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Interview with Apprentice Candidate and Young Enterprise Alumnus Sajan Shah

Young Enterprise taught me everything about business; pitching to investors, understanding how a business works, creating products, conducting research and going to market.”

We sat down with Sajan Shah recently to talk about his Young Enterprise experience and how taking part in our Company Programme helped him become a successful entrepreneur and 2017 BBC The Apprentice candidate.

 

Tell us about yourself and how you got involved in Young Enterprise?

I was born in Kenya and moved to London in 2006. I went to Canon High School in London and struggled to fit in initially, my English wasn’t the best and I needed more confidence. I got involved in the drama school and from there the Young Enterprise programme was recommended to me. My family was always entrepreneurial and I felt the skills I developed with drama complimented the skills I needed to be a business man. I got involved with Young Enterprise to help me develop these core business skills.

 

What do you remember from your experience?

I was the Operational Manager of our team which developed a book directed towards people who struggled to read or were blind. The book was designed to help people explore a story using five senses. For example we would have a page with a scent in the paper alongside something interesting to touch.

 

What did you learn through your Young Enterprise experience?

Very quickly Young Enterprise taught me everything and anything about business; pitching to investors, understanding how a business works, creating products, conducting research and going to market.

I feel Young Enterprise gave me key skills which I wouldn’t normally have developed through school programmes. The core understanding of business also helped me in University and when setting up my own business. My Young Enterprise experience allowed me to focus more on the creative side of business because I’d already learnt about the structural side.

 

Did you develop any skills through Young Enterprise which has helped you throughout your career and The Apprentice experience?

I definitely developed my communication skills. We did a lot of public speaking and cold calling prospect clients or prospect retailers. To have this experience from a young age gave me the confidence and experience to communicate, which you need in business and in work.

Resilience is something you certainly need in business and was a skill I developed with Young Enterprise. When I left university I started applying for jobs. Thirteen job interviews later and everyone had said no to me, on my fourteenth somebody finally said yes. I needed resilience, I couldn’t be put down and I had to keep going. With business things don’t always go your way and resilience has been  very useful in my career and on The Apprentice.

Financial capability is also very important – especially the ability for young people to think strategically about how to spend their money and make the right longer term career decisions.

 

As founder of Talent 4 Tomorrow, a business which helps Millennials get jobs, what skills do you think businesses are looking for when recruiting young people?

Our clients don’t look at CVs – they look at the personal skills and values young people can bring.  As a young person coming into a company you might not have experience but what we’re looking for is people willing to learn, willing to develop skills and go the extra mile. We’re looking for teamwork, and the ability to keep going, pick up the phone and not shy away from responsibility.

 

How does your Young Enterprise experience compare to your The Apprentice experience? What has been the key difference.

The biggest difference was teamwork and how the different teams worked. Working with a team can be hard work but there are great rewards in that. In our Young Enterprise team everyone had their own opinions and inputs but everyone had the same goal – to make the best product and get through the competition.

In The Apprentice we similarly had to work as a team to win each task but the difference was each individual also had a unique individual goal and had to think about themselves.

 

What advice would you students taking part in Company Programme?

My top tips would be:

  • Always do your research – research is key – no matter how experienced you are you always need to do your research. Research existing products and your competition because you need to be better than them. You can’t be better if you don’t know what’s out there.
  • Walk before you run – sometimes in business, and I’ve made this mistake, you start to make money, try to grow too quickly and forget the core cause of the business.
  • Make sure you have goals – You should write out monthly and weekly goals. Every day I set a goal for what I want to achieve that day. Goals keep you driven, keep you focused and keep you achieving.