While media reports glamorize successful entrepreneurs such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, the WSJ article calls young entrepreneurs an “endangered species.”
Competition is tough. Capital is scarce. The environment rapidly changes. Education is expensive.
So what should society be telling young people about entrepreneurship?
In November, I was involved in an entrepreneurship discussion at Pathways Academy of Technology and Design in Hartford, Conn., along with some other business owners. The discussion was practical and informative, but afterward I realized that it might have done little to inspire and may have inadvertently scared off the high schoolers by emphasizing initial struggles.
Youth MattersIt's been said, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Many entrepreneurs say they wished they started on their path sooner.
Money Adds UpIt’s easy to want to divorce notions about launching a business from capital requirements to inspire young people. But it's better to tell them how much money matters to a business so that they don’t head into life blindfolded.
Tenacity Is SignificantYoung people might view certain businesspeople as somehow inherently different, especially outliers like Apple co-founder Steve Jobs or Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. Everyone has ideas, creativity, and skills. But not everyone applies them consistently toward goals. Geniuses go broke. Rich people lose their money.
The reality is that people are successful not because of what's bestowed them but rather what they do with the gifts they have. Young people need to look within, find their strengths and make the most of them.
Education Carries WeightWould Mark Zuckerberg have launched Facebook if he had dropped out of community college instead of Harvard? It’s likely that instead of showering his business with massive amounts of capital, top venture capitalists wouldn’t have met with him. The name brand of Harvard matters.
Trends Are SignificantEntrepreneurship is now being taught like a subject. High schoolers and college kids around the country are developing ideas for businesses. It’s not surprising that many of these ideas are for mobile apps. But unless you’re launching an app right this second, apps are the past.
Concrete Problems CountA guy near me opened a business straight out of high school hauling away dirt. Everyone needing their property grounds leveled or cleared called him and he built up a big customer base. He then started selling the dirt.
Now that’s a business model: He got paid twice—and for dirt. Twenty years later, he’s reaped a fortune.
With a media full of Zucks and Musks, young people might think successful businesses build only social-network, apps, and rockets. The reality is all over, successful entrepreneurs have figured out how to turn dirt into gold. These stories should be shared.
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