[dropcap size=small]A[/dropcap]s Singapore continues to evolve and stay relevant to the times, the need to support and encourage entrepreneurship becomes increasingly pertinent. After all, entrepreneurship is a key driver of innovation and source of economic renewal.

That is why non-profit organisation Spirit of Enterprise (SOE) believes in cultivating the future entrepreneur as early as possible. One such initiative to encourage this is the SOE Student Entrepreneur Programme, where young participants from primary and secondary schools, youth centres, community service groups and other charities are introduced to the fundamentals of starting an enterprise, including operational and financial management skills, and meeting local entrepreneurs.

BORN AND BRED To encourage the spirit of entrepreneurshup, start them young.

“It is key to instil this spirit of entrepreneurship from a young age – as if it were an inherent part of them – rather than as an afterthought upon completion of one’s formal education,” says SOE president Grace Chong-Tan. As of last month, nearly 2,500 students have taken part in the programme since its inception four years ago. Last November, the students of Princess Elizabeth Primary School put their newly gained knowledge to practical use when they organised a fun fair and raised over $2,000, which was donated to various charity organisations.

To build on this, tertiary students from polytechnics and universities can go on to take part in SOE’s Student Interviewer Programme (SIP) where they identify and interview an entrepreneur they are interested in learning more about – from their company vision and business diff erentiation to challenges and growth. Every year, 30 of these entrepreneurs would go on to be named honourees of the SOE Awards, which will be held this month at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore hotel. More than 1,000 tertiary students have participated in this.

One student interviewer who has benefited from SIP is Serene Pan. She now runs her own company Envocycle, which recycles post-consumer and post-industrial plastic scrap.

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The environment for entrepreneurs has never been more conducive, and as someone who has grown her own business from scratch, Chong-Tan emphasises the need for innovation and viability. The co-founder and managing director of Smile Inc Dental Surgeons says: “The younger generation is more willing to take risks, even if hours are long and returns are low. Just look at the hawker centres. Those who take over their parents’ businesses are very enterprising and tweak the business model for maximum appeal to their audience. Sustainability is key.

“Business leaders are self-made; it’s the X factor in them. So we believe we can help the process by supporting them in their youthful years.”