You may not believe it, but you don't need a suit and years of experience to enjoy business success. Julian Hall, of Ultra Education, teaches school students up and down the country about how to start a business – or entrepreneurship, as it's known in the lingo. Today, he's talking to us about how to become a young entrepreneur.
I’ve heard a lot about entrepreneurship. I know it’s got something to do with The Apprentice but not much more than that. Can you explain?
Entrepreneurship is about being able to think creatively so that you can solve problems, improve on something that already exists or create something new. Some entrepreneurs make money from this and others, like social entrepreneurs, use that creativity to help those less fortunate in society.
But ultimately entrepreneurs love what they do and are really passionate about making a difference.
I have a great idea but I’m only 14. How do I get myself listened to?
Well the great thing about entrepreneurship is that age is nothing but a number. There are lots of young entrepreneurs, some as young as seven! You can get yourself listened to in a number of ways.
'You're never too young to have an idea – there are entrepreneurs as young as seven!'
First thing to do is discuss your idea with a parent or even a teacher at school. Find an adult in your family or community who is willing to give you a voice. Call up your local paper or radio station, tell them about your idea and ask them to give you an interview. Approach a local business person and ask them to give you some advice.
How can I turn an idea into a business when I’m only a teenager?
A business is simply your ability to sell a product or service. In fact, you’ve probably already experienced this if you’ve ever been paid for baby sitting, clearing the garden, washing cars or sold at the school fair.
The next step up is to do it on a regular basis and let lots of people know. Imagine you told everyone on your street or area about any of those services mentioned above? You could have more work than you could handle!
Or you buy a product and sell it for a profit. My daughter who’s only nine years old buys lip balms from the US for $2 and sells them for £5!
How can I make sure people don’t take advantage of me?
Always make sure that an adult parent, family friend or teacher knows what you are doing and whom you are getting help from. If you’re buying a product or providing a service, let them know who your customers are.
If you’re worried about anything at all, let them know immediately. Business can be a lot of fun but you have to make sure that you’re sensible and that an adult knows exactly what you’re doing at all times.
I don’t want to start a business so having ideas isn’t relevant to me, is it?
The world’s greatest inventors were just that, inventors, not business people. Some of the best employees are entrepreneurial in their thinking but don’t run a business. The best way to get ahead is to nurture your ability to come up with innovative solutions to problems. People love to know a better, faster, cheaper, easier way of doing things and you have an idea, then shout about it!
Do I need a mentor? If so where do I find one?
Think of a mentor as someone who you can talk to about your business or business idea who has the experience to give you good advice.
Mentors are everywhere. Ask your school if they have a mentoring programme firstly. Secondly ask someone in your careers department if they are planning to have a business person pop in to talk.
If your school has an alumni group, you can ask the teacher or student in charge of it to send out an email with some information about you, your idea and need for mentorship.
Can I drop out of school and still be successful as a young entrepreneur?
I’m sure you’ll have heard about young entrepreneurs who didn’t finish school and made it big in business. Entrepreneurship provides people of all types with the opportunity to become successful and you don’t have to be super academic to do so.
However, school is really important because it gives you the basics needed to being successful in business. As an entrepreneur, you have to communicate effectively with people on a daily basis. You’ll need to have good presentation skills, be able to handle numbers and write a lot! Also your understanding of the world and yourself is going to be a tremendous asset to you as a young entrepreneur so I would stay in school if you can.
Entrepreneurs work long hours! Will I get to spend time with family and friends?
Great question! It’s true that entrepreneurs do work long hours however the way to remedy this is twofold.
Firstly if you’re doing something you really love then doing it won’t seem like work so choose your business carefully as you’ll be spending lots of time with it. Secondly, get your friends and family to help you out from day one. That way they’re involved, the workload is spread and you’ll have more time to spend with them.
I have a few ideas. How do I know which one is best?
Entrepreneurs and those who think like them come up with great ideas all the time. Well an idea is just that, an idea. The most definitive way to work out if you have a good idea, or to know which idea you should go with is based on whether or not people buy that product or service or use your solution – that’s it!
If people are happy to part with their hard earned cash, or pocket money for whatever it is you’re offering then you’re probably onto a winner. So ask around and get some feedback!
Doesn’t it take a lot of money to start a business?
Not at all! In fact if you work smart you can start a business with zero pounds and pence! Imagine a scenario where someone in your family needs a product or service. If you source that need and ask the provider of that product or service to give you commission each time you refer a customer to you then you’ve not spent any money at all. Lots of businesses have started this way, identifying a need and then growing slowly.
A step up from taking commission is adding a profit margin to that product or service by adding something to it (like delivery, an associated product or service to go along with it) to make it more valuable to the customer.
If you're an ideas person, you should seriously consider turning one of your best and brightest into a business! As Julian says, you wouldn't be alone. Hear from four young people who made it big just a few years after leaving education.