Even if you're not ready to actually start your business yet, you can do a lot while you're young – in college or even high school – to boost your chances of startup success down the road.
These days, almost everyone has the dream of starting their own company. After all, what could be better than being your own boss and bringing your passion project to the world?
Of course, jumping into the entrepreneurial world can be a bit intimidating, especially if you fall for the myth that 90 percent of startups fail. The good news is that startup failure rates aren't nearly that high – especially if you use the right tactics to start off strong.
So what can young entrepreneurs do to increase their likelihood of success? Here are a few proven methods that will get you started on the right path.
1. Find your passion.
The most successful startups are founded by people who are passionate about what they do. So what are your passions? Whether you have a love for kayaking or music, the things you're most interested in can serve as a great source of inspiration for entrepreneurial ideas. When you base your ideas off something you truly love, you'll be more focused and motivated. Better yet, you'll bring in your own knowledge and personal experiences – key ingredients that can help you find a unique angle that helps you succeed.
2. Know your market.
A failure to understand your market is one of the top reasons why new businesses fail. If you want any chance of success, you need to thoroughly research your target market before launching your business. This will help you identify important attributes such as the price point and marketing messages that will appeal to your target audience, as well as if there is even a need for your big idea in the first place. The better you understand your target market, the easier it will be to avoid costly misfires.
3. Get your finances in order.
While many startups enlist the help of angel investors to get up and running, you can't assume you'll get that type of financial help. Many entrepreneurs need to use their own funds to start their company, which means you should do everything you can to improve your financial situation. Start building credit as early as you can (in high school if possible), and pay off student loans and other debts. This will make it significantly easier to get an affordable loan to help you fund your startup.
4. Prepare to make sacrifices.
There's no such thing as an overnight success. Even the multimillion-dollar startups that seem to pop up out of nowhere were the result of countless hours of hard work before they started making headlines. Becoming a successful entrepreneur requires an intense level of dedication to your dream – and this means sacrificing both time and money to make it happen. It may not be fun to give up those nightly Netflix binges or weekend parties with friends so you can put in some extra hours on your startup, but these types of sacrifices are much easier to make now than when you're older.
5. Find a mentor.
Running a business requires a wide range of skills and expertise that you likely haven't mastered yet. You shouldn't try to make challenging business decisions on your own. Because of this, finding a mentor is one of the most important things a young entrepreneur can do. Mentors have taken this path before and bring knowledge and experience to help you move forward and make smarter business decisions. Use alumni networks, conferences and other resources to form these valuable connections.
6. Tune up your business knowledge.
You may be passionate about your big idea, but this creative energy isn't enough. Successful businesses require more than an innovative product; they also require a competent team to manage finances, operations, manufacturing, marketing, and all the other things that go into the production and sale of a product. Take the time to improve your business IQ and look for likeminded individuals who can join your team and make up for your deficiencies. By paying just as much attention to the business side of things as the creative side, you will lay the foundations for a startup that lasts.
7. Be a planner.
The "tell me your five-year plan" question in a job interview is an uncomfortable experience for many, but to be a successful entrepreneur, you need the ability to plan ahead. Use your overarching goals to set realistic milestones for the growth and development of your company. By placing key actions on a timeline, you'll improve your focus and accountability, making it much easier to stay on top of what needs to be done.
Starting your own business can be exciting and challenging. While you'll undoubtedly encounter many obstacles and setbacks on your path to success, following these tips will help you start strong on your entrepreneurial journey.