I’ve never viewed myself as your typical classroom learner. Throughout my time in grade school, I spent most of my days thinking about opportunities outside the classroom.
Shortly after graduating from high school, two of my closest friends approached me with a business idea.
Young, naïve, and eager to enter the professional world, I deferred my freshman year of college and jumped head first into a tech start-up.
I set forth on an entrepreneurial journey that has served as the single greatest learning experience in my life thus far.
As they say, the best lessons in life are learned through error. The more times you run into a wall, the more you’re forced to point yourself in the right direction. If you’re looking to start your own business, there are many advantages to starting young, and here’s why.
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Learning the Landscape
As with any job or internship you’re looking to pursue, it’s important to understand the lay of the land if you want to gain a competitive edge. This takes time, but the sooner you have a strong understanding of the industry, the sooner you will be able to identify your unique skill set. Identifying your own skill set is imperative for any entrepreneur. Ask yourself these basic questions when going through this process:
- What are your three greatest strengths?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What skills do you use regularly?
- What do you naturally find yourself wanting to do more of?
It won’t happen overnight, but if you continue to ask yourself these questions I guarantee you will become more attuned to your strengths.
Failure Is Good
As I have already stated, you will learn most from the mistakes you make. Remember to embrace failure as it comes. Individual failures don’t necessarily mean you have to close up shop altogether. But it is important to be aware of when your business may no longer be salvageable.
According to an article on Fundera, “About two-thirds of business survive two years in business, half of all businesses will survive five years, and one-third will survive 10.” Such research suggests that even businesses that have lasted for many years still face the possibility of failure. This is not meant to deter you from starting a company, but rather to keep you on your toes.
Every successful entrepreneur has experienced countless failures. Start-ups are not for the faint of heart. Take Elon Musk, for example. Musk set out to launch his space exploration company, SpaceX. Since its launch, the company has been working tirelessly to build and test rockets that cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Their flagship rocket, The Falcon 9, was tested numerous times before landing successfully on December 21, 2015. Despite Musk having to endure seeing his $50M rocket crash and burn time and again, his perseverance and courage ultimately drove him to this extraordinary payoff. The sooner you learn to accept your failures, the more you will gain from them.
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Find a Mentor
Always surround yourself with people who have different perspectives. This will ensure that you are always in a position to learn more. When looking for a good mentor, use these data points suggested by Mel Carson of Entrepreneur.com:
- Don't be afraid to ask
- Ask right, and be "mentor-worthy"
- Choose someone with a different perspective
- Seek out more than one
- Try to reciprocate
You should try to find a mentor outside of your immediate circle. This will keep the advice authentic and most importantly, non-biased. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s better to know the cold hard facts than to live in a false reality. When you’re young, people are often willing to help the up and coming generation.
When and if you become a successful young entrepreneur yourself, you will likely reciprocate the favor by becoming a mentor yourself. In a survey conducted by Civic Enterprises with Hart Research Associates for MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, it’s estimated that 9/10 young adults who have been mentored in the past aspire to become mentors themselves.
Your network is your net worth. Starting a business when you’re young is an excellent opportunity to expand your network. Even if you don’t have a strong resume, create a LinkedIn profile so you can keep track and stay in contact with the people you meet on your journey. From my own experience, keeping my connections close has proven to be invaluable. It may seem straightforward, but networking isn’t always easy. Here are some tips to keep in mind while expanding your network:
- Always go into an event with a goal in mind
- When chatting, keep yes and no questions to a minimum
- Don't sound desperate. Try your best to offer guidance in addition to seeking it.
- Follow-up within 24 hours with anyone you wish to build a relationship with.
At the end of the day, you're never too young to start a business. Whether it's a lemonade stand or an ephemeral messaging application, just get out and do it, I promise you won't regret it.