Decisions and Lessons for Young Entrepreneurs Post High School
Check out the different decisions these four high school business owners had to make after high school, and what they’ve learned from those business decisions. These are four great real world examples of what young entrepreneurs face each day.
Andrew Varghese, Continues with New Business Ideas
Andrew Varghese’s business, Awareness, took home NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur award in 2010. Varghese closed up shop when he left for Georgia Tech. But at age 20, he hasn’t stopped toiling in entrepreneurial fields.
Working with student peers, Varghese is in the midst of launching Crutches. “Patients are always complaining about how much of a pain it use to use crutches, and we are of the mindset that if you already have a broken leg you shouldn’t be uncomfortable on your crutches as well.”
It’s a balancing act, he says. “There is this give-and-take between sales and marketing, on the one hand, and product development on the other hand,” he says.
“You have to spend all your time just evaluating what people need, what the world wants you to build, so you do a little bit of marketing,” he says. “Then you spend something on research and development, and then you go back to the marketplace asking: Is this what you want? Is this what you need?”
In the end, all this back and forth serves a greater ambition: to make those dollars last. “With medical devices, you can’t really bootstrap it like with software where you are just writing code,” he says. “You actually have to buy things, and so you have to prepare yourself to stay viable for years.”
Lesson Learned: It’s a balancing act– Product ideas and client needs, marketing and product development, putting money upfront and staying viable. All are important to remaining a successful entrepreneur.
Jennifer Goebel, Sells her Business to Another Company
When Jennifer Goebel won NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur distinction in 2009, her All-American Dance Company in Plano, Texas, was teaching dance in private daycare centers. When school in Mississippi drew her away, she decided to sell. But she did so with care.
“I didn’t want to hurt what I had promised my clients,” says Goebel, 22. “I wanted to know it would be taken over by a company that would provide just as much quality as I had provided.”
Finding that fit took some effort. She met with local dance-company owners, but she also learned to dig deeper. She pored over mission statements and vision statements, tapping into the core values of potential buyers. “They really can tell you a lot about a company,” she says.
Price was less of a factor. “I took into consideration the work I had already put in, I took an average of the number of clients averaged over a few years. But for me it ultimately wasn’t about the money. I had already made more than what I ever thought I would make, so my real concern was that my clients would continue with a quality product.”
Lesson Learned: If you care what happens to the business after you’re gone, dig deep into potential buyers.
Ben Seidel, Keeps his Business while Continuing his Education
Ben Seidel’s Igniting Business in Columbia, Missouri, provides web solutions. It also delivers technology services to small businesses, and offers marketing consulting services. That’s a lot to manage, but Seidel, who was honored by NFIB in 2009, has learned over the years how to juggle.
“Prioritization is the biggest thing I learned. When I was going to college and starting the business at the same time, I was very stressed. I would have a test on Friday to study for, and I’d also have two proposals to get out,” he says.
“The lessons have come down to taking a look at the tasks and deciding which are the most important, and also deciding which tasks can be handled by someone else in the company,” he says.
Which tasks take precedence? “It’s a matter of looking at the overall impact it can have in the intermediate and long term, and who it is impacting. If it’s a minor inconvenience to myself versus if it’s a major inconvenience to my clients, I am going to take care of the clients first.”
Lesson Learned: Prioritization and delegation are necessary skills for entrepreneurs.
Ilan Regenbaum, Keeps his Business in the Family
Ilan Regenbaum scored a Young Entrepreneur distinction in 2009 for Flash Foto Events, a photography studio in Atlanta. He went on to launch Discount Optical in New York City (the name recently changed to Optik). The company started selling prescription eyewear in Israel earlier this year, and Regenbaum plans a global expansion.
His lesson learned? When exiting a business, keep it close to home.
“When I graduated high school, the business was very successful, but I was doing a year of study abroad, and it was not possible to keep running the business full-time,” he says. “My biggest concern was that I would see the company die.”
Worried that any new owner would not share his vision, he sold the enterprise to his sister, who knew what his idea was all about. “I knew that as long the person running the business had a sense of the history of the company and what it is about, then the business would succeed,” he says.
Lesson Learned: Put it all in writing. “We had informal discussions, but we did sign a contract making the sale official. It was a technicality, my siblings and I are very close, but in the end business is business. If they wanted to sell it to someone else, having that paper trail would be a valuable thing.”
1. How do you think these young entrepreneurs decided what to do with their businesses? What factors did they need to consider?
2. Which decision would be the most difficult to do? Which decision would be the easiest? Why?
3. Discuss the lessons learned by each of these young entrepreneurs. How can you apply these lessons in your life?
Entrepreneur In The Classroom
The NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation Entrepreneur-in-the-Classroom (EITC) supplemental curriculum exposes students to entrepreneurship and the necessary steps to take an idea and turn it into a business. The FREE curriculum can be integrated into classes teaching a variety of subjects including music, art, fashion, business and many more. You must be registered to view the full Entrepreneur-in-the-Classroom curriculum.
The NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization promoting the importance of small business and free enterprise to the nation’s youth. More information is available at www.NFIB.com/YEF. The Foundation is associated with the National Federation of Independent Business; NFIB is the nation’s leading small business association, with offices in Washington, D.C. and all 50 state capitals.