Tips for Aspiring High School Entrepreneurs
Shows like Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank have increased the popularity of entrepreneurship among teenagers. With job security becoming less common, more and more high school students are starting their own businesses. This is one of the most impressive things a high schooler can do.
Admissions officers at top colleges are increasingly looking for entrepreneurial students, so there are many advantages to starting your entrepreneurial journey in high school.
If you have an entrepreneurial mindset and are always looking for new opportunities, starting your own business may be the best option for you. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Find Something You’re Passionate About
First businesses don’t have to last forever or make billions, but it’ll be more fun and manageable if it’s something you’re passionate about. You’ll face challenges no matter what in a new business, so it’ll be easier to manage if it’s an industry or topic you care about.
Additionally, if you have a skill that is not common, starting a business related to it can make you appear more credible and knowledgeable from the beginning. This can help you achieve success more quickly. Not only will you be ahead in terms of understanding and interest in the topic, but you can also tell potential customers about your past experience in the industry. This is a great way to establish yourself as a reliable choice in a particular field, even if you are new to the business.
If you’re looking to build a business, it’s helpful to have a unique skill, hobby, or talent related to what you want to do. However, even if you don’t have one of those things, it’s still possible to find something you’re passionate about. The most important thing is to make sure you’re interested in the business idea you’re pursuing—if you’re not, it’ll be hard to get other people interested.
Identify a Problem to Fix
The best way to get sales in any business is to solve your customer’s problem. See if there’s a solution you can create to fix it. It could be a problem you see in your day-to-day life or a larger-scale problem you see in our society or the world.
Even though it may be difficult, it is important to try and find problems that do not yet have a solution. Another way to be innovative is to look at current solutions and see if there is a way to make them better, faster, or cheaper. Doing this will make customers’ lives easier and is almost as good as solving their problems.
Find a Mentor
Mentors can help set young entrepreneurs up for success by teaching them the ropes, making helpful introductions, providing industry-specific feedback, and pointing them in the right direction.
Many successful people are flattered by a younger person asking for their mentorship and will go out of their way to connect you and help you succeed. Entrepreneurship is the best place to seek out these mentors because people in this field like to help others achieve their goals.
The entrepreneurial community relies heavily on connections and friendships, which can be advantageous for teenagers and high school students. Adults who are successful in their field are often more willing to help the next generation achieve success, rather than just furthering their own careers. Therefore, it is beneficial to find a mentor.
If your business idea requires startup capital, you’re in luck because there are many ways to get funding these days. However, if you don’t think you need funding, investing in yourself and your business can be the best use of your money. If you’ve decided that you need outside funding, the first option is to start with friends and family. Many companies that have gone on to be successful started with money from friends and family.
Friends and Family
If you want to raise money from friends and family, you should present your idea as a business opportunity, and be clear about how much money you need and what it will be used for. Keep track of any funding you do receive. If you need more money than friends and family can provide, you could crowdfunding or applying for an accelerator.
The main benefit of a crowdfunding campaign is that is allows you to test the market for your product before investing a lot of money into it. This ensures that you are creating something that people are actually interested in buying. There are two types of crowdfunding, rewards-based and equity-based. For a first-time entrepreneur, rewards-based crowdfunding is simpler to use.
If you determine that your idea is more of a business-to-business offer, or simply something that won’t resonate with a crowdfunding campaign, you may want to go the startup incubator or accelerator route. Startup accelerators have become very popular over the past ten years, with most notably Y Combinator, but many similar peers like 500 Startups, Techstars, and many more. A quick Google search can help you identify the various startup accelerators and determine which if any are right for your business.
Applying for an accelerator program could result in you receiving $100,000 in funding and admission into the program of your choice. This is definitely something worth looking into.
If you have connections to investors, high net worth individuals, or friends or family working in Silicon Valley, you may want to pursue the angel investor or venture capital route. However, you should be aware that these types of investors often expect outsized returns on their investment, so if you aren’t planning to give up 20% equity or more and don’t think a $10+ million dollar valuation is likely in the near future, you may want to hold off on this option.
Check out our ebook: Personal Finance For Teens to learn about investing, starting a business, and other financial topics.
How to Become an Entrepreneur
1. Identify profitable startup ideas.
A successful startup begins with an idea. Here are some creative techniques for thinking of a product or service:
Ask your friends what frustrates them.
In order to be profitable, a product or service must address a problem or frustration that people are willing to pay to have resolved.
What frustrates your friends?
Founders get inspiration from their frustrations all the time. For instance:
- Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp started Uber after they had trouble getting a cab.
- Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail founded Venmo (acquired by PayPal) after they had trouble paying each other back by check.
- Chris Riccobono launched UNTUCKit— a line of shirts that look good untucked — after getting frustrated with how wrinkly and ill-fitting his regular button-down shirts were when he didn’t tuck them in.
