Adam Afriyie: It’s tough being a teenager!

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Adam Afriyie

Adam Afriyie: It’s tough being a teenager!

…until you discover the thrill of running your own business

Raised in one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Western Europe, Adam Afriyie discovered early on that the way to make his way in life was to be enterprising.

He built an estimated £80 million business and is now a member of the UK Parliament. Here he writes about the qualities that helped him make his fortune, why business is a force for good and why he is a passionate supporter of Junior Achievement-Young Enterprise.

 

It’s tough being a teenager.

You’re never quite sure what you’re good at or what you want to do in life. In my day you felt like you had to conform and, at school, much of the social and educational pressure was focused on turning you into an academic.

The idea of starting your own business or helping someone else who did was pretty much frowned upon. Earning a living by making, trading and selling stuff was seen as a little distasteful and I never really knew why.

Though I really enjoyed my childhood, it was quite hard and perhaps more than others, when you come from a background without too many advantages, you have to be enterprising to make your way in life. In my case it involved working at weekends, selling Amway cleaning products to make ends meet and eventually starting an IT business.

I feel really fortunate because I was one of those who made it. Building a business is not easy and you need to be brave to try. What I’m most proud of in my professional life is providing jobs and livelihoods for hundreds of people. I can’t deny that making money is nice too! But the satisfaction of thinking of a good idea, and working hard to make it a reality, is the biggest thrill of all.

Give a cheer for every new business Now I’m an MP and that’s a big change from being in business. But I bring my business head with me when I go to work. I think that makes me a better MP because I see how things are in the real world, where most people work hard to better themselves.

I want our country to love enterprise and wealth creation. I want everyone to cheer when British businesses make big profits. This is because it is only businesses that create the jobs, the economic growth and the taxes that pay for a good society. We shouldn’t be shy about this.
Enterprise means competition.

“I am delighted to
be a supporter of
Young Enterprise.
The organisation
is playing a huge
part in shaping
the future of
our country”

Adam Afriyie MP

At the heart of enterprise is competition. And it’s tough. Every day someone else is also thinking up ideas, improving their products and services, doing things more efficiently and trying to win your customers. But this is part of the thrill.

I am delighted to be a supporter of Young Enterprise. The organisation is playing a huge part in shaping the future of our country. If Britain is going to get back on top of the world league tables and out-compete the rest of the world in global trade and industry, we must have an enterprising culture; one where young people really want to take control of their own lives, build and work for exciting businesses, get on in life and inspire others.

Junior Achievement – Young Enterprise is so important because it introduces thousands of children and young people to the world of business and helps them make informed decisions right at the start. I once asked the Chief Operating Officer of one of my businesses why he had wanted that particular role.

I smiled when he replied that he had taken part in Young Enterprise at school and realised that rather than be the entrepreneur who started the business he would rather be the guy running it! And for me that’s the beauty of Young Enterprise. It helps young people to work out where they fit in a business.

So a big ‘Thank You’ to Young Enterprise… and the wider Junior Achievement family. You are amazing – keep up the good work. And a big cheer to everybody who has taken part in a Young Enterprise programme – at school or college or university. You are our future – we need you!

 

About Adam Afriyie…

The son of an English mother and a Ghanaian father, Adam was born in Wimbledon, London and grew up on a council estate in Peckham, going to the local Oliver Goldsmith Primary School.

He was educated at Addey and Stanhope School and earned a degree in agricultural economics from Wye College which was sold to Imperial College London. In 1993 Adam founded Connect Support Services Ltd, an IT services company that now provides cutting-edge cloud and hosted services to small and medium sized businesses.

By investing profits from Connect, in 1997 Adam went on to start DeHavilland Information Services plc. DeHavilland enables the monitoring, tracking and evaluation of news and information for use by organisations including trade associations, pressure groups, charities and businesses. He sold a third of the company for about £18m to the publisher EMAP in 2005.

The remaining part of DeHavilland Information Services was renamed Axonn Media in 2005. Adam has also helped to found, and continues to be a major investor in, several other UK high-tech companies. He is reputed to have built a fortune in excess of £80 million.