Age & Entrepreneurship...
beginning a dialog (or is it a food fight?)
Here at Idea Cafe, we have the lucky privilege
to meet a lot of entrepreneurs: gutsy people who own their
own businesses; people who'll start a business soon; and people
who've started, built, and sold their business to retire or
move on to something else (like starting another business).
So we know that a big reason people start
businesses is to bring their life and their work closer together.
Every day in Idea Cafe's CyberSchmooz, Financing Your Business,
and other sections, you see how we're willing to talk about
the biz-life issues of small businesses...you know, the kinds
of things your employed friends and relations can't begin
It's with great pride (and some chortles,
too) that we now pull back the cover on yet another touchy
issue -- your age (and what that has to do with owning your
own business, if anything).
So bear with us as we give you our conclusions
from our own experiences. Then add your own views. We'll start
with chaos, and probably end up with it, too. But it could
be fun -- maybe even enlightening -- so stick around. Let's
start with a question:
What's the Best Age to
Start a Business?
by Francie Ward
I started my first business in my mid-twenties
(which used to be considered young to take the biz plunge).
We didn't wear nose rings then, but it was still pretty obvious
that regular people in business didn't look like I did. So
I made a conscious effort to get some "straight" clothes like
blazers and heels. I left the hippy,long-cotton skirt, along
with those clunky, but cool hiking boots, in my closet. All
my clients were older than me. And I remember wishing I'd
get wrinkles sooner so I'd look older and wiser.
Now the tables have turned
-- somewhat. Now people assume that younger people understand
computers and the Internet better than older people. Now nobody
has a problem believing the TV commercial where orange-pigtailed
GenXer Stewart shows his hesitant boss, Mr. B, how to trade
Start Now -- Whatever Your Age
Back to the question, "What's the Best Age
to Start a Business?" My answer is "As soon as possible, whatever
age you are." Even if you've prepared diligently with a thorough
business plan, found financing and lined up a sharp staff
-- it's still going to be different, in ways you never imagined,
once you're in business for real. So you might as well get
as many of the surprises behind you as fast as you can.
Today, GenX Entrepreneurs Are the Media Darlings
So if you're young, get your business going
soon before the spotlight shifts. Capitalize on the advantages
unique to your age:
- You've knocked around a bit by now, and
hopefully have sown enough wild oats that you're ready to
- You've had some education, some travel
and some living, so you have the street-smarts and vocabulary
to handle typical business situations.
- You're used to weird hours, lack of sleep,
and sleeping under your desk, so the demands of the entrepreneur's
schedule won't phase you .
- You're physically at your peak so you
can easily muster the stamina running a business demands.
- You haven't accumulated that much expensive
stuff to worry about and make payments on yet -- lack of
a mortgage alone gives you tremendous freedom.
- You don't have a lot of family expectations
to deal with daily -- you're out of your parents' nest (so
they won't worry about how little you sleep), and you may
not be married yet. (Even if you are, at least you don't
have teenage kids to feed, clothe and agrue with yet.)
- Because of your youth, people may be
willing to help you if they don't see you as a threat.
(Use that aura of innocence as long as you can get by with
it or until it just makes you look plain dumb.)
- You have to adjust to something that's
new to you anyway -- so instead of adjusting to a job, why
not adjust to owning a business?
You'll Make Mistakes.
So what? Just dust the embarrassment off,
make the best of it and keep going. Being young, you can recuperate
fast from fiascos. Even when customers, vendors and employees
are ready to leave you for whatever stupid thing you did,
they'll probably give you another chance because they figure
you learned not to do THAT again. So jump in!
Idea Cafe founder
(aka Chief Cook & Bottle Washer)
What's the Best Age to
Start a Business?
by Alex Carter
As soon as you have an idea, I say! Age
is nothing but a number, and who acts their age anyway? Especially
when it comes to being an entrepreneur? Some teen-aged entrepreneurs
act older than their touch-of-gray counterparts, and vice
versa! Hey, I'm 23 years young myself and I'm still not convinced
I'm an adult!
Better yet, we live in the land of opportunity,
where anyone with a bright idea can go from rags to riches.
Even tho we have minimum ages for driving a car, joining the
Army, or becoming president, the American dream of owning
your own business has no age restrictions. The same is true
for scores of other countries too.
I personally know several "kids" who've
taken advantage of this and done very well for themselves
-- and we've all marveled at the news stories about GenX millionaire
entrepreneurs. So being young has to have its biz advantages
somewhere along the line.
Why GenXers Can Rise to the Top
- Face it. Most of us GenX types can take
financial and personal risks more readily. We're not bogged
down with mortgage and car payments, and we don't have a
"Baby on Board." We're footloose and fancy free.
- The Energizer bunny has nothing on us.
We've got more than enough energy to follow our dreams.
When we find a cause we believe in -- look out!
- We don't know any better. At first, you
might think this is a bad deal; but think again. While not
having any business experience under your belt might spook
some investors, your ability to "think outside of the box"
can make you a business trailblazer. Your fresh insights
aren't spoiled by years of doing it "their" way. Your innovation
and creativity are two of your strongest suits.
Well, It's Not Easy As Pie Either!
Taking a stab at the entrepreneurial
life at a younger age, however, does have its hurdles. For
starters, it's tough getting those older and "wiser" businesspeople
to take us seriously. Not only are we too wet behind the ears
to gain their attention for long, these guys often resent
our being the "new kids on the block." They've spent years
working and building their businesses up, and they often don't
take kindly to our competition or ideas.
On top of this, I think we're viewed as
a threat at times when it comes to our computer savvy. With
computers becoming so much a part of modern life and business,
older generations have had to scramble to learn these newer
technologies. On the other hand, we all grew up with computers.
We're computer comfortable and knowledgeable -- and that often
gives us an advantage. We're ready to use computers quicker
and more efficiently in our ventures.
The Sky's the Limit!
You're never too young (or too old for that
matter) to start your own business. I've bumped into members
from every age group who've had success with launching their
own business. That tells me when it comes to starting a business,
age is less important than drive and enthusiasm.
And in case you haven't noticed, GenX entrepreneurs
are also full of something else that's extremely powerful
-- optimism! So follow your American dream, regardless of
Editor of GenX Start-up at Idea Cafe
age 23 Alex has successfully started three businesses, while
having a hand in many more. He also has given speeches to
fellow young entrepreneurs and helped many get pointed in
the right direction.
graduate of Iowa State University, Alex now is VP of Parker
Solutions.Com, an Ames, Iowa based Internet consulting firm.
getting my feet wet right out of college in the business world,
I started to look around to see if there were others my age
who had chosen the same path I took of career self-determination.
And to my surprise, there were a lot!" said Alex. "There is
a powerful phenomenon taking place with Generation X right
now in the business world. Many are opting to"just say no"
to career day and are forging their own path, like myself."
P.S. At 23, Alex is a young
GenX entrepreneur. More from Alex.