Young entrepreneurs who make it big while their friends are hoping for a "B" in Economics 101 may find themselves in a bind. A new, wealthy lifestyle beckons, while old friends tell you to shut down the laptop and meet them for a pint--or 10--on you, Moneybags. Will your old friendships last?
"Friendships can survive wide disparities of income," says Todd Romer, executive director of Young Money, a money and lifestyle magazine for young adults.
Olivia Fox Cabane's speaking and coaching business, Spitfire Communications, skyrocketed when she was 24, and she found herself willingly picking up the tab for friends still struggling with internships and college. But the gulf in responsibilities and interests was harder to navigate. "It was more difficult to relate to their concerns and responsibilities," recalls Cabane, now 28, who is on the path to earning nearly $500,000 this year with her New York City-based enterprise. "They'd complain about the 'frightening responsibility' of handling one piece of research, whereas [my clients] would often make bet-the-project or bet-their-career decisions based on my advice."
Neil Patel realized his life was headed in a different direction than his friends' early on. "My dream was to own my own company, while theirs was to go to college and get 9-to-5 jobs," says Patel, 22, who in 2003 started online marketing firm ACS in Cerritos, California, with Hiten Shah, 26. The company is headed for $2.5 million in 2007 sales.
Patel found that his friends were pretty understanding--and that they made good employees. "I knew they would be reliable," says Patel. "So far, I haven't had any issues because I set very clear expectations."
Both Patel and Cabane have ended up with a mixed group of friends. They've got their best friends, who remain close despite any differences in careers and income, but they've also made new friends through their business ventures. Patel mentions colleagues he meets up with at conferences. Cabane says, "Now, two of my closest friends are 54 and 57 years old."
Some entrepreneurs get lucky and find that all their friends are on the "success tip," like Alex Vaz, 30. He works overtime to keep up with True Love and False Idols, the clothing company he founded with Alex2tone, 33, in Compton, California. He may not hang out with friends as much anymore, but he's not worried. "Stick with what you're doing, because once you do make money, there will be plenty of time to party," says Vaz, whose company projects $1.5 million to $3 million in sales this year. "If your friends aren't happy about you excelling and making money, they're probably just jealous. Your real friends will always support you."