Being a teen in high school means you already have a built-in community. First, there’s your family. Then, there are your classmates. You have a circle of friends you socialize with regularly. Maybe you have peers from around the world with whom you interact online. You have teachers, coaches, and other adult leaders.
Community is important for business leaders like you. Let’s explore a few reasons why this is, as well as what you can do to increase the value of community on your entrepreneurial journey.
YOUR COMMUNITY IS YOUR CUSTOMER BASE
Chances are, once you launch your startup your first customers will come from your immediate community. One of the best things a business can do is to “soft-launch” its product to a select few before going public. Friends and family will be the first customers to try your product and give you feedback on what works and what doesn’t. They’re like built-in marketing research!
How young entrepreneurs can increase the value of community as a customer base: Offer freebies to friends and family in exchange for honest feedback that can help you improve your product before you take it public.
YOUR COMMUNITY HELPS YOUR TEEN BRAIN GROW AND DEVELOP
Right now is a critical time for your brain’s development. Your teen brain is restructuring itself from childhood into adulthood. Part of that restructuring is learning how to engage with others in a selfless, meaningful way. This is why teens make such great volunteers! By contributing to your community, you’re hardwiring your brain to feel good when you engage with others. You’re learning empathy and how to consider multiple sides of an issue. You’re also learning complex problem-solving skills. All of these are qualities a young entrepreneur needs to succeed.
How young entrepreneurs can increase the value of community as brain development: Gen-Z is already leading the way in social entrepreneurship. Do your part by volunteering or donating a percentage of your company’s profits to a charity that aligns with your values.
YOUR COMMUNITY PROTECTS YOU FROM LONELINESS
Young entrepreneurship can be a difficult, lonely road. Those of you who are the first in your family to start a new business, or the first to go to college, probably feel the effects of trailblazing more than your peers do. Being a pioneer can be an exhilarating adventure that’s full of wonderful surprises. But it can also be frustrating and demoralizing if you’re walking that path alone.
Having a strong community will carry you through those tough times when the insecurity threatens to overwhelm you. They’re there to cheer you on and believe in you when you don’t much believe in yourself.
How young entrepreneurs can increase the value of community as moral support: Join a club such as Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). When you connect with like-minded young entrepreneurs, you create a built-in system of support with people who are in your situation and really understand what you’re going through.
YOUR COMMUNITY TEACHES YOU TO NETWORK
Let’s say you’re starting an after-school dog-walking business for busy neighbors who work outside the home. You know that the dogs’ owners will already have leashes for the pups, but you want to add value to your business by providing waste bags and treats. This is a great way to set yourself up as the premiere dog walker in the neighborhood! However, waste bags and doggie treats aren’t free. Did you include the cost of those materials in your business plan?
How young entrepreneurs can utilize their communities for networking opportunities: Go to your local pet store and offer a partnership: if they give you a discount on waste bags and doggie treats, you’ll hand out store flyers to your customers. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.
YOUR COMMUNITY SHOWS YOU THE VALUE OF YOUR INPUT
When you work in groups on projects at school, you’re learning the importance of teamwork. When you add your opinions to family decisions, you’re learning how to make yourself heard. When you help make plans with friends, you’re learning how to add value to a group. Simply by participating in your community, you are developing some of the skills you’ll need to become a successful young entrepreneur.
How young entrepreneurs can build the confidence to add input within their communities: Take leadership roles where and when you can. Your success will create a positive cycle of self-confidence.
YOUR COMMUNITY IS A SOURCE OF IDEAS
Many of our scholarship recipients here at the Kantner Foundation got their ideas from looking around their communities and finding solutions to common problems. Perhaps your town lacks a recycling program. Or you’ve noticed a lack of organic lemonade in the shops nearby. Young entrepreneurs are problem-solvers. And the best place to look for problems that need to be solved is your immediate area.
How communities can help young entrepreneurs solve problems: Talk to the people you interact with every day. Ask them about their problems – in business terms, this is called “pain points.” Successful entrepreneurs know what a customer’s pain point is and have the best solution for it.
YOUR COMMUNITY CAN HOOK YOU UP
A polished resume and gold-star cover letter will get you far in business. But smart young entrepreneurs know how to network with adults in positions of power. Those adults are the ones who will recommend you for internships, mentor you on your entrepreneurial journey, act as referrals on college applications, and otherwise help you make your way up in the world.
How young entrepreneurs can use their communities to get a boost: If you already know an adult who works in the field you’d like to pursue, that’s great! It never hurts to ask them about internship openings at their jobs, or if they’d like to mentor you. The worst that can happen is they say no, and then you’re no worse off. Take advantage of your existing connections!
Your community wants to help you. People love being part of a success story! Give them that opportunity by reaching out and using what’s already around you.
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.