By Maimoona Hafeez
“See young people as a resource, not a problem”
(Youth statement to the World Summit For Sustainable Development)
There are 1.8 billion people between ages of 10 to 24, the largest ever youth population of the world. The need is to utilize their energies, talent and abilities in betterment and welfare of the humanity. young people are the future of this world. To make this world a better place we have to engage youth as a key participant in decision making and development. The best way to do so is promoting youth social entrepreneurship.
As a teacher, I feel that it is my responsibility to make not only my students but all the teenagers aware of their responsibilities as leaders of tomorrow. One way of doing so is introducing them to role models. There are many new startups, npos and ngos which are founded by young people. Today I am going to introduce you to 18 years old Ms Alexia Hilbertidou , who is founder chief executive officer of “Girl boss New Zealand”, an organization which encourages young women to embrace stem, entrepreneurship and leadership. Alexia has worked very hard and in a very short span of time and now her organization has 8000 members. She has been named as a top 30 teen leaders and the most influential women under 25 by 2016 Westpac Women of Influence Awards.
Alexia is very passionate about empowering young women of New Zealand and has spoken to 15000 young people and teachers at different events. Lets know more about this very passionate and inspiring young woman.
Q1: How do you come up with an idea of “GirlBoss New Zealand”. ?
Alexia Hilbertidou: The idea for GirlBoss came as a result of years of my own experiences. At 16 I was the only girl in my Digital Technology class and now, at 17 I am the only girl taking Advanced Physics at
my school. I would go to entrepreneurship competitions and feel isolated and that female voices weren’t being heard. This lead me to question why young women were underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths leadership and entrepreneurship. Using statistical data I found that there were three reasons: 1) Lack of community 2) Misconceptions of difficulty and 3) Lack of women role models. GirlBoss combats all of these problems: We collaborate with successful women to inspire the next generation and are a community where young women can come together and feel empowered.
Q2: Why we need to promote women entrepreneurship especially among young girls?
Alexia Hilbertidou: By supporting entrepreneurial women we will become a more productive and peaceful society. Diverse leaders will make sure that our business innovations better represent our society. We need to recruit the most talented people to entrepreneurship and not including half the population (women) in the pool of possible business leaders is short-sighted and self-limiting. An entrepreneurial mindset will also ensure our young women are prepared for the workplaces of the future. We are at risk of mass unemployment and gender inequality because many young women are unequipped for the looming changes in our workplaces. By supporting women in entrepreneurship we can out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our previous generations resulting in greater prosperity for us all.
Q3: What are major pros and cons of starting a business at early age?
Alexia Hilbertidou: I am very privileged to be in a position where I was enabled to start a business at a young age. One of the major “pros” is that most young people can afford to take risks as they do not have to have a steady income to provide for their families. Another pro is that many experienced business professionals are very supportive and will happily offer support and mentorship to young entrepreneurs. A con is that at some times it can be quite stressful and you may have to miss out on activities with your friends because you have business commitments. Overall, I believe that starting a business at an early age is an amazing opportunity.
Q4: How important is teaching entrepreneurship at schools.?
It is extremely important that we teach entrepreneurship at schools. Our young people need to be equipped with transferable skills so they are ready for the future workplace. We need to be encouraging our young people to think ambitiously and dynamically so that they can not only survive the Fourth Industrial Revolution but thrive in it.
Q5: What are the major challenges a student entrepreneur usually has to face?
Alexia Hilbertidou: A major challenge is ensuring that you always come across professional. To be taken seriously as a young person you need to ensure that you act in a professional and mature manner when dealing with other businesses.
Q6: Do you see student entrepreneurship as a major tool for youth empowerment?
Alexia Hilbertidou: Entrepreneurship is a major tool for empowering our young people. An entrepreneurial mindset can boost confidence, build resilience and create engaged and dynamic youth. Entrepreneurship can be a particularly powerful tool for youth who are very talented but feel disillusioned by the typical education system. I believe that every student can benefit from developing their entrepreneurial thinking.
Q7: You have started working for women of newzealand do you have plans to reach out women of developing countries?
Alexia Hilbertidou: I would love to work with women from outside New Zealand. Pakistan has a growing startup community which is both exciting and encouraging. We are looking for connections to interested people in Pakistan who believe in the GirlBoss message, if you know anyone, please contact me at [email protected]
Q8: How did you manage human and financial resources for your start up.
Alexia Hilbertidou: It is important to have a strict budget and to think frugally in order to not waste funds. When I started GirlBoss I had savings which I used to fund the startup costs.I created the website and logo myself in order to reduce costs.
Q9: How one can find his/her aptitude for entrepreneurship?
Alexia Hilbertidou: I think the best place is just to begin. When I was very young, I asked the bakery for yesterday’s plain bread rolls they gave them to me for free as they were going to throw them away. I then added icing, sugar, and candy to the rolls and sold them at my school to the other students for profit. I encourage any young people to start thinking about an entrepreneurial venture they can do.
Q10: Why we don’t see more women on leadership positions even in developed countries?
There is a global problem with a lack of women in leadership positions. Despite the fact that women make up 50% of the population they make up only 5% of CEOs (Fortune 1000.) This is a problem in even developed countries. New Zealand was the first country in the world to let women vote yet only 2% of our top CEOS are female. This is largely due to sexism, gender biases, and lack of female representation. It is hard for young girls to aspire to be leaders if no one in those roles looks like them as “you cannot be what you cannot see.”
Q11: your message for aspiring young girl bosses.
Alexia Hilbertidou: Realise that you are not alone. Realise the importance of finding “your tribe.” You become the average of the people you spend the most time around so make sure you’re spending time with people who inspire, empower and encourage you. Realise that you do not need to wait until your out of school to be entrepreneurial. If you notice a problem, and have the skills to offer a solution, then go for it. Educate yourself – read books, learn from and connect with the leaders in your community who inspire you. Always dream big and think ambitiously.