All great entrepreneurs start young.
From selling homemade lemonade on the street for a buck a pop to cleaning the family car for a fiver, these are the actions of teen entrepreneur flexing his premature business muscles.
But as we grow older, for a number of reasons, most of us cease to continue with these entrepreneurial ventures.
Why do we ever stop?
It’s possibly a touch of tall poppy syndrome and a smidge of school’s difficulty increasing, but surely as we get older we get better at being young entrepreneurs. I mean anything is better than selling warm and sour lemonade on the street.
And after all, it only takes one good idea (possibly after a number of failed ideas) until...
…you strike gold!
All of sudden, you’re getting interviewed by GQ, featuring on the front cover of Rolling Stone and being invited over to Elon Musk’s house for a dinner party …
Well, probably not, but we’re sure your mum will be super proud and take heaps of pictures and invite you down from your bedroom for dinner, at least. That’s kinda sweet, right?
Anyway, moving on.
Above all the glitz and glamour starting your own business can provide, the true value it affords you is not one that can be quantified by monetary value or magazine features. Its true value is simply in the learning you gain from the experience – especially when you’re just a teenager.
Rarely, if ever, will your first business venture turn into a money-making venture. It totally might, which would be awesome, but odds say you won’t be striking anything but out with your first foray in the business world.
But although your business might strike out, you will gain invaluable experience that will help you build success in the future. So why put it off any longer? Start a business today!
Seriously, secondary school is the best place and time to for you to start your business!
You don’t need to be thinking about banking benjamins because presumably your parents have got you covered for that front, so you can just focus on garnering experience, building out your playbook, and beefing up your CV.
What’s more, starting a business in high school can make you highly desirable to some of the world’s best colleges, like, the best of the best, particularly in the US!
Take a look at NYU's own entrepreneurship lab that helps its students get their ideas of the ground.
But before we get into the benefits of building a business in high school, let’s take a look at how you can actually make it happen.
6 Tips To Help You Start a Business in High School
Before we get into the nitty gritty and the fine print of setting up a business, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret:
No one who starts a business for the first time really knows what they’re doing.
Especially in the early stages, it’s not about what you know but about learning from making mistakes. Focus on what you don't know, and on learning and growing.
This leads nicely into our first tip:
1. Know you’ll make mistakes and learn from them
The businesses that end up succeeding are simply the ones that make fewer mistakes.
This is why starting a business at a young age can be so beneficial.
Before you're old, you’ll become aware of all the little mistakes you made the first time around and avoid them on your business ventures later in life.
In order to make the most of this, you must proactively make time to acknowledge mistakes and allow yourself to learn from them.
Don’t take your mistakes as a negative, bus as an opportunity to grow and develop.
2. Work on something you’re passionate about
At the end of the day, starting a business, like any job, is gonna eat up a lot of your time. So why spend time doing something you’re not passionate about?
A business that isn’t built on passion and drive is destined for failure.
If you’re passionate about getting young women involved in STEM subjects, start thinking about ways you can do that.
If you’re passionate about reducing the impact of global warming, start thinking about products to combat this.
No matter what it is you care about, start thinking of ways you can bring a product or service to market and turn it into a small business. Don’t get hung up on the minor details for now; forget about the business name or potential for success, just strive to make a positive impact.
At the core of every young business should be the desire to make the world into a better place. What makes a business flourish is passionate people working towards a common goal.
3. The idea: aim to fix a problem and fulfil a desire
When thinking up an idea for your business, remember that your product or service should either solve a problem or fulfill a desire.
If it can do both, you’ve struck gold.
Like a pure gold automated dog feeder… okay maybe that’s not great one, but I’m just spitballing over here.
Maybe a better example would be a product that helps you grow a garden in a suburban setting and aids community sustainability.
Yeah, that's better, but unfortunately it's already been thought up by a 19-year-old New Zealand genius who is now attending Duke University, which made fresh produce and sustainable living in suburban areas accessible and stylish.
Problem solved and a desire fulfilled. Check and check!
Before you settle on an idea, make sure you undertake some research to better understand the market you’re thinking about entering. Look for faults in other products and services and try to fill the void.
Identify a problem and strive to resolve it - simple, right?
4. Kickstarter: get you some of that funding!
The beauty of starting a business in high school is that it’s not the be all and end all.
You’re most likely still living at home and are free from paying any rent or bills; if your business flunks, so be it, It’s not like you’re gonna lose the family home.
However, with the non-existent financial responsibility of being a teenager, it unfortunately also means you probably have no money to fund your business, which is kind of a bummer.
While money isn’t necessarily a requirement in the early stages, it certainly does help, particularly if your business is selling a product, not a service.
If you’re selling a service, you mightn’t need money at all, just your big ol’ brain and a mode of transport!
On the other hand, you kinda need money to make a product, right?
You’ll need to build a prototype, perfect it, test it and then start producing it.
Depending on what your product is, you can definitely start prototyping on a budget. For example, if you’re selling homemade crocheted headwear, just go get some wool and start crocheting.
However, if you’re looking to develop a bike helmet with solar panels on it that doesn’t look dumb and charges your electric bike, iPhone and Tesla car while you ride, you’re probably going to need some funding.
Luckily for you, we live in a technologically advanced world where you can literally get on the internet and just beg people to fund your business!
