Teenbusiness.com > Entrepreneurs > Business Benefits > Early Lessons Are Best

By age 14, Bob Wilson of Los Angeles, California, had started his third business. His first two attempts failed miserably. Nevertheless, he took a stab at a third business—lawn mowing. I was impressed by Bob’s perseverance so I asked him whether he was ever discouraged because of the failure of his first two businesses. He answered, "I learned from my mistakes in my first two businesses. Now I feel like a really experienced entrepreneur. I am not making much money now, but I am learning a lot about what it takes to run a business without losing all my money." Bob believes that he learned more about entrepreneurship with each business failure. He more or less used these failures as training ground for a successful business in the future.

Although it is rare for young investors to be this insightful about their failures, Bob is on the right track. If young people start their own businesses, even their failures can teach them about the kind of qualities and skills it takes to become entrepreneurs. What’s more, young entrepreneurs risk relatively little money. They have no family to support, no mortgage or car payments—in short, business failures are not as disastrous for the young because they are not yet burdened by life’s responsibilities and obligations.

Learning how to start a business at a young age also has another big advantage. In general, people pick up skills faster when they are young than when they are adults. For example, children pick up languages faster than adults. (Maybe they just have less clutter in their minds.) But this same reasoning applies to other disciplines as well as to entrepreneurship.

As a young entrepreneur, you will have a head start in life over your peers. With business experience under you belt, you will be better able to start and run a successful business as an adults.

By the age of sixteen, Morris Beyda of Dix Hill, New York, was running his own consulting business called Computers Simplified. Morris had this to say about his early entry into the world of entrepreneurship: "I feel that I will have a large advantage over others of my age when I finally reach the real world as a result of my experiences."

When he was 17, Morris wrote the following passage to explain how he got started in business at an early age.



by Morris Beyda (Age 17)

My interest in business began at a young age, probably somewhere around the age of ten. My parents established from early in my childhood that they would not buy me things just because I wanted them. Instead, I had to either wait for a special occasion or buy them myself. As I accumulated money on these occasions from my grandparents, my parents would reinforce that the money was mine. I could buy whatever I pleased with my money, regardless of their opinion of its actual value and importance (but not their feelings on safety). They allowed me to make my own decisions and make my own mistakes. Again and again I would hear them telling me, "It is your money, do whatever you want with it."

At the same time I was learning the value of money, my father played a large role in contributing to my knowledge of business, even from my younger years. Without a doubt, the single most important thing he ever did for me was to talk to me. He was constantly getting involved in new business ventures, coming up with new ideas, and investing in new stocks in the market. Every time there was something new on his mind he would tell me and would explain things until I understood. At the age of ten, I had already made my first independent investment in a stock called Up John and had tripled my investment in a short period of time. As in the past, I was told that I could do whatever I pleased with this money, and after putting half of it in the bank, I came to a decision. I went out with my parents to the local bicycle store and bought myself the sleekest new Mongoose dirt bike made. Despite the fact that all of my friends had them, my parents had refused to buy me one for the simple reason that I already had a bike that worked fine. Buying that Mongoose was the first time that I realized that I liked having money to spend and that I wanted to make more.

I was eight when my father bought our first home computer, and from then on I have spent countless hours working with them. Over the years I have had opportunities to work with every major brand of computer, and as a result I have built an immense knowledge base for myself as well as a fundamental understanding of how they work. I actually got started in the computer business about four years ago when friends of my parents began asking me to come to their houses to help them out with basic problems that they had with either programs or their actual computers. I found that most of the time the only problem was a lack of common sense on the part of the customer. There have been countless times when I would receive a call from a panicked neighbor screaming about how their computer was dead or permanently damaged, only to find simply that a plug was not totally in an outlet. Occasionally, a problem would require that I dismantle an entire system and check one piece at a time until the problematic device was found. This also was mostly common sense (although, at times it required some basic knowledge of the system). In addition, I began giving advice on what type of system to buy, and this was naturally followed by requests that I make purchases on commission. The entire time that this was going on both of my parents allowed me to conduct my own affairs, watching as I made mistakes and learned from my mistakes. I was always encouraged to use my own judgment and thus formed my own opinions on what I should be doing. Inevitably, having seen so many fresh business ventures begun in my house, Computers Simplified was created, giving me a name and a reason to professionalize.

Since its inception, my computer business has continued growing. Currently Computers Simplified offers a number of services that I have found to appeal to the average computer user. My most common request is over–the–phone consultation, whether it be on purchasing or problem analysis. I now have the ability to accommodate any purchasing request, no matter how large or small for a customer, and from this I receive a commission. As far as problem situations are concerned, my policy is to only offer a minimal amount of advice over the phone with average clients, and for anything more complex, I usually suggest a personal visit. In addition, I provide publishing services, which often include community newsletters.

When I first started helping individuals, I would usually ask for a token payment of five dollars, regardless of the time or effort involved, but I have been able to steadily raise my rates without complaint ever since. I now operate at a base salary of between $25 and $35 per hour, which when compared to other similar professional computer services, is rather inexpensive. It is always interesting to have a customer meet me for the first time after a phone conversation and realize that I am only sixteen. Often I have to prove myself before people will trust me and consequently pay me. My most common request is for individual lessons, which I give to people of all ages on the topic of their choice, including store–bought programs and the basic concepts of using computer equipment. The only area that I usually do not get involved in is programming, mainly because of the simple fact that it is boring and time consuming. But as far as everything else goes, my policy is that if I am not familiar with something or do not understand it, I will learn and then teach it. The extent and variety of services that Computers Simplified now encompasses keep me busy during most of my spare time, while the only forms of advertising that I have utilized are referrals and business cards. My parents still encourage me to make my own decisions, as far as how much I charge and how I balance my business and school. Being that I work out of my house, no initial capital was necessary, and through profits I currently have a net worth approaching $10,000. Perhaps the biggest improvement in my business will be when I receive my full New York State driver’s license on my 17th birthday, because having to depend on alternate transportation can be crippling.

My parents stay very aware of what I am doing with my business and are always there to offer moral support. They realize that even though my knowledge with respect to computers is superior, that I am still a teenager that needs help every once in a while. They have yet to squander money away without good reason for me, but this is what has driven me to really work. I have acquired a very selective preference in how I spend my free time, and whether it be my stereo system or my computer, I always seem to have something that I want to buy, which directly affects my productivity. I feel that I will have a large advantage over others my age when I finally reach the real world as a result of my experiences.

My father, while nurturing my understanding of business and success, has not been afraid to admit mistakes. It is from hearing both the good and the bad sides of the business world that I make most of my decisions. As I get older I am finding that I am better able to assess situations and the likelihood of their success, as a direct result of hearing my father’s experiences. Computers Simplified is a product of a indirect influence of my parents and the direct result of my willingness to work for what I want.