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TEENtrepreneurs need to build business ideas that ignite their imagination

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Aonghus Stevens is the youngest winner in the 2010 Anthill 30under30 contest. Stevens, who turned 18 in December, is the sole owner of UAVs Australia, which provides all manner of remote-controlled aircraft to clients ranging from farmers to Australian Federal Police. Here, Stevens offers some advice to fellow under-20 business builders and aspiring teenpreneurs.

Although much can be learnt from failed companies (and, indeed, many entrepreneurs attribute their success to failures), most teenage entrepreneurs are just starting out, and it can be demoralising to have your very first company fizzle.

When Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, was asked for some home-spun wisdom to account for his business successes, he replied, “It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You’re thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all.”

When young people (let’s call them TEENtrepreneurs) try to start a business, we tend to rush the process of evaluation and analysis, because we are keen just to get started. We also run the risk of the novelty wearing off — and simply lose interest in the business idea. That is why it is very important that you try to start a business that intrigues you or is in a rapidly changing industry.

For example, industries in Australia where high growth and change are occurring are cloud computing, social media and mining. These sectors are changing rapidly as new technology and improvements become available. Why not research one of these areas and develop your own industry-leading product?

A fundamental part of any new business is the evaluation of your idea (and to a lesser extent, the model) and the development of a business plan. Before any planning or business/product development can begin, the idea has to be meticulously researched and the market potential determined. In many cases, a little more market research would have led to a slightly different but far more successful business model.

Much of your market research can be done via the Internet or with family and friends (although it can be better to ask people you do not know well, or don’t know at all, as they can be far more matter-of-fact).

A good way to develop your idea is to constantly write down your ideas over several months as you research your plan. Keep track of all of the ideas and once you think you have done all the research you can, put all of these together and form an improved idea. Then talk again with your family, friends and associates and see what they think of it. Once you are happy with the idea, you can focus more on developing a plan.

The next thing to do (if you choose to pursue your idea once all of the research is done) is write up a basic business plan (so that you stay on track) and decide on how your business will work. Start by answering questions that prospective customers may ask. For example:

  • What product or service will your business provide/offer?
  • How do you plan on delivering these services/products?
  • How will customers use your products?
  • What are some ways you can generate immediate income?
  • Why should customers use you over competitors?
  • Who are your target clientele?

Once you have developed the answers, put them in paragraph form and move onto putting down some points you will use to market your business. You might put down details that set you apart from your competitors. You also could offer one-off discounts to first-time clients if they purchase your product within 30 days of your meeting.

The final thing to do (although it never will finish) is to continually update your business plan. Scrap the things that fail and improve the things that succeed. Continually adjust your plan so you can change your failed ideas and false answers into true statements that reflect your business. Every time you change your plan — even one word — read over the paragraphs you have rewritten. This will ensure you never lose sight of your business idea and that you make more in-depth adjustments.

This will become the bible for your business and keep you on track to become successful. If it turns out your original plan is completely true, it doesn’t mean you have finished with it. Add details and ideas to it. Produce a series of blueprints for every aspect of your business. Remember, the most import parts of starting any business are the evaluation of the idea and market potential as well as your continually evolving business plan.

Aonghus Stevens is the youngest winner in the 2010 Anthill 30under30 contest. Stevens, who turned 18 in December, is the sole owner of UAVs Australia, which provides all manner of remote-controlled aircraft to clients ranging from farmers to Australian Federal Police.

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