What Starting a Business at 16 Taught Me About Entrepreneurship

For entrepreneurs just starting out, build on each and every experience, good or bad, successful or miscalculated -- and ask the same of your team. If you can turn that idea into a mindset, it becomes a powerful tool.
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It's been 16 years since I started my company -- and I'm only 32 years-old.

I didn't have what many would consider a traditional career path. When most of my peers were worried about prom, driver's permits and summer vacation, I was working 100 hours a week, growing my business.

Being a young entrepreneur isn't easy. I was lucky enough to have mentors to help guide my approach to business, but even so, navigating the choppy seas of entrepreneurship as a teenager taught me a thing or two about what it takes to be successful. For those looking to build a business of their own, here are three things you should keep in mind before taking that first step:

Know the Odds Are Stacked Against You

We all have ideas we think are groundbreaking and disruptive, but be realistic: there are a millions of innovative ideas competing against you. Ask yourself, does your idea have a real chance of success? This is a difficult question to answer, but one that every young entrepreneur needs to take the time to consider carefully.

Then, start identifying all the variables by building out a business plan. This will lead to even more questions. What makes it a great idea? What are the market challenges you face? What is the upside if the idea materializes? And the downside if it fails? What are the milestones along the way to know if I am going in the right direction?

Once that plan is mapped out, come to grips with the fact that the majority of businesses fail. After all, if it were easy, then everyone would do it.

Let Moments of Doubt Fuel You

Let your drive for success push you through those moments of self-doubt. Things will never go exactly as planned, but recognizing the possible outcomes and having that initial business blueprint in place is essential. It means you can spend more time on execution, rather than reacting to unexpected or unconsidered obstacles.

Having a well-conceived plan from the beginning will go a long way in ensuring confidence in those difficult moments. If you can line up all the critical pieces and fuel that with determination, then great things are possible.

Always Strive for Improvement

When I was first building Harbortouch in my teens, I had to compensate for lack of business knowledge with an unwavering commitment to hard work. At that time, there was no greater priority in my life than the success of my business. When obstacles or challenges appeared, I had to rely upon common sense to work through them as opposed to practical experience. But I always found a way to improve myself.

As time went on, however, I was fortunate to have a great team of senior managers and employees, almost all of whom are still with Harbortouch today. Now, as a team, we fundamentally believe we all have a responsibility to improve and become better; we should learn from one another and each experience and apply that knowledge to the next similar circumstance. We have to always be better than we were the previous year. It's an ongoing process of continuous improvement.

For entrepreneurs just starting out, build on each and every experience, good or bad, successful or miscalculated -- and ask the same of your team. If you can turn that idea into a mindset, it becomes a powerful tool.

As a 16-year-old, it's safe to say I faced a bit of adversity when starting my company out of my parent's basement in New Jersey. But on the other hand, the benefit of being 16 was the extreme sense of fearlessness it brought. Do you remember that feeling? And eventually, by fighting against the odds, using doubt as the fuel for my fire and focusing on self-betterment day by day, I was able to transform that basement startup into a thriving corporation.

So, during those inevitable moments of doubt, I hope my fellow young entrepreneurs will channel their inner 16-year-old and bring that fearlessness to their mission.

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