According to a recent study conducted by Bentley University, 66% of millennials would like to start their own business. It is projected that Gen Z (and possibly Gen Alpha) is going to be even more entrepreneurial-minded.
If you’ve got an up-and-coming entrepreneur at your house, and the chances are you do, here is a list of ten tips along with some expert advice from SCORE mentor and Central Virginia Chapter Co-chair, Chris Wilson, to get them on their way.
Do What You Love
As rewarding as starting and running a business can be, it’s also a lot of work. That’s why it’s important to identify what you’re passionate about and build a business based on ideas inspired by those interests.
Some common business ideas for kid/teen entrepreneurs include:
- Lawn care
- Petting sitting
- Online reselling
But don’t be afraid to think outside the box! The key is to start with what you enjoy and then come up with a list of existing products or services that center around it. How can you take one of those current ideas and implement it into your community? What can you do to make it different from what’s already out there?
“We have recently worked with several high school students who have either started or are interested in starting their own business. In many cases, this starts as a hobby, school project, or something they are interested in and then they start thinking about how they could make that into a business. In other cases, they have had a class in school that talked about entrepreneurship, and they catch the bug,” says Wilson.
Just because you’re starting your own business as opposed to working for someone else doesn’t mean education or training isn’t necessary. For example, you wouldn’t open a pet salon without knowledge or dog grooming training. You would probably also benefit from educating yourself on various dog breeds, dog psychology, and the various types of equipment you’ll be using.
Look for part-time jobs that will give you hands-on training in the field you’re interested in or take online courses in subjects relevant to your path.
“Someone may have a great idea and know a lot about what they want to do, but they don’t understand all of the other dimensions of running a successful business, like financial planning and management, marketing, regulations, and operations. Without these other pieces, they can get into trouble. The good news is there are many online sources that are available to them. We have a large library of articles and webinars on our website (centralvirginia.score.org),” says Wilson.
Find a Mentor
Trial and error is a part of life, but you can avoid a lot of time (and money!) wasted making mistakes by following sound advice. Seek out people within your inner circle who have run a business and pick their brains on topics like web design, social media marketing, billing clients, and useful software for your business. You can also get free help from volunteer mentors at SCORE.
“Being an entrepreneur is hard work, and they will make lots of mistakes along the way but working through those challenges is ultimately how they will learn the skills to be successful in the long term. Learning from other successful businesspeople is also extremely helpful and budding entrepreneurs can gain valuable experience volunteering with a business or seeking an internship in an area of interest.
“Everyone can benefit from a mentor that is outside of their family. In most cases the entrepreneurs’ friends and family are going to be very supportive and encouraging, which is great, but it can be very helpful to have feedback from an outside person that can be more objective,” says Wilson.
Know Your Market
When selling a product or service, it’s essential to know who your key market is. Is your business geared toward other youth or families? Is it gender-specific? Is your business meeting a need or fulfilling a want?
Spend some time researching ways to advertise to your core constituency. Find other companies with the same market and check out their advertising strategies for inspiration.
Create a Business Plan
A business plan outlines how you intend to start and manage your business. It should include your goals, what products/services you’re offering, who your customers and competitors are, what skills and if any staff is needed, your marketing plan and your startup/operating expenses.
Google “free business plan templates.”
“We encourage all new entrepreneurs to start with a basic plan and write it down. It doesn’t have to be fancy or very detailed to start, but you should be able to answer some basic questions about a business idea like: who is your customer, what problem does your business solve, who is your competition, and how will it make money? If you can’t answer these basic questions, then it’s a sign you need to do some additional research. For people with lots of great ideas but having trouble deciding on the best one, answering these basic questions for each idea can help narrow it down and point to which ones would be most successful. Even a one-page plan can be a huge help in organizing your business idea,” says Wilson.
Fund Your Idea
Most startups require at least some investment. Once you’ve established the type of business you’re starting, figure out what you will need to begin – inventory, equipment, office/retail space, etc – and estimate how much it will cost.
If the amount exceeds your savings, consider asking family members for a loan. They will be more willing to consider investing in your business if you present them with your well-thought-out business plan, which should include details about your own financial investment along with how you plan to repay their loan.
“Early on, an entrepreneur shouldn’t need to spend money on a lot of business services or support, and they should always check with a parent or other adult before signing up for anything. In fact, many businesses can be started with very little cost and will only need to invest as they grow,” says Wilson.
Establish an Online Presence
A website and social media accounts can drive a lot of traffic to your business, but both can be time consuming to maintain. Begin designing your website prior to your launch date. This will give you time to work out all the tedious details before you get busy offering your services or products to customers. Consider following a preplanned social media calendar to take the guesswork out of what to post each day.
Try Wix.com for free web building and web hosting.
Google “social media calendar samples.”
Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Prepare yourself for the long haul as you put a lot of hard work and sacrifice into building your business. Keep a list handy of your short-term and long-term goals. Celebrate milestones along the way, and always find ways to move yourself closer to your next goal, even if it’s only an inch at a time.
Learn to Delegate
70% of small businesses are run solely by one individual, but that doesn’t mean they do it all on their own all the time. As your business grows, think of ways to lessen your load so you can spend less time on tedious tasks (like updating your website or cleaning your office space) and more time on creating a quality product or service for your clients.
Every entrepreneur and every business experiences ups and downs, but if you throw in the towel at the first (or second or tenth) sign of distress, you won’t even get started. It’s normal to feel discouraged at how slowly things are happening or when sales are low. Whenever you feel like giving up, it’s time to rekindle your dedication! Go back to the first five items on this list and ask yourself:
Am I still passionate about what I’m doing?
What can I learn to better serve my customers?
How has my mentor handled the ups and downs in their business?
Are there new ways I can more effectively reach my market?
Where am I at on my business plan, what have I already accomplished, and what direction am I headed next?
“SCORE is a nonprofit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration dedicated to the formation and growth of small businesses in the United States. We help small businesses by providing free business advice and mentoring, offering low or no-cost business training, and sharing free business templates and resources. We work with clients of all ages, including teens and young adults, and our mentors provide an experienced resource who can answer questions, provide feedback and encouragement, and help them avoid common pitfalls. Mentoring is often a long-term relationship, some lasting years, as we help them with their journey,” says Chris Wilson.