10 Strategies to Start a Business as a Teenager

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Cheerleaders © by Kevin (2008)

I started my first company, Buzz Marketing Group, when I was 16. So I definitely have some experience being a teenpreneur. I was so lucky and fortunate to start my business at that age. Even though it was tough, there were so many more benefits. So if you’re a teenpreneur or know of a teenpreneur, here are some of my tips.

  1. Go ahead, try it. The best thing about being a teenpreneur is that you can try anything! There is literally nothing holding you back. Make sure you keep a notebook with you at all times to jot down ideas as they come. You can make your dreams a reality.
  2. Use your resources. I was so fortunate to really kick my company into high gear when I was in college. My “Introduction to Business” professor eventually became my business mentor, working with me on my business plan that I still use 10 years later. I could have never paid for the one-on-one time she gave me. I also frequently sought advice from my professors in journalism, psychology, and statistics. Don’t waste these opportunities to build your business.
  3. Get involved. While I was a student, I not only ran my business, but also played field hockey, basketball, softball, edited my yearbook, and served as president of student council. Yes, I was a bit of an overachiever, but I liked being active and keeping a schedule. And the early practice definitely contributes to my success today. Teenpreneurs perfect the art of keeping a full schedule. I know so many adults who frequently cancel meetings and can’t seem to keep it together. But a teenpreneur who’s used to keeping a schedule? They rarely miss a beat.
  4. Hang out with your friends. Your life should never be all about work. There are definitely times when you’ll have to make a major investment into your business, and that investment will be your time. Success comes with hard work. There is no way around it. But you do have to carve out time to play hard, too!
  5. If you’re making money, save it. When you’re young, you don’t always plan for a rainy day. It will come – I promise! It’s ok to splurge on an item here and there, but save as much as you can. You’re in the best place to save money. You don’t have a mortgage or expenses associated with living on your own yet. It’s never too early to start investing or purchasing stock.
  6. Go to boring lectures. That’s right. That boring speaker that you have no interest in seeing? Go see them. You never know what they can do for you. Whether you’re in high school or college, you need to take advantage of networking with people your school brings in for special programs. Always have your business cards available. Which brings me to my next point…
  7. Get business cards. It’s never too early to start branding yourself. There are websites (I’ve used them!) where you can get professional logos for as little as $200. The same designers are usually willing to negotiate with you for additional work on letterhead, business cards, etc. It’s worth the investment to have professional materials.
  8. Barter services. If you have a friend who’s a genius when it comes to accounting, or you know someone who is an amazing artist, barter with them for their services. The more you can get for free, the faster you can grow your business. You don’t need big time capital (unless you’re building the next Facebook). Most business, like my own, start from nothing. I had a word processor and my parents’ phone line. I bartered a lot early on, and as a result, I own 100 percent of my business today.
  9. Create a referral program. It’s never too early to find creative ways to incentivize people to bring you even more business. Offer current clients discounts for referring you to new clients. And hire your friends to help you promote your business. They’ll love the opportunity to make extra cash and gain experience too.
  10. Start another business. My only regret in business is not starting another one sooner! One thing you’ll learn in life is that you need more than one income stream. Ideally, you’d have three to four. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really not. My youngest brother, who is 21, has at least four jobs at all times. He’s a student a Berklee School of Music, so he uses his talents to supplement his income. He has an on-campus job, offers private piano lessons and music transcription services, engineers sessions, and frequently “gigs” at weddings and other events on weekends.

Tina Wells, CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, earned her B.A. in Communication Arts graduating with honors from Hood College in 2002. She is the author of the tween series Mackenzie Blue, published by HarperCollins Childrens Books.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.

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