What do a hairstylist from Texas, a motocross racer from Oregon, and a fashion designer from Puerto Rico have in common? All launched successful businesses while still in college and earned recognition from the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. Their first-person accounts and those of 11 other exceptional young entrepreneurs are contained in “Beyond the Lemonade Stand,” a collection of narratives that attest to the ingenuity and integrity of young business owners.
Memorable success stories include Chiquita Miller-Nolan, who started the first multi-cultural, family-friendly hair salon in her Texas community, and Felix Poll, whose seamless underwear design made him the first Puerto Rican designer with an international product line.
Another highlight is the story of Eric Knopf, a motocross racer who was prompted by a friend’s fatal sports injury to create a company that sells extreme sporting goods and attire with a Christian message. And also notable is Narcedalia Lozano Garza, who created La Paz Comienza con los Niños or “Peace Begins with Children Foundation,” pairing students with orphaned children to teach music, art and science.
In the aftermath of Enron and the age of “The Apprentice,” it is refreshing to read about students who succeed in business without succumbing to deceit, greed or sexploitation. Each chapter contains a different student’s story of developing a product, building a client base, and more. Their challenges are diverse, including battling ageism, dishonest competitors, and taking on too much responsibility at once. Some must sacrifice profits or fire friends for the long-term success of their company. But every student featured ultimately remains true to his/her company’s mission, customers and themselves.
They also offer advice to other budding business-owners. For instance, Knopf recommends “[finding] a mentor who will invest time in you.” He also advises would-be self-starters to “become passionate about your dreams and visions… [and] think outside the box.”
Other lessons highlighted in Beyond the Lemonade Stand include:
- Follow through on your promises to build customer loyalty and company credibility.
- Go the extra mile by writing thank you notes and taking on additional work.
- Be FEATS (Friendly, Ethical, Ambitious, Time-Oriented and Savvy).
- Do your research so that you know your industry, product, target audience, and competition inside and out. But if you don’t know something, be honest and go find the answer!
- Don’t cut corners – you’ll regret it when you provide an imperfect product or even lose a customer.
- Keep accurate financial and legal records to avoid scrutiny from the IRS and the like.
Though the young writers’ advice sometimes errs on the side of sounding trite (how many times has someone told you to “think outside the box” or that “success is a journey”?), many of the phrases they use are repeated because they are true. If any student knows business, it is this student, whose been there, done that (and possibly sold the t-shirt, too). Reading these truisms from a peer will probably make more of an impact than reading, say, Donald Trump’s “The Way to the Top” (and it may also instill more realistic expectations).
On a more technical note, however, the entrepreneurs’ photos and bios are printed in the center of the book, which forces the reader to flip back and forth every time he/she wants to read an author’s bio. Why not just put them at the end of each chapter?
Also, most of the budding business people write in a simple, straight-forward, style (after all, this isn’t Corporate Law 101), but some probably make better business-owners than writers. A few of the chapters are unfocused, as the authors list multiple business ventures, describe their products in vivid, technical detail, and recount every obstacle to their company’s success. Ironic isn’t it, when some admit that they should have delegated responsibility and focused their entrepreneurial energy on a few tasks, rather than trying to do it all? The same rule applies to writing.
Still, despite a few minor quibbles, the enthusiasm and ambition of these students shine through, serving as an inspiration and a reminder that, even during economic downtime, the entrepreneurial spirit flourishes.
© 2008, Young Money Media, LLC. All rights reserved.