront of driving business leadership among young people. The public interest in entrepreneurship is reflected in the viewer ratings for TV shows such as The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den, but Carly feels young people are not being sufficiently encouraged, from an early age, to consider such careers.

“People need to be made aware they have the option to get into business on their own. Schools and colleges it seems do very little to push entrepreneurship, which forces students into an overcrowded job market. Entrepreneurs are very important to the economy, and their benefits are overlooked.”

Carly is not the only one to think entrepreneurship is in need of a publicity boost. Business tycoon Richard Branson recently unveiled plans for StartUp Summer, a summer camp for budding young entrepreneurs. Carly has similar ambitions for the future of YES. “I hope to expand the programme to include every city in the country in the next five years,” she says. “Along the way, I’ll be doing my best to implement the programme in most schools and colleges, helping young people to set up as many businesses as possible.”

As an individual, Carly has been recognised for the benefits she has brought to young people’s lives in the UK. Earlier this year, Junior Chamber International chose her as one of three UK nominees for the Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) Awards 2011. Previous winners include Elvis Presley and Jackie Chan.

As Carly continues to leap from success to success, as an entrepreneur herself the greatest advice she says she can offer is to never give up. “To Positive News readers I would like to say it is important that you believe you can achieve whatever you want in life and don’t let other people tell you otherwise. That’s the overall message of what YES stands for.”