More and more, youth are turning to entrepreneurship as their career, starting businesses while in college or just shortly after. Although often admired by peers, these young entrepreneurs are challenged by investors and even clients who are nervous about giving their cash to a 20-year-old with little experience.
Don’t let your youth get in your way of your success. Here, two young entrepreneurs shared their advice on how to be taken seriously as a young entrepreneur.
Focus on Your Reputation.
Anthony-James Green, founder and owner of Green Test Prep, an online SAT and ACT test-prep program, started out as an SAT tutor to make some extra money in college. He put up flyers advertising his tutoring services and had at least 40 calls before he got his first clients. “When they found out how young I was, how inexperienced I was, they were really reluctant to sign up,” says Green.
Rather than get discouraged, however, Green did land a couple of clients and focused on the results he achieved with those students. Credibility issues went away as those students started to achieve results and spread the news among their friends. “If you can do something well for people, they really don’t care how young you are,” he says.
Focus on the Client.
Green’s secret to success was focusing on his clients’ needs, detracting from his own inexperience. “Whenever I talked about myself, the client went dead, because I didn’t have much to say. I was an 18-year-old kid at college without much experience. But when I would ask them what is your daughter good at, what’s she having trouble with, the client would open up,” says Green. Turning the sales conversation away from yourself and focusing instead on asking the client questions about their needs and telling them your game plan for solving their problems is the way to bypass your inexperience.
Act Beyond Your Years.
For Maddy and Alex Hasulak, founders of Love Grown Foods, making clients see past the distraction of their age (21 and 22, respectively, at the time of founding) meant dressing in business attire and conducting themselves with maturity in meetings to help them come off not only as mature beyond their years, but capable as well. “First impressions are really important; especially as a young entrepreneur with no track record,” says Maddy Hasulak.
Surround Yourself With Successful People.
One way to grow up faster as an entrepreneur is to surround yourself with older individuals who have already experienced success. Maddy and Alex Hasulak established a board of advisors early on and brought on some respected names in the industry. “They gave us credibility, especially as we started to raise capital and they also provided incredible advice, input and perspective on challenges we faced as a growing brand,” says Maddy Hasulak.
Leverage Your Age.
Although some young entrepreneurs may face occasional blatant disrespect due to their age and may be tempted to lie about their age in order to appear more competent, in some cases, their youth can give them a leg up. For Maddy and Alex Hasulak, for example, their youthfulness allowed them to shine when it came to pointing out how stagnant things were in their industry and showing the excitement some fresh, young blood would bring into the category.
For Green, his age also proved to be an advantage as it allowed him to connect with his target audience – high school students. “People liked that I was young, I was passionate and enthusiastic,” he says, proving you don’t have to hide your youth to be successful.