Ask your friends to write down the things that bother them on a daily basis and then go through their lists to see if there are any problems you could potentially solve.
Get inspired by other emerging startups.
If you’re looking to temporarily escape the world of screens, try poking around in a bookstore – especially the magazines. It’s expensive to print and distribute printed magazines, so you know there is an audience for anything still in print. Crowdsourcing your next great idea can be as simple as taking a stroll through an online or brick-and-mortar store. To get started, browse through Product Hunt for the latest and greatest in digital offerings, or explore Kickstarter for some new and innovative physical products. And if you need a break from all things screen-related, head to your nearest bookstore for some good old-fashioned inspiration.
There are also a lot of product review sites that may help you come up with ideas. Try Uncrate, Werd, and Wirecutter.
Identify trends to future-proof your idea.
As the world changes and people’s needs evolve, new products are created in response to those needs. For example, the rise of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft resulted in a need for a third-party app that would tell users the cheapest fares at any given moment.
If you want to be ahead of the game, read trend predictions for your industry or market, or check out universal trend forecasting publications like Trend Hunter and Springwise. Then ask yourself, “If these predictions come true, which tools will be necessary?”
2. Identify and focus on a growing category (or categories).
Stephen Key, an expert in licensing and intellectual property, recommends picking a category to focus on that fascinates you but isn’t too competitive.
“I avoid industries that are notoriously challenging, like the toy industry. There are so many people creating in that space,” he explains. “You will have an easier time licensing your ideas if you focus on categories of products that are growing as well as receptive to open innovation.”
Key recommends that you research all of the products in the category you have chosen.
- What are each product’s benefits, and how do they vary?
- What’s their packaging and marketing strategy?
- What do reviewers say?
- What are the potential improvements?
Once you’ve picked a product, consider questions like:
- What can be done to improve it?
- Can I add a new feature?
- What about a different material?
- Can I personalize it somehow?
3. Fill an underserved demand.
There’s no need to come up with a new idea if there aren’t enough good ones already. A lot of people become successful entrepreneurs by recognizing an opportunity that isn’t being fulfilled by anyone else. For example, let’s say you realize that there’s a lack of good sales outsourcing services. Since you have experience with sales and account management at tech startups, you might decide to fill this need.
4. Make something better (or cheaper) than what’s out there.
If you can offer an existing product at a lower price point, better quality, or ideally, both, you’ll have plenty of customers since there is an existing demand for the product.
As you go about your day, jot down everything you use. Then, take a look at the list and see if there’s anything you could improve upon.
- Network with other entrepreneurs: Use Meetup or Eventbrite to find events in the local startup community. Not only will networking with other entrepreneurs help you build valuable relationships, but it’ll also give you lots of ideas. For some quick tips on how to network efficiently and meaningfully as an entrepreneur, check out our video guide here.
5. Validate your startup idea with buyer persona research.
It’s great that you have an idea, but don’t quit your day job just yet. You need to make sure that other people will actually want your product before you go all in. (Your friends and family don’t count.)
To see if your product will be successful in the market, you need to first understand your buyer persona. This is the group of real people that you plan to sell your product to. If your product doesn’t serve a need that they have, they won’t be interested in it, no matter how innovative it is. That’s why doing market research and understanding your buyer persona is so important.
When you have figured out who your ideal client is, it is important to do interviews with people who match that description. Give them a demo of your product and ask them what they think of it, what they would be willing to pay for it, and how often they would use it.
If you want to test the market’s interest in your product or service before building anything, you can create a landing page that describes what you’re offering. Ask people to submit their email addresses in exchange for early access, a free subscription or membership, product discounts, updates, or some other compelling offer. Then, promote the landing page on social media, paid search, etc., and see how many visitors convert to sign-ups.
Homeschooling moms, the experts agree: "Personal Finance for Teens" is the must-have eBook that sets your teens up for a financially secure future.
Get Started Now!
Most startup mentors, consultants, and accelerators advise newbies and aspiring entrepreneurs to start as soon as possible. The earlier you attempt your idea, the sooner you know what will work and what won’t. There’s no benefit in delaying out of fear or uncertainty. The same fear and concerns will be there now as they will next year, but the first person to launch the idea will be the first one to identify, fix, and move beyond any initial problems they encounter.
There are many reasons and excuses people use to delay taking action, but if you want to be successful as an entrepreneur, you can’t let yourself get bogged down. Your competition is waiting for you to slip up so they can take your idea and run with it. It’s better to take the plunge and give it your all now.
Pursuing entrepreneurship as a teenager is a great way to learn essential skills and experience huge personal growth. Even if your business doesn’t end up being successful, the process of starting and running it will teach you a lot about yourself and the world around you. Don’t be discouraged if your first try doesn’t work out – the important thing is that you gave it a shot and learned from the experience.