Start-ups are very much hype at the moment. Success stories of small companies being bought up by the GAFA or consorts are played in loop on TV. It is no wonder then that such stories get people thinking “could I make something like this?”
Usually such process starts with an idea. Then it grows into a plan. But quite often this plan hits a roadblock: someone is already doing “it”, the founder lacks the technical expertise to get through to the next step or “the maths” do not work and it seems impossible to generate meaningful revenue streams… Most of the time then, the idea dies. People are disappointed and see this as a bad experience.
This whole chain is a natural process, geared towards the survival of the fittest. It is the nature of it. I would argue though that this high “mortality rate” should not turn you off. Indeed, I think that even though most ideas do not work, the process in itself is rich in learning. Hence having a go-at-it will always be worthwhile, especially for teenagers.
Over the past few weeks, I have discussed this process with many teenagers and their parents. There are 6 reasons I always like to present as to why teenagers should go through such process and start their own small business:
1) You can start with a super simple idea; it will be easier to implement
Your idea does not need to be the brain child of a rocket scientist. Simple ideas are easier to implement. You should combine your passion with your strongest skill, knowledge or talent. Then you need to apply this combination to solve a problem, for which people (or businesses) are prepared to pay to find a solution.
2) Your idea does not need to be unique; it will require perfect execution
In fact being unique could make your idea more difficult to implement. Being unique means you will need to educate your potential clients much more. When your idea is not unique, you should focus on executing it well. Your key differentiator to competitors is going to be your commitment to do things perfectly. You can also make a big difference by handling clients in the nicest way possible.
3) Your idea does not need to be flawless; you must learn from your mistakes
It is unlikely that you will hit the jackpot at the first attempt. It does not mean though that it will be the end of the road if something goes wrong. There is always something you can learn from mistakes. You must use these mistakes to improve on your idea. Where necessary you should change to a slightly different idea, or your way of doing things.
4) You will develop the right mindset: first, question, then test and last, seek to improve
The process of building a business is about trial and error. It is about making hypothesis, building something in response to this hypothesis, testing what you have built with clients, and learning from the experiment to improve your business. This iterative approach ensures that what you are building is in phase with what clients want. If it does not work, it allows you to find out fast. You can then change and try something else.
5) You will develop invaluable practical skills, that no education can give you
Learning by doing is the most fun and attractive way to learn. No boring conceptual lecture to go through. 100 % geared towards action. Being confronted to a real situation will help you understand how things work in no time. You will see the immediate effects of your decisions. You will be able to have an influence on the next steps.
6) You will meet the right people and will develop a helpful and interesting network
While developing your idea, you should talk to as many persons as possible to get their feed-back, potentially their help and ultimately their custom. Talking to people will help you progress in your thinking as well as in your execution. Each time you speak to someone, ask them who else you should speak to. Collect these contacts preciously and grow your network.
As a conclusion, I would advice you to set the right expectations. If you are a teenager, you should not expect to build a new Instagram or Snapchat in one day…
Instead your aspiration should be to start with something simple, that you can execute well and grow from there. You should also consider the fantastic opportunities that will arise from this experience. It is a case of a win-win situation. The best case scenario is that you might be very successful at your idea. And if your idea does not fly, you will still acquire some very valuable experience and will have met very interesting people along the way.