Starting a business from scratch can intimidate the most experienced entrepreneur. Throw in your youth, inexperience, lack of connections, and lack of funding and it can seem downright terrifying.
Everyone has self-doubts. And everyone has very real obstacles they need to overcome before they find the success they deserve. Here are four struggles you could face as a young entrepreneur. And four tips for crushing them.
1. AGE DISCRIMINATION
While we here at the Kantner Foundation know the value of young entrepreneurship, others may not. Yet. Age discrimination works both ways: people generally think anyone over 40 is too old to start a new business and anyone under 25 is too young.
Forget all that.
A solid business plan knows no age. Quality products and helpful services are needed no matter how old you are. We know that. You know that. So why does it feel so hard to be taken seriously?
Being told you’re too young to start a business can be a real hit to your self-confidence, especially if it comes from people you love and respect. The Kantner Foundation doesn’t want to see so much wasted potential because others can’t see past your age. One reason why they may doubt you is that you probably don’t have a track record yet. How could you?
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Nothing turns doubt into belief like proof. Take the time to write a business plan and do your homework. (Business homework. But also school homework.) Make your prototype the best it can be. Find customers who believe in you and appreciate the energy and hustle that come with youth.
Once you taste a little bit of success, watch the doubters and skeptics turn into your biggest fans. Part of young entrepreneurship is showing the world the power of youth!
2. LACK OF FUNDS
Unlike your older peers, you haven’t yet had the chance to build your credentials or save money. Even if you are starting a small business that doesn’t require a lot of startup capital, money might be an issue. Sometimes that first $100 you need to pay for a few months of website hosting might as well be a million dollars.
Saving money to get started is fine if you already have a job. But what if you don’t? What if your part-time, afterschool gig pays $10 an hour, you work 5 hours a week, and you need $2,000 to get your enterprise off the ground?
You fully understand that it takes money to make money. Yet you also don’t want to spend your youth saving up for some elusive point in the future.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Ask family and friends to invest in your startup. Remember to offer them an incentive; that is, what will they get in return once you find success?
Sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter are also great ways to collect investment capital. Again, make sure you are prepared to offer something in return to your investors. This is your way of thanking them for believing in you and giving you their hard-earned money.
Finally, consider a youth entrepreneurial program, like a competition or summer program. These are great ways to not only get that extra boost you need but to network and learn the business of entrepreneurship inside and out.
3. ATTRACTING CUSTOMERS
The good news is, nearly all startups have this problem. The bad news is, that applies to young entrepreneurs as well. Maybe especially to young entrepreneurs, because you might not yet know people in your target demographic. It’s one thing if you start a tutoring program for your younger siblings’ friends. Their parents all already know you. It’s quite another if you’ve invented an SaaS app but don’t personally know anyone who might benefit from it.
Another factor in finding customers is that you must put yourself out there. This can be intimidating for young entrepreneurs, especially if you’re introverted or shy. Many young people may have trouble speaking up for themselves. Why should adults listen to you? Why should customers give you money? What makes you think you’re an expert in this area?
WHAT YOU CAN DO: This is where your lack of reputation in your field and relative anonymity are your biggest advantages. Think of yourself and your enterprise as clean slates. No one yet knows the value of your app or service – but they also don’t have any negative ideas about it, either.
Marketing yourself may feel completely out of your comfort zone, but that’s exactly what gives you the edge over your more established peers. What sets you apart? What makes you better? Go back to your original idea and market that to your target audience. Let your enthusiasm shine through – it’s contagious!
Remember that once upon a time, no one had heard of this company called Apple. They certainly didn’t become a household name by being quiet.
Once you know where to find your target audience – online, through well-placed flyers around town, or even stuffing business cards into your neighbors’ mailboxes – don’t hold back. You have something worthy to offer. Show it.
4. TIME MANAGEMENT
Your older peers probably have to juggle an existing job with preparing to launch a startup, as well as family and other obligations. You, however, have even more on your plate because your day job (school) doesn’t end when you come home. Young entrepreneurs have homework. Exams. Projects. Volunteer commitments. Athletics. Clubs. Friends. Family. And, oh yeah, you need to eat and sleep at some point, too. Are you crazy to want to add a business startup to all that?
Of course not!
Burnout is real and it can affect your mental and physical health. So how can a young entrepreneur find success when there’s already so much on your plate?
WHAT YOU CAN DO: We have one word for you: organize. Organization is one of the best tools you have in your entrepreneurial toolbox.
Get yourself into the habit of making a to-do list tonight of the things you want to accomplish tomorrow. Set small goals for yourself as far as your business goes. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. Prepare yourself for the long haul when it comes to your enterprise. Every day doesn’t have to be a full-time job getting your startup going. Even the smallest of tasks, like responding to an email or downloading a business plan template count as forward progress.
The key to time management as a young entrepreneur is a reasonable, realistic work ethic. Without dropping the ball completely, give yourself time to work and time to relax. This way your startup will feel like a fun challenge rather than yet another burden.
Young entrepreneurs have a lot going for them. Your youth and inexperience can work in your favor!
The Kantner Foundation is proud to offer college scholarships to Florida’s high school entrepreneurs. To learn more about our program, and to start your application, click here.