Some of the world’s most famous and profitable businesses were started by students. Microsoft began in Bill Gates’ Harvard dorm room, Google got its start on the Stanford campus as the computer science project of doctoral students Sergey Brin and Larry Page and thousands of other student companies thrive in every industry.
Even if you’re not aiming to be another Bill Gates – maybe you just want to earn some extra cash with a summer landscaping business – you’ll have to navigate some unique challenges as a young entrepreneur testing the business waters. Here are 10 success tips for young entrepreneurs.
1. Do what you love.
All successful teen businesses have one factor in common: Their owners love what they do – so choose a small business idea that aligns with your interests, no matter what they are.
2. Know what you want.
Are you willing to leave school if your business takes off? Or do you envision your business as a side project? Being able to answer questions like these will help you organize your time and priorities.
3. Be radical…
In your late teens and early 20s, your thinking is fresh, original and full of energy. Don’t be afraid to try something no one’s ever done, create an off-the-wall product or shake up an existing market by changing factors (such as a service or delivery model) that established companies take for granted.
4. … but follow the rules.
Being a young entrepreneur doesn’t exempt you from registering your business, keeping records and paying taxes. Following these simple rules now will save you from legal and administrative headaches later.
5. Manage your time.
Running a business while going to school is stressful and difficult. Understand what is required of you in your separate roles as a student and a business owner, and employ planning and organizational tools – for example, a well-maintained appointment book, Microsoft Outlook or an online time/project management system – to make the most of your time.
6. Use school resources.
Being a student isn’t a handicap in business; on the contrary, it can be an advantage. Your campus offers free computers and Internet connectivity, a host of potential employees and/or volunteers and the expertise of professors who would be happy to share their knowledge and experience with you. You’re literally surrounded by people and resources, so make the most of your situation.
7. Find a mentor.
Buddy up with a local entrepreneur or business leader with a record of achievement to be your small business mentor. Your mentor will help you understand the risks and challenges of business, provide a sounding board for your ideas and help you find investors for your company.
8. Exploit online resources.
Your computer can connect you to hundreds of online resources for young entrepreneurs. Immerse yourself in these resources; they’ll help to inspire, direct and motivate you.
9. Be good to yourself.
Regardless of how organized and enthusiastic you are, some days will overwhelm you. Don’t be afraid to step back from work and do whatever relaxes you. Whether it’s the endorphin rush of exercise, the lively company of good friends or a quiet day of meditation on the beach, take advantage of opportunities to invigorate yourself and balance your responsibilities with relaxation.
10. Check your mentality.
One of the problems that can afflict young entrepreneurs is a mental block against, as Nike might say, just doing it. We’ve all been raised on stories of Internet billionaires, wealthy young actors and other tales of spectacular overnight success. Knowing how well other people have done in business and how quickly they’ve scaled the mountain is demotivating. It can make some young entrepreneurs lose confidence and feel as if they don’t want to get started on a business unless it’s going to be the next YouTube.
This is a self-defeating mentality. Combat it by reminding yourself that you’re not competing against anyone but yourself. Do whatever it is that you can do today, whether that means tutoring, designing T-shirts or building online communities. The important thing is to get your feet wet – not to take over the business world.
The bottom line is that your student days are ripe with entrepreneurship opportunities. You may never again have the energy, resources or motivation to start your business, so get to work.