Starting a company in high school is not as hard as most students think. In fact, I’m going to outline how to use three key advantages that are exclusively available to teen entrepreneurs.
1. Attend Many Business Competitions
When Eddy Zhong started Blanc watches, his team did not have funding from investors. Instead, they went to just about every business competition available to teenagers throughout New England and made it their job to win each one. Their secret? Bringing a prototype.
Most business competitions for high school students focus on planning and modeling, and rarely expect more than a pdf or presentation from student teams. When Eddy brought working prototypes that demonstrated the function of a Blanc watch, judges were blown away and it immediately put his team ahead of other teams who pitched with only concepts. So, you might ask, what’s the point of putting so much effort into business plan competitions?
Business plan competitions offer prizes, along with connections. Many business competitions for high school students, such as The Diamond Challenge from the University of Delaware, give out large ($100K+) cash prizes to winning teams.These events are also an incredible method of finding potential investors and advisors for your young company. Many of the judges at these types of competitions are very accomplished in the business world and make for very valuable connections.
2. Pitch Your Story, NOT Your Company
Press outlets LOVE writing about young entrepreneurs because their stories are engaging, inspirational, and eye-catching. If you are a young startup team with significant traction, be sure to actively pitch to journalists writing for outlets related to the industry you are looking to enter. Getting media attention can skyrocket your startup’s credibility in front of potential clients, and even land you more clients through pure exposure.
Pitching journalists can seem daunting at first since the initial response rate can seem rather low. This is why you must craft relationships through networking at events like Bostinno’s 50 on Fire, or create a stunning reporter email pitch that instantly captures attention. Be sure to constantly improve your reporter pitch by consolidating your message into smaller, more attention-grabbing pitches. Don’t be afraid to emphasize your age and the fact that your team is full of high school entrepreneurs looking to make a difference.
3. Keep Your Team Tight
Did you know that the most common reason for startup failure is fighting between co-founders? In your initial phases of building a startup, your team members are your family. You must make sure that every member of your core team is absolutely necessary, and that each member clearly knows their role. This is not a school club where there are multiple fancy titles for every student involved. Starting a company is not like applying to college, and is not all about credentials on paper.
If there are too many unengaged members of your team, either make your team smaller by cutting away unengaged members or have a serious conversation about their involvement. You don’t want to waste their time, or yours.
Everywhere you look, there are programs that “create entrepreneurs“, classes that “teach entrepreneurship“, schools that “turn students into entrepreneurs”. Check out our last post here: It’s time to raise the standard for entrepreneurship education