Think back to when your dreams of becoming a young entrepreneur. What did you hope to get out of your journey? How far into the future did you write your business plan? Which goals did you set for yourself and your business?
When just starting, young entrepreneurs may not be thinking about the growth and expansion of their businesses. For example, you may have only been hoping to get a summer job to earn extra cash. Or maybe you’re necessarily focused on staying afloat. Wherever you are in your entrepreneurial journey, it’s never too soon to think about the future of your business.
Those of you who have started a business based on your future career aspirations especially need to think about growth and expansion. Your high school startups have the potential to become hugely successful if you navigate the next steps carefully.
Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to growing and expanding your small business. However, there are a few pieces of advice everyone should keep in mind.
1. MAKE CUSTOMERS YOUR #1 PRIORITY
Across the board in any field, in businesses of any size, and in any business model you choose, you should always be thinking about customer service.
Right now, you’re probably focused on attracting new customers (or any customers) to your business, as most young entrepreneurs would be doing. However, did you know that it costs five times as much to attract new customers as it does to retain current customers? That’s time and money you can’t afford to waste!
Here are three tips for creating customer loyalty and, therefore, higher rates of customer retention (keeping your customers coming back):
- Customer loyalty programs. Reward your loyal customers! This can be anything from a buy-10-get-one-free punch card to exclusive access to offers and deals.
- Social media engagement. You’re on social media all the time anyway. Make it count! You do have separate accounts for your personal life and your business. Right? Ask questions, share positive feedback, and respond quickly and positively to complaints.
- Send out a newsletter. This keeps your company in front of customers’ eyeballs and helps remind them that you and your business are still here. You can also announce important news or exclusive deals and sneak peeks that help customers feel appreciated.
2. RESEARCH THE COMPETITION
We’re not saying that if you are selling refurbished phones you have to do corporate espionage on Samsung or Apple. However, no matter your field, your product, your service, or the size of your business, common sense dictates that you be aware of your competitors.
Do you even know who your competitors are? Again, not the really big kids. Let’s say you make laminated bookmarks to sell on Etsy. Your competitors are other laminated bookmark creators on Etsy. Do a quick Etsy search for a few who seem to have similar sales and reviews. Those are your competitors.
Look at their customer reviews. What consistencies do you see in the positive reviews? What are some common complaints? How does the shop owner respond to both types of reviews? What else do they offer? What is their price point?
When you see what else is out there, you gain a clearer understanding of the market you’re in. You might get some good ideas for ways to improve your product or customer service. Your price point might need adjusting. Or maybe you’re inspired to create a whole new shop design and logo.
3. PRACTICE SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP
For many young entrepreneurs, this may be redundant. We already know that your generation is socially conscious without being told what to do. But did you know that going green (if you aren’t already) can save money? In other words, the more eco-conscious your business, the more productive you’ll be!
All of that time and money can be spent on growing your business, whether it’s hiring staff or crafting new items to sell in your online shop.
Social entrepreneurship also includes giving back to your community. Not only will this feel good on your conscience, but it’s free advertising and excellent public relations. Volunteering to provide goods and/or services to fundraisers and community events shows that you are a serious young entrepreneur. Potential customers, investors, and partners will know your brand and feel inspired to work with you.
4. OFFER MORE
Amazon started as a bookseller.
Let’s go back to our example of selling laminated bookmarks on Etsy. What else can you create to sell in your shop? Check your customer feedback and what the competition is doing. Is there something else you can offer buyers? Something you’re pretty sure they want?
This expansion shouldn’t be so far out of your wheelhouse that you become paralyzed with self-doubt and frustration. Try taking custom bookmark orders for weddings, parties, or corporate events. Create a line based on new colors or designs. Whatever you do, make sure to let your existing customers know that you’ve got fresh new stock online!
5. TAKE RISKS, BUT HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
You’re already an entrepreneurial superhero for taking your ideas to the next level and building a business! But superheroes don’t rest and neither should you. College-bound high-achievers like you don’t get where they want to be by playing it safe. You work hard and take risks.
Seek out partnerships. Offer new and exciting products and services. Open a new shop. Hire a team.
These risks may cost time and money, but the smart young entrepreneur has a backup plan in case they don’t work out. No one grows without stepping outside their comfort zone.
Sure, you may take a risk and fall flat. So now you know at least one thing that doesn’t work for your small business. Lesson learned. Keep moving. Keep innovating. Keep trying!
Entrepreneurs don’t stand still. Those of you who are serious and determined to become successful young entrepreneurs need to think about growth and expansion as part of your journey.
Find out more about the Kantner Foundation, including our college scholarships for young entrepreneurs in Florida, by clicking here. We look forward to your application!