Startup Diaries: Being Young and in Business

[Startup Diaries is a new original series of articles from Yahoo! Small Business Advisor that chronicles the day-to-day and week-to-week struggles of a variety of startup and new small businesses.]

Amanda Kaiser and her husband purchased astruggling New Orleans coffee shop in October 2011. After nearly a year inbusiness, Hurricane Isaac hit in August 2012, causing significant propertydamage that has closed the doors at Avenue Cafe.

Owning a smallbusiness as a young person -- I was 26 when my husband and I purchased ourcoffee shop -- offered up some unique challenges and issues that I did notexpect. I have always worked hard for everything, including working 30-hourweeks while attending a full-time elite university. So I was shocked when Iused that hard work ethic to go after my dreams and faced many who assumed thatas a young business owner, I must have had some incredible advantage orassistance.

Ageism issomething I had not yet experienced in my life, but that I quickly became awareof. My husband is four years older than I am, but it seems that he was not facedwith as much ageism. As a feminist I wonder if it is because he is male, but Iwill leave that rant for another place and time. Since we purchased thebuilding two weeks before I gave birth to my daughter, I was not in the shop ona regular basis until about two months into the business ownership. I dealtwith many things from home, but after a bit of recovery I was able to offer myhusband a much-needed break from the daily running of the business.

Imagine myshock, and annoyance, when one of the first mornings I was behind the counterworking alongside one of our employees, a regular customer realized I was oneof the owners. No congratulations or wishing of luck, but instead the insultingremark of, "Oh, your husband bought you this business. That's nice."

Inside I wasfuming, and outwardly a bit speechless, but as a business owner I maintained myprofessionalism and said that actually we purchased it together, and run ittogether. He did not know what to say, so the conversation was over. I couldnot unleash the verbal attack I wanted to, putting him in his place by statingthat actually I managed the finances in our home. And if any one person wasresponsible for us buying a business at a young age, it was my tight budget.Rather, I had to realize that it was better for business to politely smilerather than lose a customer, or worse, get a bad review on an online site withsomething written about the crazy feminist owner who attacks customers.

That was theonly blatantly ageist thing said to me by a customer, but our employees seemedto struggle with working for younger bosses. On purchasing the business therewere three employees, all older than my husband and myself. One left in lessthan a month, and another left after about three months. It was clear that theemployee who stayed about three months really struggled with the agedifference, but it was something neither my husband nor I brought up. I eventried to let my husband handle employee issues since I was younger, thinking itwas too uncomfortable for them. The final employee left for unrelated reasons,and the employees we hired and that stuck around seemed to be closer in age tous.

I generally triedto avoid the age thing altogether, but invariably new employees would ask myage and then be shocked that I was married, had two children, and a business.My only response was that I am impatient and know what I want. I am sure otheryoung people have had similar issues in terms of business. Thecomputer/technology realm is probably the one exception, where startups are knownfor being run by fresh-faced entrepreneurs.

Embrace beingyoung in business because it gives you more freedom, as you are willing to takerisks. You also have time to rebuild if the first venture does not work out.Furthermore, wherever you go after being a business owner, you have anincredible advantage for all that you have learned.

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