Entrepreneurship is the magic ingredient that can make an economy hum. Few things are more valuable to the community than the desire and ingenuity of risk takers who start and run businesses, creating jobs and prosperity. 

The entrepreneurial spirit cannot be taught; however, the critical knowledge and skills that equip those who launch start-ups to avoid rookie errors and improve the chances of success, can be. 

Most entrepreneurs learn the hard way, through experience after taking the plunge with their own business idea. An initiative launched by entrepreneurial accelerator Ignite Bermuda seeks to give young people a taste of that valuable startup experience before they start their own entrepreneurial journeys.

The Ignite Young Adult Entrepreneurial Internship (YAEI), funded by sole sponsor HSBC Bank Bermuda, earned rave reviews from 20 participants after last year’s pilot edition, which was 200 percent oversubscribed. The part-time, paid programme for Bermudians or others with permission to work on the island, aged 18 to 25, will continue with a few refinements this summer.

Georgia Rego, YAEI co-project manager, said: “We saw that there were many internship opportunities in Bermuda, but most of them were corporate-focused, particularly in re/insurance. There was really nothing for young entrepreneurs, to learn before diving in on their own journeys. That’s why we created this.”

Hands-on experience with the early-stage businesses run by Ignite alumni on the eight-week programme is complemented by a series of relevant workshops led by industry experts and “group check-ins” at Ignite. 

“They are gaining not only work experience, but also working alongside entrepreneurs to learn from their experiences,” Ms Rego said. “The workshops cover everything from marketing, financing, health and wellness as an entrepreneur, selling proposition, mindset and behaviours — all the different things that go into being an entrepreneur. The aim is to give participants a good overview and well-rounded experience of what it takes to run your own business.”

Ms Rego added that more than half of those who participated in last year’s programme had either started their own business, or were working on developing a business idea. 

Around 35 percent either continued working for their host organisation, or received other job opportunities as a result of being in the programme, according to Ignite’s YAEI impact report.

All participants said they would recommend the programme to their peers; that they had a better understanding of entrepreneurship as a result of participating; and described the workshop material as either excellent or good. 

Among the first cohort of interns’ biggest takeaways were:

• “The importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded people” (Xela Swan)

• “I should always keep an open mind” (Kanzi Emery)

• “It vastly improved my ability to network” (Abby Brewer)

• “Being able to glide through difficult situations without losing my cool” (Aminah Simmons)

• “Learned to become more flexible in handling social challenges I face in the workplace” (Alvin-Ae Landy)

• “No longer scared to make mistakes – I understand it’s all part of the journey” (Zayne Sinclair)

This summer’s YEAI programme, for which applications have closed, was once more oversubscribed — not only by prospective particpants, but also by businesses that wanted to take part.

Ignite, which is based at “The Hub” on Wesley Street, Hamilton, launched in Bermuda in 2019. The accelerator programme seeks to provide confidence, facilities and the necessary mindset to entrepreneurs, with the aim of stimulating economic diversity and job creation. It also encourages nonprofits to sign up. About 300 people have come through its three cohorts so far. 

In May, Ignite added to its growing ecosystem of support for young businesses with the founding of its sister company, the Bermuda Investor Community, a digital platform that connects entrepreneurs with angel investors.

Ignite has teamed up with UK-based Entrepreneurial Spark, creators of a proprietary “entrepreneurial enablement” approach that combines growth coaching with a development programme that prioritises taking action as an entrepreneur, rather than just learning about it.

Sean Reel, executive director of Ignite Bermuda, believes passionately in the value of entrepreneurship to the island. “In the next few years, 65 percent of the jobs in Bermuda are going to come from small businesses and startups,” he said. “The large corporates are not going to be recruiting the way that they used to. There are less jobs in those fields going forward.”

Referring to the YAEI programme, Reel added: “As technology advances and changes in work patterns advance, this is a great opportunity for somebody who’s considering entrepreneurship as a career option to explore that as an avenue, without having to take all the risks, while having some support.”

Mr Reel added that HSBC has been supportive of both the YAEI and Ignite programmes, giving of their time as well as their money. “HSBC has been actively engaged in the programme and they were part of the judging panel last year,” he said. “We are grateful for their support.”