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Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities

Consider your youth a blessing--it might just be the edge you need to make your business fly.

(YoungBiz.com) - So you're thinking about starting a business. But, as a budding teen entrepreneur, you're also thinking there are more than a few cards stacked against you. You don't have any start-up cash to speak of. You don't have a storefront. And you're not old enough to sign the legal papers required to open a business bank account.

Whoa there! Before you go any further, you might be surprised to learn that, because you're a teen, you can turn those obstacles into opportunities. Many teen 'treps succeed where their adult counterparts falter. Check out the ways these 'treps played the "youth card" in their favor.

Small Beginnings
Adult entrepreneurs are more likely to jump into their newly established businesses with both feet. In their enthusiasm, they might sign for a sizeable bank loan, rent office space and buy some expensive advertising to announce their business's grand opening.

Might a teen do the same? Not likely. And not due to a lack of enthusiasm, but because teens generally don't have the same financial resources that adult entrepreneurs have. As a result, their businesses often start off small with little overhead--which means less risk. Consider the tote bag business called T-Bags that Taneka, Takeshia, Tajuana and Tianda Reed (ages 20, 19, 18 and 17, respectively) started in their hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Instead of taking out a loan to open a store, the sisters started their business by taking 30 of their specialty bags to a three-day trade expo--and selling every single one the first day.

Advertising? These successful sisters already knew that word-of-mouth is not only free, but it's also the best form of advertising. "We get advertising from some of our special orders, by other people seeing our products and liking them," Takeshia explains. "When people see someone wearing our products, they ask about them."

Pay as You Grow
Most teen business owners operate strictly cash businesses, buying additional equipment only when they've got the money in hand. That strategy is often out of necessity rather than choice--teens aren't likely to qualify for big loans or get approved for credit cards. But this actually works in their favor.

That was the case when Chrissy Frentz started her Snowball City snowball stand seven years ago out of her Laurel, Maryland, garage, at age 14. She didn't have the cash--so she waited until she saved enough to start her business. "I've always been a big saver," says Frentz. "I was always cutting lawns, baby-sitting and taking care of people's pets."

It's a strategy that pays off. Without a lot of bills, it takes less for teen businesses to survive. If there is a downturn in the economy, they just hunker down and ride it out.

Next Step
  • If the entrepreneurs in How to Be a Teenage Millionaire can do it, so can you! Pick up a copy and learn from their stories.
  • Would you borrow money to start a business or use your own savings? Read more about how Chrissy Frentz started her Snowball City venture without a loan on YoungBiz.com.
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