Don’t wait to invest in young people

by: Emanuela Ceccarini

I recently saw the very inspiring video interview of Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Alibaba: Good Advice For Young People & Entrepreneurs from CEO of Giant Company Alibaba.

Ma speaks with a superb storytelling ability to an audience of young future entrepreneurs. He unfolds his view on the career trajectory that he thinks should be pursued in order to be a successful entrepreneur.

Essentially he suggests: before 20 be a good student; from 20 to 30 work in a small company with a good boss that can transfer passion and vision; from 30 to 40 work for yourself; from 40 to 50 focus on doing what you’re good at; and from 50 to 60—this is what hit me the most— work for young people, because they can do better than you, and invest on them.

To work for young people after 50 resonated with me. I had just turned 50 (now I’m 52) and I understood it was time for me to make a meaningful career change.

I decided to end with my fashion company, which I started when I was 20, to start something new and evolutionary. The business I had “invented” and fuelled as its creative director, had given me everything I had dreamed of but unfortunately it stopped evolving me.

I knew what I wanted to stop doing, but I wasn’t certain of what new adventure I wanted to get into. So I started on a path of self-discovery to find my new mission, asking myself what activities, which environments and which people in my life made me happy and always got me into the “flow”. As a child, from my mother I learned the textile techniques of crochet, knitting, macramé, patchwork, and embroidery which I became passionate about and used throughout my career. I had always loved creating beautiful and complex hand-made clothing and accessories. I had also greatly enjoyed teaching these skills to my workers and fashion design interns. Today I still cherish the emotional serenity and creative gratification I get from the “flow” that these techniques sweep me away in.


Through examining the common factors in my answers to these questions I discovered that teaching and fashion crafts were the visceral passions that were to inform my future. This led me in June 2016 to start, out of my countryside home, The Italian School of Fashion Crafts with my partner Omar Vulpinari.

Initially I didn’t see the school having a social influence. I wasn’t a “craftivist”, but teaching these skills in Rimini spontaneously assumed an important social nature. Rimini is the beach capital of Italy, with an economy based on tourism, but unfortunately this industry plummeted after the arrival of low cost flights, the global economic crisis and the pollution of the Adriatic sea. Consequently, unemployment has risen and in response so has an alternative micro-entrepreneur economy. It is unsurprising that in this context, most of my students are young women wanting to learn how to create fashion craft accessories to sell directly in local craft markets and online.

Getting back to Jack Ma’s suggestion for over 50-year-olds to “invest in young people”: my experience brought me to come up with a personal and more universal version of the suggestion. Rather than only entrepreneurs investing in the young people of their own company, I feel it should be about everyone giving back to anyone in need, without necessarily having to wait to be over 50.

Emanuela Ceccarini Fashion Crafter