Nearly seven out of 10 young people want to control their own destinies by becoming entrepreneurs. Yet, when the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership surveyed teens about “making a job” versus “taking a job,” it found that most of them feel they lack the know-how to go out on their own. And having no personal connection with a small business owner – a role model – makes it tough for even the most motivated entrepreneur to know where to start.
Here are some been-there-done-that tips from three young entrepreneurs who are making a job for themselves and others.
Don’t go into it thinking you are going to make millions, says Monique Moizel, 27, designer of Topsy Turvy handbags and an emerging clothing line, called Pretty Punk. Though her designs were carried in Nordstrom stores and worn by Hollywood celebrities, Moizel has seen hard times. “The more you save in the beginning, the more you make in the end,” she says. “Try not to have too much overhead. Have friends help. Work out of your house in the beginning.”
Act like you mean business.
And learn as much as you can about the financial side of running a business. Moizel says she wishes she had gained more education and experience before she got started. Take business classes, advises the design-school dropout,”even if you’re just selling something like nail polish.”
Know thy customer.
Chris Pienkowski, 28, is preparing to graduate from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. But he’s not talking to recruiters. Pienkowski has a habit of creating his own jobs by starting businesses (four under his belt already). Pienkowski’s current venture, CoolSource Technologies, Inc. develops and markets groundbreaking educational software. The first product rolls out this fall and is already surpassing projected sales goals. How have they achieved success so quickly?
“The key is talking to potential customers; find out what’s not being offered and what they want to see,” says Pienkowski.
Trust your gut.
“When people tell me I’m crazy is when I know I’m on to something,” he adds. Don’t skip the important step of seeking sound and credible sources for advice.”But at the end of the day, it’s you who makes the decision. No matter what advice you get, ultimately, the decisions are up to you. Leaders are not necessarily entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurs have to be leaders.”
Jason Volk, a 20-year-old accounting major in his third year at the University of Maryland, says that in order to grow a business, you must have the right level of energy and focus. Volk is president and CEO of Alertus Technologies, a wireless communications company that provides emergency warning information to closed communities (university campuses, industrial campuses, government buildings, skyscrapers, etc.). It took him more than a year to take his revolutionary concept to production, assembling a team of technology engineers, securing grant money, and developing the first phase of the system.
“When you come upon an obstacle, define your focus and get past it, adjust your strategy and figure out if you’re pursuing the wrong customer or what,” says Volk, who credits the Hinman CEO program at UM for giving him the support and resources he’s needed to get Alertus going.
Surround yourself with experts.
Volk says it makes no sense to try to do everything yourself. “This is one of the largest challenges,” admits Volk. “But if your concept is good, then everything should flow from there.” Determining the need for your product first is a good idea and isn’t that where it all starts?
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