Covid exposes new wave of ambitious young entrepreneurs

The effects of Covid-19 have rippled through all aspects of life - including university students. Remote learning, virtual graduation and the end of in-person networking events have led to many students facing the reality of leaving university without any industry experience. Entry-level jobs are less available and more competitive, so getting a job in the field of choice is harder, which is disheartening for many University students, who now find themselves asking...."what now?"

When Brooke Lennon signed up to her University course she was looking forward to making new friends, getting her hands dirty as part of her course and enjoying everything university life had to offer- including industry experience and face to face learning.

All networking events were cancelled, internships stopped and gaining experience seemed impossible. So she created her own experience, and got paid to do it!! During the height of the pandemic, Lennon launched Zanzibar Social and has never looked back.

"Businesses were needing help pivoting their existing businesses to an online market, so I created an opportunity myself. I will graduate in June 2022 with over 2 years of industry experience as well as the possibility of taking Zanzibar Social to greater lengths. All accomplished at the of age 21" says Lennon.

The rise of young university entrepreneurs will be something to watch over the coming years. Founding stories where graduates forgo the standard of working for others, instead completing freelance work or starting their own service-based business.

I talk to Brooke who shares her start up journey...

Why did you start your business?

I started my business as a way to gain experience in the marketing industry before I graduated from University. I had been giving friends and family assistance with social media, branding and logos for around a year. When Covid-19 hit early 2020, all my plans to attend networking events. internships or volunteer went away overnight. The shift to online learning was also changing. Overnight courses were changed to be delivered online which forfeited nearly all practical projects in the media and communications department.

Being a very hands-on learner I would take the theory of the course work and try and put it in a real-life example or case study. After seeing businesses struggle with the effects of statewide lockdowns imposed by the government (our longest had us shut down for nearly 3 months in 2020 and have been closed for around 5 months in the last year) I knew I needed to help other businesses get online and pivot their businesses, whilst also gaining experience for myself. Once finishing my degree in 2021 I will have over 2 years of industry experience on a range of projects.

Are you making a solid income?

I am in the progress of reforming my offers (now covering high ticket items like coaching and programs) and still generating regular work.

Do you think the side gig or side hustle is the way of the future?

100% yes! Having a side hustle allows you extra freedom to create or do something you enjoy, while also generating an income. I get so much joy in providing solutions to my clients. Helping people change the direction of their business and also help achieve their business goals (more clients, bigger exposure, higher profits) brings me so much joy.

Their appreciation for the work I do just makes me love my job. Doing this on the side means I get to control what my hours are, choosing projects that bring me joy not just because someone makes me do it. I have complete control over all aspects of my business.

What mistakes did you make along the way?

Listening to advice from the wrong people. As a young woman in business, it felt like the world was against me.

Family said I wasn't qualified enough, the industry said I was too young, the internet said I wasn't good enough to be charging more than $20 for my services. Once I ignored the opinions of everyone else and focused on what I felt and what I wanted to do, my business just bloomed.

The other mistake was not seeing myself as an industry expert. I would often self sabotage my projects or business as I felt that I wasn't qualified enough to be speaking confidently. Once I started showing up as an industry expert and a "go-to" in my field of work, people also started seeing me as an expert.

What tips would you tell a side hustler starting out

This is especially for service-based businesses and that is to treat your business the way you would treat a client. All too often we fall into the cycle of reactive action rather than productive action. Rather than growing our business, we stay small and respond to the day to day tasks. Treat your own business like that of a paying client and you'll see your business just flourish!