Generation of Lonely Entrepreneurs

By Layla Maguire

Waking up when you feel like it, working flexible hours in the comfort of your own home and having no bosses to answer to; this is the glossy image that has been painted to young people through social media of what an ‘entrepreneur lifestyle’ looks like. What is the reality of the demands and challenges of being a young entrepreneur, and what does this mean for the mental health and wellbeing of future generations who share the same dream?

There has been an influx of young entrepreneurs in the UK over recent years, including award-winning success stories like Steven Bartlett, who established two marketing agencies at the age of 22, and 22-year-old Grace Beverley, who has built two sustainable fitness businesses while achieving a degree at the University of Oxford.

However, there is a lack of light shed on the social and psychological challenges which occur behind the scenes. Like everything today, only the highlights of being an entrepreneur are plastered across social media rather than the struggles. The hard work required is much more demanding than people may believe, as many view it simply as an opportunity to escape the 9 to 5 daily routine which they are reluctant to fall in line with.

Steven Bartlett, CEO of ‘Social Chain’ and ‘Media Chain’, stated: “The rise in young people wanting to be entrepreneurs, isolating themselves working remotely or alone in co-working, is going to make this generation more miserable, lonely, burnt-out and purposeless than any generation that has come before. We gain meaning from having supportive communities around us and shared goals.”

The award-winning entrepreneur dropped out of university and spent the first stages of his career in his home in Manchester. He reflected on his experience as he stated: “The most empty days of my life were days spent as a remote consultant or building my start-up alone in my bedroom for two years. This sounds crazy coming from an entrepreneur, but being an employee in a supportive, high-trust and high-freedom environment, is heavily underrated.”

He went on to outline the reality of his career as he said: “The idea that you can ‘be your own boss’ is a myth. I answer to more people now (investors, clients, customers, the government) than I ever did before.”

Now five years since his businesses launched, Steven is leading seven offices around the world with 700 team members, with clients including Apple, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Superdry and Nokia. He has achieved a reach of over 1.8 billion people a month online through ‘Media Chain’ and has won awards including Great British Entrepreneur of the Year and Most Influential Agency Figure 2018.

Steven acknowledged his achievements and stated that he is not discouraging entrepreneurship, but advises a more conscious approach to entrepreneurship by choosing a career based on the principles that matter to you, in a bid to encourage future generations of young entrepreneurs to think about their mental health before pursuing a career. For example, ensuring the career provides freedom, working with good people, meaningful work, something you’re good at and work-life balance.

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