As a young entrepreneur selling Beanie Babies on eBay at 12 years old and then video games by the time I was 15, I learned a lot about the road blocks that come with being young and doing business. Now, at 23 years old, I am still considered young by some. But I know that I have pushed past any personal doubts I am too young to do business.
Currently residing in Los Angeles, I have been running Transportation Supply, an online traffic safety distribution company, since my freshman year of college. Getting into business is difficult enough without fighting to prove your legitimacy and age. Here are some of those road blocks that I have faced, and how I overcame them:
1.) Stereotypes of being young
When you are young, there is a good chance that you will be doing business with people who are older than you. If they find out that you are young (either because you are meeting in person or because you are talking over the phone) they will begin to think about all of the negative stereotypes that come with your age. I’ve heard things like “The young are lazy,” “irresponsible,” “unorganized,” and “unappreciative,” just to name a few. To overcome this, show that you are professional and treat anyone that you interact with like you would want to be treated if you called a company. Soon they will see that you mean business and treat you like an adult.
2.) Educational responsibilities
If going to college, a young entrepreneur will most likely be in the educational system until he is 22 years old. This means that he must juggle his business or side venture with school work, something that can be a challenge with a rigorous course load. Running my business through college I learned to block off hours for the duties that absolutely had to get done. I also learned to answer customers between classes and always be professional, whether I was about to enter the gym or sit down in an office meeting. In the long run, this struggle to juggle college and business is worth it because the real world experience will set you far ahead of your colleagues.
3.) Others will criticize you
Because you are young and already own your own business, some people will feel threatened by your ingenuity and success. They may feel the need to doubt your abilities and let you know how hard it is to run a successful business. I had this happen many times due to jealously and/or other ulterior motives. The great thing is that it just motivated me more to succeed and show them that I could do it. Always listen to advice but also be weary of those just trying to bring you down. Many people may assume that you will never end up making enough money to make it full time – go ahead and show them otherwise.
4.) Opening accounts with suppliers
Whether you are making t-shirts, selling headphones, or distributing delineators, you will need to open a distributor account with manufacturers (assuming you are selling a physical product). Though it’s not a very difficult process, it can be when you are just starting out. You most likely don’t have much credit if you are young (both personal credit and/or business credit) so you will have to list references of other companies that you currently do business with – typically three or more. If you don’t have any companies you are doing business with, you will have to prepay or figure out a way to let them give you some credit. This takes a little bit of hustling, but as long as you are nice and willing to work with your suppliers, they can become comfortable doing business with you. This is only a small hurdle in the grand scheme of things.
Brandon Anderson is the owner/operator of www.trans-supply.com, an online e-commerce business specializing in traffic safety. He has run this business since freshman year of college and is now 23, living in Los Angeles, and pursuing the business full time.
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