Is an entrepreneur made...or born? Successful young business owners share how their start-up abilities showed up early in their lives.
The Young Entrepreneur Council asked 14 successful young entrepreneurs about being bitten by the start-up bug early in life. Here are their best answers.
1. A Special Kind of Teenage Angst
I don't think I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I did know I always wanted to be an independent creator. From a very young age, I was writing long stories, starting secret societies, and dreaming up imaginary brands. And as a teenager, I hated that I was expected to work menial summer jobs just to "pay my dues." I think the entrepreneurial seed was planted then, when I got good and mad! --Amanda Aitken, The Girl's Guide to Web Design
2. The Early Quest for Autonomy
In elementary school, I was trying to sell not only my own toys but also, for example, my uncle's products to friends and family for a profit. In high school, I worked part-time jobs for 20 hours a week and used the cash to go to music festivals and on backpacking trips abroad. It was a continuous quest for autonomy, which I have now found as an entrepreneur.
--Christopher Pruijsen, Letslunch.com
3. Custom-Built Computers--Before Dell
In high school, I really wanted a new computer but couldn't afford the ones at Best Buy. So I convinced my cousin to take me to a computer trade show, where I was able to acquire parts from suppliers to build my own for a third of the price. It was a no-brainer then to start doing the same for my friends and their families at a modest profit. It lasted until Dell became mainstream! --W. Michael Hsu, DeepSky
4. Just Some Posterboard and a Suit
When I was 8, I'd create presentations for my parents on posterboards and an easel (this was pre-PowerPoint), put on a suit, and conduct official meetings, where I would carefully lay out my rationale as to why I should get a pet or get my ears pierced. Once I learned what "sales" were, I realized I may have a proclivity for them! --Darrah Brustein, Finance Whiz Kids | Equitable Payments
5. Selling Lost Golf Balls to Golfers!
As a kid, I knew every hidden spot on the local golf course where a golfer might lose his ball. I'd pick them out of the ponds, find them in the thick rough, and in the woods. The next day, I'd sell them back to them at the clubhouse or through my first online business on eBay. --Matt Wilson, Under30CEO.com
6. A Persistent Kid With Big Dreams
I'm not sure I identified, before starting my company, that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. But I definitely displayed signals of having the core skill set necessary to be successful in entrepreneurship. My favorite example is my quest, as a teenager, to become an actress. I didn't have the look or the talent, but I persisted past a million nos to finally land an agent and two commercials. --Lauren Friese, TalentEgg
7. Love of Publishing and Video Games
I didn't know I was a child entrepreneur until I became an adult entrepreneur and realized that writing my own newsletter at the age of 11 was a little ahead of its time. I was your average teenager who loved playing video games and decided that if I printed and distributed reviews, I could receive free "review copies." And thus I was an editor of a video-game newsletter at 11 years old! --Alex Frias, Track Marketing Group
8. Making a Magazine and Lending Library
I used to collect stories from my friends and write my own stories, and then type them up into my own magazine. Then I'd go back to my friends and family and sell them a copy of the magazine. I also had a lending library, where my friends could pay to borrow my books, and I would use the proceeds to buy new books. Cheeky, I know! --Nathalie Lussier, The Website Checkup Tool
9. Serving Countless Sour Clients
When I was young, I set up a lemonade stand right next to my sister's and charged twice her price. I made more money than she did--until people found out it was the same lemonade. I found out you can make a lot of money as an entrepreneur, but that you have to offer the client real, substantial value to sustain it. I was hooked at that point! --Nick Friedman, College Hunks Hauling Junk
10. Rethinking Uniforms
Entrepreneurship is for anyone at any age, but certainly for me and most founders I know, signs were there early on that we'd go down an entrepreneurial path. One of my first ventures was in middle school: A co-founder and I offered more stylish Physical Education uniforms for fellow students. But the school was not pleased with students' popular new PE halter tops...so, on to the next venture! --Doreen Bloch, Poshly
11. Always Open to Opportunities
Having grown up in an entrepreneurial household, I was told from a young age: "If you ever want to make something of your life, you must be an entrepreneur." At the age of 4, I created and sold artwork to my neighbors, and when I realized I could make money at such a young age, I wanted more of it. I continued to brainstorm and create new opportunities every year since then! --Charles Gaudet, Predictable Profits
12. Trading Up for Better Toys
I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. My father was a successful entrepreneur, and this encouraged me to follow his lead. I used to sell the toys I got for Christmas when I was done playing with them and trade up to bigger toys I wanted. I was cutting lawns, shoveling driveways, delivering papers, and detailing cars and boats when I was 10. I wanted to make money! --DC Fawcett, Paramount Digital Publishing
13. Young Master of Partnerships
I started my first business in middle school, when I was 11 years old, by partnering with an artist friend of mine. He would draw people's names artistically on a sheet of paper, and we'd charge 50 cents for the drawing. He was the "manufacturer," and I was the "salesman." We made enough to pay for our lunches every day--up until the principal shut down our gig! --Chad French, PeerFly
14. Constant Convergent Thinking, Early
I wasn't constantly selling or inventing as a child, but I had the knack of thinking of a dozen ways to solve a problem or look at a question. Being able to see lots of options, evaluate them, and make a suggestion paved the way to my work as a consultant, where there is not often one "right" answer. Blame it on being raised by an engineer! --Kelly Azevedo, She's Got Systems
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