“The days of young students completing a Tefl – teaching English as a foreign language – course and heading abroad to work are a thing of the past,” say Fariha Karim and Jack Malvern in The Times. Instead, teachers are cashing in on the growing demand for online lessons, with sales of digital English lessons in the UK tripling since 2013. Few have been as successful as marketing graduate Lucy Earl. “The former Westminster University student, 22, has become an internet sensation since last year, when she began her YouTube teaching course, English with Lucy.”
Earl now runs one of the fastest growing language education channels on YouTube, with an international following of 350,000 subscribers. Earl began by borrowing £500 from her father to buy a tripod and camera, and set about teaching herself video production. She now pulls in more than £30,000 a year in advertising revenues — more than the average teacher’s salary. Her videos are short and sharp. A lesson about English swear words was inevitably popular, but it is not always so obvious what will be a hit. One of her most popular videos showed her hopping on a train for a home barbecue and a glass of Pimms.
Leading an “attitude revolution” in Japan
Entrepreneurship has an image problem in Japan, says Leo Lewis in the Financial Times: “only a third of Japanese adults think starting a business is a good career choice”. Serial entrepreneur Taizo Son, 44, wants to change that, but he recognises that the cultural barriers can be formidable – “especially Mum. Convincing her is the most difficult obstacle,” he says.
Son certainly knows what it takes. “GungHo, his first major enterprise, produced Puzzle & Dragons, the first mobile game in the world to generate $1bn in revenues.” Today he uses his considerable capital to try to foster new business growth through venture investment vehicle Mistletoe. “Since 2013, Mistletoe has directly invested approximately $100m in about 50 start-ups”, incubating everything from medical delivery drones and self-driving cars to “disease-detecting toilets”.
Son’s plans to foster a new generation of entrepreneurs might just be helped by structural changes in Japan’s economy. Twenty-somethings increasingly see big companies as “idea-stifling slave ships”, and there is much disillusionment among those “already mid-career and working miserably for those companies”. Big scandals have tarnished the image of corporate Japan. Son hopes all this will be enough to trigger an “attitude revolution”.
How to get ahead in the music business
When country singer Kenny Rogers was growing up in poverty on a federal housing estate in Houston, Texas, he used to be amazed just by the water sprinklers that irrigated the lawns of rich people’s houses, says Dave Gordon for BBC Business. Today, the 78-year-old, who is on his farewell tour of the US, is worth $250m (£195m).
When Rogers released his first single in 1958, mentor Kirby Stone warned him that “if you don’t treat it like a business it’ll eat you up”. Rogers took the advice to heart. “I really studied the music business, and I realised there’s only two ways to compete,” he says. “You can do what everybody else is doing and do it better – and I didn’t like my chances – or you could do something nobody else is doing, and you don’t invite comparison.” So rather than recording pure country music Rogers developed a country and pop crossover genre that “sold by the bucketload”.
He has not always met with success. His rotisserie chicken restaurant chain Kenny Rogers Roasters had more than 400 outlets worldwide at one point in the mid-1990s, but then had to file for bankruptcy. Rogers has also twice ended up “broke” since launching his career from overspending. Nevertheless, he has always maintained a sense of fun. When he made his first million in the 1970s, he fitted the grounds of his house with hundreds of automated water sprinklers just like the ones he had coveted in childhood. “I would drive a golf cart out, right into those sprinklers, and it was great fun.”
The rehabilitation of a rogue trader
It was 2009 and global markets had just suffered their worst crisis in 90 years, says Andrew Anthony in The Guardian. Alexis Stenfors, a currency trader at Merrill Lynch with 15 years’ experience, thought things were going to get much worse. Betting that the whole financial system was about to go “belly up”, he “took increasingly extreme positions”. When they failed to pay dividends, he covered up the losses in his trading books. By the time Merrill Lynch uncovered his deception, his actions had lost the bank $456m (£356m).
Stenfors lost his job and was banned from the City for five years. He has now published a book, Barometer Of Fear, which examines the perverse incentives that can lead to financial deception. “When discussing banking flaws he can be authoritative, but about himself he appears detached, incurious, even alienated,” says Anthony, and he is still unable to give a definitive answer as to why he did what he did.
Rogue traders have tried various methods to repair their reputations, says David Enrich in The Wall Street Journal. “Nick Leeson, who went to jail after his losses from unauthorised trading toppled the UK’s Barings Bank in 1995, sought redemption by re-christening himself as a fraud expert and after-dinner speaker.” Others are more eccentric: “Jérôme Kerviel, convicted of fraudulent trading at France’s Société Générale, embarked on a curious 870-mile march to Rome that culminated in a brief audience with Pope Francis.” Stenfors now lectures students about his downfall – he holds an academic post at the University of Portsmouth – and conducts research into financial scandals.
Stenfors’ new book confirms that the economic crisis did very little to make the banks address their bad habits, says Anthony. Merrill Lynch brought forward bonus payments and lavished them on staff just days before being saved by Bank of America and announcing $13.8bn of losses. Yet for all of Stenfors’ “apparent objection to speculation, I can see something in his eyes when he speaks about trading, a spark of excitement”. “I miss the buzz,” he says.