“I think the earlier you can experience business, the more you realise that anyone is capable of turning an idea into something more. It’s not as hard as you think, and not something reserved for older people, or richer people, or cleverer people. Everyone has ideas, Young Enterprise shows you how to act on them.”
Charly Lester, Entrepreneur, Journalist, & Dating Industry Expert.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am one of the leading dating industry experts in the world. I am the CEO and Founder of The Dating Awards, running annual events in the UK, USA and Europe. I am also the founder of SPEX Dating App and A League of Her Own – a new initiative to encourage more women to start their own companies
How did you get involved in Young Enterprise and what do you remember from your experience?
I’m 34 – so I was involved in Young Enterprise half my life ago, but the experience has stayed with me. I was CEO of a company called ‘Sheepish’, and we made calendars with photos of boys from the local boys school to sell to girls at our all-girls school, and celebrity cookbooks. I still have the calendar (it includes photos of a number of my friends). We engaged local sponsors for each month – including the Haagen Daas cafe and the local bus company.
What did you take away from your experience?
That it wasn’t scary as I thought it would be. I remember at first being confused and a bit daunted, and yet we succeeded. We identified a gap in the market and then made a profit from it. It was a great experience, and a really good exercise in teamwork. It was one of my first experiences of management. Nowadays, whenever I’m feeling a bit scared or daunted by something in business, I remember I managed to do it at age 17, so why shouldn’t I be able to achieve it with 17 years more life experience?
Do you think your experiences of YE better equipped you for post educational life?
Yes definitely – it was a real taste of the real world, and such a good experience.
Would you recommend participation in Young Enterprise to young people today? Why?
Definitely – I think the earlier you can experience business, the more you realise that anyone is capable of turning an idea into something more. It’s not as hard as you think, and not something reserved for older people, or richer people, or cleverer people. Everyone has ideas, Young Enterprise shows you how to act on them.
You recently launched ‘A League of Her Own’ an online community and learning space for female entrepreneurs. Do you think participation in programmes like Young Enterprise can help more girls consider careers in business and entrepreneurship?
Yes definitely. I think girls need to be exposed to entrepreneurship as early as possible, and if they enjoy it, consider it as a career, or at least a hobby, straight out of education. If I have one regret it’s that I didn’t start my first company post Young Enterprise earlier!
In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, you also teach masterclasses on various aspects of business and personal branding. What advice would you give to young people looking to start a business?
Don’t be scared. It may seem like a big task, but whenever I get daunted, I remind myself that every single shop on the high street is a small (or large!) business, and they all started with one or two people and an idea. In terms of branding, I think the more you can learn about branding and social media, the better equipped you are for business and the modern world. I’ve definitely found that my understanding of branding, marketing and PR in particular have really helped with my career, and also made me an attractive employee to other businesses.