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The 7 Biggest Challenges
for Young Entrepreneurs
It's tough for anyone to start out as an entrepreneur building a new business from the ground up.
Being young at the same time brings a unique set of challenges to the table, ones that your older counterparts may not have to deal with. Stereotypes of the young and attitudes about how young people should behave have a way of tripping up the unwary business owner.
However, if you can identify and be aware of the following factors working against you as a young entrepreneur, then you'll be able to come up with effective counter strategies to ease your path to success.
1. Financial Issues
The main challenge that all entrepreneurs face is to get their business funded.
Older business owners have the advantages of a history of good credit and years of networking under their belt, making it easy to find investors and secure loans and contracts.
The younger entrepreneur does not yet have these resources. You may be paying off your student loans, reducing your liquid capital. You don't have a network developed over years, so it may be more difficult to gain the interest of investors.
Due to the limited availability of funds, you have less room for error. Make sure you have enough put aside to weather the worst case scenario. And don't assume you will make a profit right away. It can take up to two years before your business is reliably making money.
Growing a business under these circumstances is absolutely possible, but having a well-prepared business plan and elevator pitch are more essential than ever to getting off the ground.
2. Facing Age Stereotypes
You might already be aware of the stereotypes people will apply to you as a young entrepreneur.
Ironically, you might be called "lazy" or "irresponsible", or not be taken as seriously as someone who is older. While networking, you might come across older professionals who doubt the sustainability and credibility of your business.
Don't let the ageism get to you. Behave professionally at all times, and treat others fairly. Eventually you will gain a reputation for maturity and be considered worthy of trust and respect by the older set.
Deal with discouragement by surrounding yourself with people who believe in you. Above all, have confidence in your own abilities.
3. Social Rejection
Starting your own business makes it hard to maintain social connections.
You don't have co-workers to chat with, and your friends and family may not understand the unconventional route you've taken. Plus, with how busy you'll be working, it may be hard to get out and meet new people or maintain relationships with those you already know.
Luckily, there are other young entrepreneurs out there who are in the same predicament. Attend meet-ups where you can support one another's goals and values. Co-working spaces are a great place to network and keep up with your work at the same time.
It's important to reserve a slot in your schedule to spend time with supportive loved ones. Mentally it makes a big difference to have others who build you up, as opposed to tearing you down. Focusing on the positive individuals in your life makes it that much easier to put your best effort in.
4. Facing Criticism
Something about running your own business really brings out the naysayers.
You might be warned repeatedly about the various ways your business can fail. A lot of people truly do think that it's more stable to depend on a tenuous job at a brick-and-mortar than to be the head of your own company.
Sometimes critics get personal. They'll feel jealous of and threatened by your independence and try to magnify anything negative they can find, projecting their own insecurities onto you.
When it comes to criticism, separate the wheat from the chaff. Older business people can have a lot of great lessons to teach, but learn to put aside unhelpful comments and self-aggrandizing "advice." Allow the positive to take precedence and don't waste your time on negative influences.
For more, see our page on Dealing with Criticism.
5. Dealing with Stress and Self-Doubt
Needless to say, starting out as an entrepreneur is a stressful endeavor.
Unlike an employee at traditional job, you are directly responsible for making the business profitable. There's no larger company structure to provide a cushion for when things go sour. And in the early days, taking a vacation means taking time away from growing your business.
But just because the stakes are higher doesn't mean your stress levels have to be higher too. Regular exercise and meditation do a lot to calm the mind, and it's healthy for the body too. And since you're your own boss, you are free to take a quick jog break whenever you like and adjust your work setting to promote relaxation.
If you feel yourself getting discouraged, a powerful motivational tool is to take a look at your list of goals and tasks to do. Realize how the tasks you have assigned for today have a direct result on achieving your goals in the future.
6. Hiring Employees for the First Time
So your business has grown and it is time to delegate tasks. But finding employees can be a difficult task for a young first-time entrepreneur.
You're looking for someone with a good attitude and skills and abilities that match the tasks at hand. An employee like this can be surprisingly elusive.
If you develop a company culture that promotes the qualities you're looking for, it will be easier to attract the right people to the job and ensure their loyalty. And think about where you're looking. Talented people don't often stick around in small towns.
Remote workers are a great choice for the entrepreneur. Going remote means you're not restricted to your local area. You can look for skilled workers in other cities, states or even countries. This can end up saving you a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on developing a physical office.
If you decide to hire remotely, your job ad is key to finding the right talent for the job. Be specific in the ad as to what you're looking for and what the applicant will need to bring to the table. You can prevent a lot of miscommunication by being upfront in the beginning about the tasks they'll need to do.
7. Finding customers
A smaller company has a harder time attracting customers.
Your marketing budget isn't able to reach as wide an audience as a multinational conglomerate. People tend to stick with well-known brands and companies that they're already familiar with.
However, a small company has a big advantage when it comes to pricing. Large companies tend to charge more, and for many clients that will be enough to choose you over the familiar brand. Ensure that the quality of the product or service you provide is top notch so that you'll retain customers year after year.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
If you are thinking about running your own business, or already do so, but feel that you need some guidance, then this eBook is for you. It takes you through self-employment in easy steps, helping you to ensure that your business has more chance of success.
The Skills You Need Guide to Self-Employment and Running Your Own Business is the guide no new or aspiring entrepreneur can afford to be without!
Based on our popular self-employment and entrepreneurship content.
Being a young entrepreneur might be a challenge, but it's certainly not an insurmountable one.
Be aware of the age-related pitfalls in advance so that you can be prepared to bypass them. Perseverance and enthusiasm go a long way to smooth your route to success. Keep your patience high and your attitude upbeat. This is only the beginning of your long, fruitful career as an independent business owner.
About the Author
Jill Phillips is a freelance writer from Buffalo, NY. She writes about business and tech topics. When she is not writing, Jill enjoys taking photos and hiking with her dog.
Connect with Jill via Twitter @jillphlps