The lessons I learned as a teenage entrepreneur
July 1, 2021
6 minutes to read
Opinions expressed by Contractor the contributors are theirs.
The business world is full of gatekeepers. Your ability to obtain financing, find business partners, network, and even retain customers may depend on signifiers beyond your control. Historically, white men over 35 have controlled the levers of entrepreneurship in the United States. Fortunately, the advent of the Internet and technology has largely reversed this dynamic. Young inventors and entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds have changed the landscape, paving the way for a new generation of diverse business innovators.
However, while these changes opened the door for young entrepreneurs, it did not make the path easy, especially for teenagers. When I started my first startup, Milan Farms, I was 16 years old. Over the next few years, I focused on new ventures, including Guin Records, an artist-run hip hop label that I co-founded with my sister, Misha. While becoming a serial entrepreneur in my youth came with many sleepless nights, it taught me a number of important lessons about myself, my businesses, and the pursuit of success.
More than anything, I want to help young entrepreneurs make the world a better place for all of us, and I hope I can bring some pearls of wisdom to make the process a little easier.
Learn and absorb all you can
The prevailing thinking among young entrepreneurs is that innovation should take precedence over everything else. After all, we often throw most of the problems that exist in the world on baby boomers and other generations past, so why should we listen to what they have to say? Moreover, the vast majority of very successful entrepreneurs have been industry switches – they came up with ideas that completely revolutionized outdated processes and products.
However, innovating does not mean ignoring the voices of past generations. On the contrary, learning from our elders is one of the only ways that we can find new methods of examining existing problems.
It’s not all about age either. To build a successful business, you must be prepared to absorb knowledge wherever you can find it. Become a lifelong learner. Whether you spend hours on YouTube, listen to other young entrepreneurs, take classes, read, or do your own research, you should always find ways to find out more. In doing so, you can approach problems from both a new and revolutionary perspective, while remaining grounded in the collective knowledge of current and past innovators.
Related: 5 Tough Sacrifices You Need To Make To Become A Successful Teen Entrepreneur
Don’t use your age as a crutch
It’s tempting to use age barriers as an excuse or crutch when the going gets tough. While this can make setbacks and setbacks a little less painful, ultimately it will be much more difficult to overcome them. Starting a business at any age is difficult, especially when you haven’t even finished high school. As a result, you will likely be encouraged to wait or risk facing insurmountable obstacles along the way.
For example, when I started working on Dormzi and Guin Records, I was surrounded by opponents. It wasn’t that people didn’t want to support me. In fact, many of them just wanted to protect me from disappointment. Nonetheless, I had to walk through those voices and believe that I had what it took to run my own business at such a young age.
This also applies to adolescents who have already taken the step into entrepreneurship. You will inevitably face an uphill battle, especially with people who think you are too young or inexperienced to run a business. While you should definitely listen to skeptics, you shouldn’t let this mindset affect your will to succeed, and you shouldn’t react emotionally. At the end of the day, you can’t be successful without believing in yourself. If you start to believe that you are too young to be successful, it will come true. Therefore, never allow yourself to use your age as an excuse or allow others to make you doubt your potential based on your age. Use your age as an advantage: you have more energy than you probably will ever have, more motivation to build, more motivation to learn, and probably the least responsibility you will ever have.
Related: 19-Year-Old Scottish Teen’s Cancer Drives Entrepreneurial Success
Stay up to date with the latest trends
From a cultural point of view, the differences between each generation are more and more marked. Just a few years ago, millennials were seen as the generation embodying the latest trends. Then the torch has been passed to Gen Z. Now talking heads and experts are already looking to Gen Alpha as the latest trendsetters – until the next generation comes in to replace them.
These constant cultural changes can make it difficult to feel up to date with the latest trends, even as a teenager. With technology and social media accelerating the pace of change faster than some people can process, it can seem like a burden to stay on top of all the news. However, as a young entrepreneur, it is essential to stay abreast of new technologies, cultural trends and business ventures.
The bottom line
I’m not going to water down: teenage entrepreneurs will have a hard time being taken seriously and opening doors. In many cases, you will have to work twice as hard as older contractors to gain a foothold. Even if your business is up and running, you will still have to put in long hours and many sacrifices in order to grow and prosper. Fortunately, this is not all bad news. While every entrepreneur’s journey is a little different, most love what they do. So, if you know this is the way for you, I hope these tips can open a window to my experiences and help young entrepreneurs build fulfilling and revolutionary businesses for future generations.