According to a survey by the Kauffman Foundation, the decision to start a business- over choosing other careers- has risen for young adults aged 18-21, from 19% in 2007 to 25% in 2010. No doubt young people around the world are seeing that entrepreneurship can create opportunities for them unlike those offered by any other career path. In the US, for example, The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, which tracks early-stage entrepreneurial activity, found that in 2010 almost 5.5% of Americans aged 18-24 were launching early-stage businesses- and a good number of these entrepreneurs are succeeding at a tender age.
Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook at age 20 and started swimming in wealth when he was still in college. Zuckerberg is now one of the wealthiest people in the world, valued at more than $34 billion. Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google when they were both 25. British entrepreneur Carl Churchill started his first Web design business at age 12. Today he’s worth more than $10 million. Juliath Brindak began creating sketches of characters at age 10, and then developed a complementary social-media platform at age 16. Her company, Miss O & Friends is now worth an estimated $15 million.
The list of young and successful entrepreneurs goes on and on. It is awe-inspiring to think about how early these entrepreneurs got their start.
But, what exactly are these entrepreneurs doing right that’s making them succeed while still being so young and inexperienced? What can entrepreneurs at any age learn from them?
Here are eleven key things that make entrepreneurs wildly successful at a young age:
1. They keep an eye out for opportunities and then capitalise on them.
As a student, George Burgess had trouble finding any useful apps to help him prepare for his A-levels. The fact that there are numerous apps in the market for just about anything you can think of, and that none of them helped students get through their education struck him as an ideal opportunity for investment. He capitalised on this gap and built the app that made him tremendously rich. In a similar fashion, Nick D’Aloisio, at only 17, designed an app that Yahoo paid $30 million for. He credits an eye for spotting market disparities as his catalyst for becoming an entrepreneur. These successful young entrepreneurs are problem solvers. Focusing on needs and finding solutions to problems is what gets them noticed.
2. They use initiative and work really hard.
The only way to build something great is to work really hard and really smart. An entrepreneur needs to spot opportunities and then take it upon himself to step in and fill that need. When James Murray Wells was a college student in Britain, he realized that there wasn’t an online e-retailer for eyeglasses so he took the initiative and quickly filled that need. He earned $4 million his first year. According to Facebook’s Zuckerberg, you should devote yourself to what you are doing as an entrepreneur and if this means missing a few nights out then so be it.
3. They utilise people that can help them grow.
No entrepreneurial venture really succeeds without utilising the right people. Successful entrepreneurs know this. They utilise the power of other successful and well-known people (like the “sharks”) to build credibility. Not connecting with the right people can cost you your success as an entrepreneur.
4. They minimise the effort spent on operation of the business.
Successful entrepreneurs understand the necessity to grow their business in as many different ways as possible in order to reach more people. This could be really costly and inefficient; but instead of skipping it, successful entrepreneurs make use of tools to help them achieve the purpose. They know that with a wise tool that can facilitate them to manage different selling channels effectively is halfway to success. Tools like Shopify minimises the operation costs of the business by facilitating selling of products and services across different channels, so entrepreneurs can concentrate on the strategies of growing the business.
5. When it comes to taking risks, they just do it.
No ‘analysis paralysis’, here. These successful entrepreneurs just do it. They take risks. From dropping out of college to playing the stock market and venturing into new industries, these entrepreneurs are risk takers. James Murray Wells used his student loans as capital to launch what he called a “recession-proof business.” Michael Dunlop dropped out of high school after his dyslexia had teachers telling him he’d never be successful. He founded IncomeDiary.com, which today earns him a hefty six-figure income. The most successful entrepreneurs are not risk-averse.
6. They work with their hobbies and natural talents.
Mike McDonald, a Canadian with a knack for gambling, started toying with online poker at the age of 15. He was feeling pressured to get a job by his parents, but he didn’t want to do the usual teen gig. So he leveraged his hobby for gambling and natural gift for poker and became a millionaire as a teen. Today he is worth more than $5 million. Joe Penna, better known as Mystery Guitar Man, says, “Every single person I know who is successful at what they do is successful because they love doing it.” You’ve got to find what you love. Successful entrepreneurs do what they love and love what they do.
7. They adapt and continually come up with great new ideas.
Successful entrepreneurs not only take initiative, but also make fast decisions and adjust along the way- quickly! That’s because people tire of commodities fast, and if you don’t create something new and interesting, you will get left behind. Bill Gates- who himself dropped out of Harvard to co-found Microsoft with Paul Allen, and was the youngest billionaire in the world at just 31 years old- revealed the secret to his phenomenal success saying, “In three years, every product my company makes will be obsolete. The only question is whether we will make them obsolete or somebody else will.”
Constantly adapting, improving, and putting a bit of yourself and your personality into your products is what will keep people begging for more.
8. They innovate and create their own markets.
Successful entrepreneurs go beyond just creating better versions of what is already in the market. They also invest their time and resources into creating something totally new, bringing to life systems that are more efficient and/or more stylish. In doing so, they create their own market and offer people better solutions and experiences. No entrepreneur epitomises this innovative genius better than Steve Jobs. Jobs introduced the stylish, high-end Macintosh computers, which etched their own space in the computer market and continue to dominate that market today. Even Bill Gates acknowledged his tech rival’s genius when he said:
“To create a new standard, it takes something that’s not just a little bit different; it takes something that’s really new and really captures people’s imagination—and the Macintosh, of all the machines I’ve ever seen, is the only one that meets that standard.”
9. They improvise and do with whatever is at hand.
Sometimes the products you have need to be modified, or you come into possession of a product that could be fantastic with just a few changes. But, you might not have the resources or material you need to make the product better. Rather than just give up on the project, successful entrepreneurs improvise. Maddie Bradshaw, featured on the TV show Shark Tank along with her younger sister and mom, started by designing locker decorations using soda bottle tops because she couldn’t find anything similar that she liked already on the market. She earned $1.6 million in her first year, and by the time she was 16 she had lured an astonishing three “sharks” to join her as investors and partners.
10. They stay patient and focused as their business grows.
Good things come to those who wait. Knowing how to let things grow and develop, while focusing on doing a variety of tasks that help the process along, is an important part of becoming a successful entrepreneur. Too many people give up too soon because of impatience. But building successful businesses takes time, even for such gifted people as Steve Jobs. Jobs didn’t really get on the map until the Macintosh was invented eight years after he and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Inc. at 21 and 26 years of age respectively. You need to keep focused and stay patient to succeed as an entrepreneur.
11. They diversify and re-invest their riches.
The most successful entrepreneurs diversify and re-invest their riches. This ensures that they never go broke. Gary Martin, a young Irish entrepreneur began running his own nightclub at the tender age of 15 (the drinking ages in the U.K. are vastly lower than in the U.S.). By the time he was 17, he had moved on to property management. By 18, he was worth $20 million and counting. He understood the importance of re-investing and diversifying your wealth. Unfortunately, not all entrepreneurs understand this fact. Andrew Fashion designed mini rocket launchers and was worth more than $2 million by the time he was 20. He then blew it all on women and gambling by the time he turned 22.
It certainly takes smarts to succeed as an entrepreneur.