Teen entrepreneurs are on the rise.
According to a recent Gallop poll, 43 percent of students in grades 5 to 12 want to be an entrepreneur.
Some are accidental teen entrepreneurs, like A Million Thanks founder Shauna Parisi.
Other kids, like 8-year-old serial entrepreneur Neva Lee Recla, are following in their parents’ entrepreneurial footsteps.
The role of “teen boss” can be extremely rewarding and teach life lessons you would never learn inside the classroom.
As Shauna explains, “You are learning from experience – how to set goals, how to meet deadlines, how to fail and start again, and how to network. To master those skill sets while in high school will set you up for so much success in the future.”
But though there are many teen entrepreneurs crushing it, being a teen boss isn’t for everyone.
It can be a hard road at times and there are obstacles you have to be willing to face head-on.
Entrepreneurs Shauna and Neva share what it really takes to be a teen boss.
Teen Entrepreneurs Lesson 1: Prepare for Extra Responsibilities (And Sacrifices)
There’s a quote by Jerry Rice that says, “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.”
Part of being a teen entrepreneur means taking on extra responsibilities. That may mean spending time working on your business when your friends are heading to the football game or the movies.
Shauna says, “I missed about 25% of my sophomore year because I was traveling so much for A Million Thanks. Television interviews in New York, meeting the President in the White House, speaking to students around the country. These things took me away from Friday night football games and going to movies with friends, and occasionally left me feeling ostracized because my high school experience wasn’t the same as everyone else’s.
“But I also got to do and see things that most people my age (or any age) would never get to do. I got to have a private tour of the Pentagon and meet celebrities at events and even be in a national television commercial promoting A Million Thanks. But I truly feel that I gained a lot of life experience having to balance my life and prioritize.”
Teen Entrepreneurs Lesson 2: Break Through Ageism
I remember being right out of college, in my early 20s, and feeling like absolutely no one took me seriously.
You may have felt this way yourself at one point or another.
Now imagine being eight!
That’s what Neva has to face as a young entrepreneur.
“There have been some put-downs where I’ve been told, ‘Business is only for adults.’ I run the business Hot Clothes for Kids, a fashion business. A lot of people have said, ‘No, kids can’t use the word hot in their business. No, kids can’t run businesses.’ I’m still overcoming that.”
While you certainly can’t control how someone else acts, you can control how you handle it.
Act professionally. Meet your deadlines. Put out a superior product or service. Shift their mindset through your own behavior.
And if that doesn’t work, either ignore them or find a way around them.
Teen Entrepreneurs Lesson 3: Learn as You Go
The vast majority of new entrepreneurs have no idea what they’re getting into when they start their businesses.
In fact, many say they would never have had the courage to go for it if they had known.
Spanx founder Sara Blakely says that not knowing industry practices and the things that, allegedly, can’t be done, is critical when you’re starting a business.
She said that because she “had never taken a business class, had no training, didn’t know how retail worked…[she] wasn’t as intimidated as [she] should have been.”
Shauna’s advice is that teen entrepreneurs “Learn by doing.”
“That will be so much more valuable than anything you will learn in a textbook,” she says.
Teen Entrepreneurs Lesson 4: Be Resilient
It’s not always going to be easy and there will be failures along the way.
Learn to see those failures as learning opportunities.
And accept that not everyone may be on board with your dreams.
“Surrounding myself with the right people [was my greatest challenge]” Shauna says. “There’s a saying that goes ‘It’s lonely at the top.’ I quickly learned who my friends were and who in my life would encourage and support my dreams and goals.
It’s so crucial to have friends and family that lift you up; anyone else is just dead weight and going to pull you down.
While it’s often very impressive to be a young entrepreneur, you also have a target on your back put there by naysayers and those who are jealous of your accomplishments or ideas.
And sometimes ignoring those people and their sentiments is difficult, but you will be more resilient because of it.”
Teen Entrepreneurs Lesson 5: Follow Your Instincts
When it comes to starting your business, knowing what products you should launch and even what colors you want to represent your brand… go with your gut instinct. (But always be open to constructive feedback.)
Neva says, “When I was younger, my dad was in the Army and went to Afghanistan. I was very young at the time so my mom and I decided to spend some time traveling. We discovered a conference called CEO Space. It inspired me to say, ‘Hey mom, hey dad, can I have my own business cards?’
“Years later when I was 5, I was at a CEO Space conference and they were doing a tribute to veterans. I decided I wanted to do something to make a difference.”
Witnessing that tribute for veterans inspired Neva to launch her first philanthropic venture, Spreading Light, Love and Pixie Dust. ™
Final Thoughts on Being a Teen Boss
Think you’re ready to be an entrepreneur?
Want to give it a try?
Take Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice and just start selling stuff on eBay!
Visit your local Goodwill or some garage sales and pick up things you know you can sell for more money online.
Or try your local thrift store and sell clothes on eBay.
This is how the #GirlBoss Sophia Amoruso started multi-million dollar retailer Nasty Gal.
Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to start with a “big idea.” Give something simple a try to see if the entrepreneurial bug really bites you and go from there!
And download the flagship issue of Fearless Family magazine to read our full interviews with Neva and Shaua.
Here’s a summary of 5 lessons for Teen Entrepreneurs:
- Prepare for Extra Responsibilities (And Sacrifices)
- Don’t let Ageism stand in your way
- Learn by Doing/Taking Action [there is no magic textbook with all the answers]
- Prepare to be Flexible and Resilient
- Follow your Instincts