group of young professionals high-fiving
From finding a mentor to managing finances, young entrepreneurs often find themselves facing the same challenges as adult entrepreneurs, with some unique characteristics. — Getty Images/DisobeyArt

Launching a business has become easier and more accessible than ever before. Many entrepreneurs are starting up right out of college — or even earlier.

There are countless examples of entrepreneurs who created successful businesses at a young age. Maddie Rae was 12 years old when she launched a line of slime products for kids. Moziah Bridges founded a bow tie business at age 9. Cory Nieves helped found and develop the recipe for a national chocolate chip cookie company when he was just 6.

Often, all it takes is a good business idea and the right help to build a successful company.

“Today more than ever is a perfect time for young entrepreneurs to launch their dreams and learn valuable lessons about running a company,” said Jack Acree, vice president of Saffron Road.

As a 16-year-old, Acree started his first business and said the experience helped inform his decision-making as an adult entrepreneur. However, launching a company at a young age is no simple feat.

The challenges of being a young entrepreneur

The first major challenge for young entrepreneurs is similar to that of adult entrepreneurs: time management. Between school, extracurricular activities and a social life, it can be difficult to schedule in time to create and run a successful company.

It’s important to do your best to manage your time appropriately. For instance, Acree’s business took off over the summer, so he had time off from school to focus on building his company.

Another big challenge is also one shared by “fully grown” business owners: financing. Funding your business is always a challenge, but with no credit history or, in some cases, even a bank account, starting a company can be difficult.

“High school and college students are often denied access to startup capital and their entrepreneurial ideas and plans are left unrealized,” said Michael Time, CEO of the Time Entrepreneurship Foundation.

Time, whose company sponsors the Honor Loan Program, is looking to help reduce funding barriers for young entrepreneurs. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization was incubated at Brown University and is proudly "In the Business of the American Dream." Funding for the Honor Loan Program comes from loan repayment, donors and America Equals merchandise sales.

The best entrepreneurs, at any age, understand how to be master ‘jugglers. [It's] a combination of vision, strategy and execution.

Kara Goldin, founder and CEO, Hint, Inc.

How to start a business in high school or college

Here are a few ways to find success as a young entrepreneur:

Understand how you’ll fund your business

If you’re serious about starting a company, one of the first steps should be creating a plan to find funding. Time and the Honor Loan Program is a perfect example: it offers both funding and guidance for young entrepreneurs looking to start a business.

“‘No Entrepreneur Left Behind’ is one of our mottos,” he said. “We provide support without competition because we believe that all students deserve the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.”

In addition to opportunities like the Honor Loan Program, you can also look into grants and local business competitions.

[Read: Business Lessons from College H.U.N.K.S. Hauling Junk]

Learn to prioritize your time

Time management is essential throughout your career, so young entrepreneurs have an opportunity to learn this important skill early on. Kara Goldin, CEO and founder of Hint, Inc., knows this importance better than anyone.

“The best entrepreneurs, at any age, understand how to be master ‘jugglers,’” she said. “[It's] a combination of vision, strategy and execution.”

Do your best to balance your regular life with your budding career. Start by planning your days and upcoming weeks in advance so you can be prepared to develop your company properly.

Have a plan for operating your business and handling customers

Even with the proper funding and time management skills, you still need a viable business idea and a good plan behind it. Otherwise, your business will flounder. To this end, Goldin noted that young entrepreneurs should learn and recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, and potentially find help where needed to fill in any gaps.

Similarly, Acree said it’s crucial to focus on how you’re going to build and operate your business, especially when it comes to customer service.

“Customer service is key, so you will want to have an opportunity to maintain regular contact with your customers,” he said.

[Read: 6 Customer Service Strategies That Will Boost Sales]

Find a mentor

All great leaders and business owners had mentors at one point. Do your best to find someone who can mentor you through this process. Remember, mentorship doesn’t always have to come from a defined mentor.

“Find at least one adult who is experienced in traditional business (finance, investing, etc.) to serve as a mentor,” said Davina Farahi, founder of Shaya.

Time agreed, advising student entrepreneurs to find mentors “to help answer questions both known and the important ones that are as yet unknown.”

Learn how to manage your finances

Managing finances can be difficult for many people, but it can be especially tricky for young adults. According to Time, the Honor Loan Program partners with schools to provide their students entrepreneurship education and some basic financial management lessons, including how to track their finances and create (and stick to) a budget.

"Aside from student loans, avoid incurring debt, particularly credit card debt," said Time. "Student entrepreneurs are encouraged to allocate a portion of their earnings for savings. We reinforce the importance of saving and investing early, which is key to their future success."

Starting a business at any age is difficult, so don’t get discouraged if you don't see success right away. There’s value in doing things that are hard, and what’s important is learning as much as you can about yourself and the world around you.

"Nurture curiosity by asking questions, assuming and prejudging nothing," Time said. "Ask teachers, parents, nonprofit groups and mentors for support ... and, above all, never give up."

[Read: The Step-by-Step Startup Guide: How to Start a Business]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published December 19, 2019