The most common platform for young businesses looking for some help is Kickstarter.
In a perfect world, Kickstarter operates like this:
You create a profile --> set a funding goal --> post a video --> share your profile and video --> get money from people --> achieve funding goal --> start your business --> make millions.
However, the world is far from perfect and there are literally hundred of thousands of campaigns on Kickstarter. So in order to get those results, you need to make your campaign stand out!
You can do so by having a strong video campaign and not one that’s all like “I’m young and poor, help, plz.” That’s not going to work. You need to not only sell your product, but the story behind your product.
Here are a couple of quick pointers to make your Kickstarter video campaign killer so you be gettin’ all up in that seed funding!
- Research other similar campaigns and get an idea for what works well.
- Tell a good story: sell the product and you. Be honest and passionate and let people know why they should care about your business.
- Seek help for video production- the better your video, the better the campaign will perform. Simple.
- Start promoting your campaign before you launch the Kickstarter page.
5. Take time to actively develop your entrepreneurial skills
There are a number of ways you can set about transforming from a humble everyday high school student into an entrepreneurial god!
Well, an entrepreneurial god in training at least.
The first approach would be to read... and read a lot!
It’s been shown that those who read more than six books per year are 122% more likely to be millionaires than those who read five or less.
And get this, Bill Gates reads 50 books a year and he’s, like, one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time... oh and he’s also freakin’ loaded!
It’s even a good idea to actually read about successful entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or Steve Jobs and how they got to where they are and the habits that have helped foster their success.
While reading is great, you’ll also need to develop some more tangible entrepreneurial talents. You can do this by mingling with like-minded people at local events, networking nights, study groups or exciting educational tours.
You can even look to get in touch with a more experienced entrepreneur who can become your mentor. Someone for you to learn from, feed off and ask for advice when needed.
Someone to be your Mr. Miyagi of business development; your Yoda of making bank; your sensei of strategic decisions.
6. Work, work, work, work
This one should go without saying, but starting a business isn’t easy, especially when you’re working with the limited resources of a high school student.
It’s gonna take a whole bunch of hard work. Working during school (shhhh), after school, before school and even on weekends!
You’re going to have to be giving up social time to get this bad boy off the ground, but believe me it will be worth it.
Besides, if you’re truly passionate about the business it should never feel like you’re actually doing work, but more like you’re pursuing a hobby.
Lastly, try to always have the business in the back of your mind. You never know when a sudden bolt of inspiration will strike and you'll need to start working on it ASAP.
Well, folks, that’s all there is to it! You’re now sufficiently equipped to start your own business as a high school student.
Yep, it’s that simple. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start making mistakes!
If you’re not convinced yet, here are a couple of benefits to starting a business in high school beyond just the fact that, well, you’re running your own business in high school.
Why You Should Start a Business
In addition to becoming super attractive to members of the opposite sex, there are a whole bunch of benefits to starting a business in high school.
The greatest benefit of all is the enhancement of your candidacy to top US colleges.
If you’ve shown the initiative to start a business during high school, US colleges see you as an outgoing student who will not only enjoy the rigours of a world class education, but flourish with the opportunities afforded to you.
Particularly if your business displays a strong social, charitable or community initiative, you’ll be looked upon even more favourably.
A business initiative attempting to improve the world shows you have the potential to lead and change the world in some way and that you have the drive to succeed and the bravery to give it a go from a young age.
Seriously, admissions officers are going to be jumping up and down when they read your application, regardless of how successful your business venture turned out!
But it’s not just about getting in to a top university. Once you’re in, you’ll gain access to resources that will help you execute on your new or old business ideas and take them to the next level!
Particularly if you gain admission into a top entrepreneurial college in the US, you’ll gain access to resources, mentoring, funding, and student networks that can help you become the next big thing!
What’s more, some of these colleges even offer degrees in entrepreneurship.
A whole flippin' degree!
Basically, starting a business in high school is just about laying the groundwork for your future success.
Once you’ve gained admission into a top US college, you can get all the support you need to really fast-track your business development.
For example, Tim, originally from Kazakhstan, is absolutely crushing it since gaining admission into New York University (NYU), one of the best schools for international students and young entrepreneurs.
Since joining the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU, Tim has managed to form a small team of entrepreneurs (all NYU students) and kick start a sports tech company called Fit AI, which allows athletes to track effort in the gym, minimise training fatigue and optimise their results.
Sounds pretty boss, huh? And guess what, this all started when Tim was in high school!
Well, NYU thought his idea was so dang good they not only provided him the resources to be able to get it going but they also gave him a budget of $2,000 to prototype his invention!
Check Tim's story out below:
Starting a business in high school isn't about making money. It's about something much more valuable than that: growing and developing your entrepreneurial brain from a young age.
Sure, you'll make mistakes, but you'll be able to learn from them and set yourself up for a bright and prosperous future!
By the time your friends catch up and attempt to start their own business, you'll already have years of experience under your belt and you'll be able to scale in leaps and bounds beyond your peers and competitors.
What's more, by that stage, you'll also have gained admission into one of the USA's very best universities. You'll be the envy of all your high school chums studying back at home!
Yep, all that success thanks to that silly ol' business you started in school.
Pretty soon, Elon Musk will be inviting you around for dinner!