The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, devised a computer messaging programme for his father’s dental practice when he was 12 years old. A 17 year old Richard Branson started a highly successful youth-culture magazine. Spotted the pattern among these young entrepreneurs?
The teen years, so often dreaded and drenched in negativity, can be the launch pad for hugely successful enterprises. Teenagers have exactly the right qualities to become highly successful entrepreneurs and I, for one, would like to see this encouraged as a potential alternative to traditional ‘get a degree and go and work for someone else’ career options which simply do not suit everyone.
The 5 reasons why teens make the best young entrepreneurs
- Teens like to push at barriers and challenge accepted ideas. This is perceived as a negative teenage trait and teens that challenge authority are termed ‘disruptive’. In no way do I advocate disruptive behaviour, there have to be rules so that organisations can function and safety can be maintained. However, teens that are both smart and are daring enough to question the status quo may have exactly what is needed to make a break through and forge new opportunities. A huge research project in the USA of 12,000 people, started in 1979, has concluded that a “mixture of learning aptitude and ‘break-the-rules’ behavior is tightly linked with entrepreneurship”. We can probably all think of a teen who fits into this pattern. Perhaps you live with one?
- Teens are inexperienced – in a good way. As adults we can back away from potentially risky situations because we’ve had our fingers burned in the past. We are jaded by life experience. Teenagers are not! They have fewer preconceived notions of what is going to happen and may approach situations with an open mind. They are optimistic and without optimism a fledgling business is sunk.
- Most teens have no responsibilities. If is all goes wrong, so what? They may have invested some time or perhaps a small financial outlay. Okay, so the profits were a big fat zero. Who cares? They are living rent free at home, they have no mortgage to pay, no kids to support and no dog to feed. If an adult entrepreneur doesn’t make some serious money pretty quickly they get their house taken off them and the kids (and the dog) starve.
- Teens are impulsive. This is a teen trait that drives me insane. I find teen impulsivity quite scary but what a fantastic way to seize opportunities? Whilst I’m thinking about it and weighing up what could go wrong a teen has done it and pocketed the profit!
- Teens are technology savvy. They are aware of emerging technologies and how to exploit them to earn some cash. They grew up with them. They are not scared by new developments but soak them up like a sponge. This is where the money is!
Some brilliant teen entrepreneurs
There are some fine examples of young entrepreneurs around. One young entrepreneur has developed a highly successful Christmas tree business.
Making and selling is a classic entrepreneurial approach. Make something that teens want to buy and you are on to a winner! As a teen yourself you are immediately an expert in understanding your prospective buyers, you know how to access them and how to influence them. These finger boards made by a talented local entrepreneur are a perfect example of manufacturing skill and clever social media marketing.
There are plenty of young entrepreneurs who have made it really big! Noa Mintz is 17 years old and founder of a full-service childcare agency in New York City called Nannies by Noa but she started off running art classes for kids during the summer for a small fee. She has now hired a full-time CEO so that she can focus on her high school work! Others have developed apps and designed ground-breaking products.
Starting a business allows a teenager to develop a passion and to experience both success and failure. These days there is a very low barrier to entry in terms of capital investment and young people are not dismissed because some of the world’s most successful business people were so young when they started. So next time your teen questions your authority, take a deep breath. You may have raised the next Mark Zuckerberg!
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