Are you a teenager or in your early 20s? Do you have a great business idea? Perhaps you’re already making headway towards starting your own business.
But how do you get others to believe in you and your business idea?
Here are eight surefire ways that you can be taken seriously as a young entrepreneur:
1. Have a Plan
Having a plan means knowing where you want to be and what steps you are going to take to get there. If you can’t communicate this to investors, vendors, distributors, employees, and so on, you will never be taken seriously.
Case in point – SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 – Mollie Breault-Binaghi. Now in her mid-20s, Mollie owns two successful graphic design and printing businesses in Vermont. With input from her boyfriend and her family, she spent considerable time working out the details of a business plan. “When you’re going to be investing not only money but your time, you need to invest an equal amount of energy laying it out on paper before you jump in,” Mollie said. (Read more about Mollie’s story here).
Not sure where to start with your business plan? Check out SBA’s online Build your Business Plan tool—a step-by-step guide to help you get started. Save your plan as a PDF file and update it at any time.
2. Be Serious About Your Passion
While Mollie’s advice for other young entrepreneurs is simple: “Plan!” she also added: “And you have to be passionate about it. Otherwise it’s not worth doing. Owning your own business is not easy and it’s not going to make you rich quick. You’re going to be in it for the long haul, so it’s got to be something you love.”
It’s inevitable that you are going to come across people who are going to try and talk you out of your idea—put your ear muffs on and stand your ground. Be proud of your idea, innovation, or business and be ready to showcase what you’ve done to get this far and what your plans are for the next step.
A few sure fire ways to demonstrate your commitment include:
- Work at it – Be prepared to put the hours and weekends into your business.
- Educate yourself and take educated risks! – Take advantage of free or low-cost business start-up workshops from your local business incubator, Small Business Development Center, Women’s Business Centers and more. Check out free online courses such as those offered by SBA in the Learning Center on this site. Learn about your industry but also what it takes to be a successful business leader/marketer/planner, and so on.
- Stick at it through adversity – Nothing says commitment better than sticking with something even when you feel like throwing in the towel.
- Identify what went wrong and learn from it.
3. Find a Mentor
Many young entrepreneurs struggle to succeed because they don’t have a mentor. Whether it’s a former boss, someone in your business network, or family friend, find a mentor who has experience in your field and has walked in your shoes before. Not only can a mentor provide valuable advice, they can also give you access to contacts, resources, and events that you might not otherwise have access to. If you can’t pinpoint a mentor, check out SCORE – a network of over 13,000 volunteer business mentors who have helped over 10,000 Americans start and grow their businesses.
4. Surround Yourself With the Right People
Just as it’s important to have a mentor, it’s also important to work on being around the right people – as much as you can. Surround yourself with the kind of people who are living the life you want to live or exemplify – they will challenge you and probably tell you things you don’t want to hear, but they’ll also tell you the things you have to hear. Look to entrepreneurial groups, experts in your industry, college professors – those who are respected in your industry or community.
5. Put Yourself in Environments That Will Allow You to Grow
Just as surrounding yourself with the right people will challenge your way of thinking, push yourself to seek out new possibilities beyond your comfort zone. As a series of young entrepreneurs explain this “Advice for Young Entrepreneurs” video from PHP Associates: “Putting yourself in an environment that causes you to be against the wall and maybe is a little uncomfortable, but being around it enough times you start to own it and you start to get a little bit more belief, in increments, in yourself and all that adds up to where you’re comfortable in your own shoes…”
6. Don’t Be Flash with Cash!
One of the surest ways to show you are serious about your business idea is to demonstrate that you can manage your cash and keep it flowing. Look for ways to keep costs low. Consider working part-time when you launch your company; this will help you build your business with less risk and provide you with a steady cash flow from another source. Once you’ve established a base, then transition to full-time business ownership.
You should also utilize technology and the resources around you to keep costs low – think of using garage space to store inventory instead of paying for a warehouse, or use social media to make the most of low-cost marketing.
7. Need Financing? – Do Your Homework
Securing financing as a young entrepreneur can be particularly challenging. Without a credit history or career history, finding someone who will entrust their money to you isn’t going to be easy. But with a solid business plan and commitment to success, investors are out there ready to take you seriously. Here are just some of the options that young entrepreneurs can explore:
8. Look Like a Pro
It goes without saying, or does it? Try to look like you are serious about what you are doing. Whether you are meeting customers, potential partners, mentors or investors – clean up your act. No, you don’t need to wear a suit all the time, but dress appropriately. “Remember, you might need to overcome some preconceived ideas about what teenagers are like, so be sure your looks and your language reflect the fact that you're serious about your business,” advises Young Enterpreneur’s, Adam Toren. “When communicating through email, use spell check and keep slang and abbreviations to minimum. If you're polite, professional and knowledgeable, your potential customers are sure to take you seriously.”
Young entrepreneurs can get more tips and practical guidance about starting a business in SBA’s online course: Young Entrepreneurs - An Essential guide to Starting Your Own Business. Also check out SBA’s Young Entrepreneurs guide for resources and programs to get you started.