Friday, June 12, 2009

The pros and cons of starting young


An article on USA Today recently dealt with young people, particularly those who are forced to start their own businesses because of limited job opportunities today. In fact, the 16-to-19-year-old unemployment rate in April was measured at a high 21.5%. But even before the crisis started, there was already a sizable number of teens and tweens who were their own boss. The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy says that in 2006, the latest available data, there were 492,000 people younger than 25 who were self-employed.

Three examples were featured in the article. One is a college student who earns extra money by giving drumming lessons and performing onstage. Another is a girl who made a fortune out of marketing a hair-conditioner, the recipe of which is a family secret. The last is a girl as well that, frustrated with off-the-shelf body care products, decided she’d experiment and create her own.

They all became successful, but not before overcoming difficulties, some being specific to their age. First, obviously, is their lack of experience. Be it life experience or business experience, they didn’t have the luxury of having much of either to draw from. Then there’s the tough task of juggling work, school, and other activities normal kids their age do. Finally, being young makes it that much harder to convince other people to trust you, which means you often need to perform above par just to be treated seriously.

That said, starting early gives you a lot of advantage in the long run. By running a business, you learn infinitely more compared to taking a job elsewhere. A sense of responsibility becomes ingrained as you feel tied to the work that you do. Being young, it’s also easier to accept rejection, or at least get used to it, so that you accept it as part of the learning processes. And last, teens are definitely much more tech-savvy than older generations. Being connected comes natural, and they can utilize the full potential of available technologies much more readily simply due to earlier exposure.

Have you started your own business as a teen? What were the difficulties that you encountered then?

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