From your days of 25-cent homemade lemonade stands to offering to mow your neighbor’s lawns for a few dollars, the efforts you make as a youngster to creatively make some money are steppingstones to having your own sustainable business. Kids are natural entrepreneurs. Yet, too often, as we enter high school and schooling intensifies (AP classes galore and mountains of homework) and actual minimum-wage jobs become available (who doesn’t want to flip burgers?), it’s easy to lose that creativity.
Maybe, though, it’s time to rediscover some of that creativity and get back into the entrepreneur spirit. Now, you may not find yourself on the cover of Fortune magazine next year, or even in 10 years. Heck, your business may fall apart in 6 months. But, whatever the outcome of your business may be, you will gain valuable experience that will help you be successful later on, when success really counts.
Believe it or not, the absolute best time to venture into the business world is now, while you’re in high school. Why? Because right now, at this moment, you don’t have to worry about supporting yourself on your income. All you need to really worry about is gaining experience to develop lifelong skills, skills that can be highlighted on your college applications and resume and put to use when you’re out on your own in the real world.
Yes, we said college applications. Remember those? Perhaps the single most important reason to venture into entrepreneurship now, instead of later, is that it will give you a head start in the running to get into a top entrepreneur school, a school that will give you the skills, the knowledge, and, if you’re lucky, the funding to really make your business dreams come true. To get into one of these top schools, though, you will have to show that you have what it takes; and the best way to do that is start your entrepreneur experience now.
Here are a few hints from the experts to help you on your way to entrepreneurship. Keep in mind, too, that if you think you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re just like everybody else! Don’t be afraid to take the plunge, but read through our list of tips first:
- Learn from the mistakes that you will make. The emphasis here is on will. Everybody makes mistakes when starting out. The businesses you see making the headlines aren’t ones that were built without mistakes; they are, however, the ones that were able to improve from mistakes. The more mistakes you make now, while you’re young, the fewer you will make when it really counts. So, use this time to learn.
- Build your business around your passion. Face it, if you think your business is boring, you are not going to have the motivation to invest the necessary time, money, and energy to make it successful. The most successful businesses have at their head a leader who is passionate about what they are doing. Your first step? Find your passion. Maybe it’s saving the trees or stopping animal cruelty. Maybe it’s getting high school kids involved in their community. Whatever it is, find it. Use it. Turn it into an idea and then into a business.
- Use your business to meet a need. Successful businesses are ones that offer a product or service that meets an unfulfilled need. You’ll want to do a little research to see what’s lacking (and to make sure you don’t step on someone else’s toes). Once you identify the void, figure out how you (and your business) are going to fill it.
- Find funding. Now, if you’re going to start a pooper-scooper business for pet owners, you probably won’t need much in the ways of funds. But if you’re thinking along the lines of creating and selling a product, you’ll need funding to build a prototype, to advertise, and to create your product before sending it to the market—all before you start bringing in the dough. Unfortunately, there’s two sides to the teenager coin: it’s okay if your business flops since you don’t have a family to support or a mortgage to pay, but on the other side, you don’t have much in the way of capital. There are a few good options out there to get funding from potential investors. One is Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform to help artists and techies alike get their business booming. And it’s very simple: basically, you’ll create a profile, post a video and figure out a funding goal, and share your profile and video with members, who will then donate to help you achieve your goals and get your business started. The only downside to Kickstarter is that it is widely popular, and there are thousands and thousands of profiles and videos to look through. You’ll want to make sure yours really stands out. Take some time to look through the ones already posted and identify which ones are successful. Use those as models. Make a video that will grab the attention of your viewer and really help them see what you are striving to accomplish. You can check out some other funding platforms here.
- Build your skills. We’ll say it again: Now’s the time. You’ll need an arsenal of skills to be a successful entrepreneur. Take this time to reach out to success stories and find mentors. Reading about entrepreneurs is great—in fact, it’s been proven that those who read more are more successful in general—but you need more than that. You need someone who will teach you the ropes of running a business, someone who will guide you in the finance department, and someone who will give you a jump-start into better networking.
- Put in the work. Let’s face it, success is truly the product of hard work (among a lot of other things). If you truly want your business to be successful, you are going to need to put time and effort into it to get it there. That may mean giving up some late-night partying or outings with friends. Hopefully, your end result will be worth it. But you won’t have the result you want without investing yourself. Always keep your goals in mind, and be ready to implement ideas as they come to you (yes, even those brilliant ones at 2:00 am).
To sum it up, it isn’t all about the money (at least not right now). Starting a business while you’re young is about developing and enhancing your entrepreneur skills before it really matters. You’ll be lightyears ahead of your peers and will fly ahead of the competition, and you’ll be able to get a leg up by attending a top university. So, get in there, get started, make mistakes, and then learn from them. We wish you the best of luck!