Remember all that talk a few years ago about how the new millennium was going to bring about big changes in life in general and entrepreneurship in particular? Whether or not you've noticed any of these big changes, some of these trends continue. See if you recognize any of these.
Trend #1: Social
Philanthropy and social activism have been on the rise for several years, but they began to soar after the events of September 11. And budding entrepreneurs have discovered that a successful business can help others as well as themselves. Take Guatemalan-born Hilda Salazar, for example. This 22-year-old Washington, DC, resident remembered how difficult moving was for her and wanted to ease the stress for other children in the same situation. But how?
Salazar says she thought about the problems in Mt. Pleasant, the largely Hispanic neighborhood in which she lives: "Many Latino parents are not involved in the social growth or education of their children. I wanted to bring parents and kids together."
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Luckily, a counselor at the Latin American Youth Center Salazar frequented reminded her of workbooks that Guatemalan children commonly used, and a lightbulb went off. What if she wrote a workbook that not only reminded children of their Hispanic heritage, but also helped them adjust to English-language schooling in their new country? Not sure she could go it alone, Salazar recruited two friends to help her write Transforming Futures/Transformando Futuros, a workbook that includes sections on writing, reading and vocabulary and even comes with an audiotape.
Team Salazar pitched its idea to Youth Venture and received a $500 grant and a $500 loan. The workbook, aimed at children ages 6 and up, is now a reality, and the team is expanding its ideas to include tutoring classes at the Latin American Youth Center and a new workbook for older children.
If helping others comes naturally to you, look around. Most social entrepreneurs say they found their ideas right in their own backyard (or neighborhood, or city). Once you've spotted a need, talk to others in the business of helping. A church or your local United Way are great places to start.
Trend #2: e-Businesses Still
A couple of years ago, everyone was talking about the dotcom bust--promising young e-businesses that crashed and burned almost as quickly as their success peaked. Well, forget about them--most suffered from poor management. With careful planning (that includes staying away from decisions that could get you into trouble, like expensive office space and skateboards for all employees), the Internet is still one of the best ways for a young 'trep to get started.
Think about it. At what other time in your life can you afford to charge a little less for your services than your competitors (which is one reason many are hiring teens to do things like Web design) as well as have the luxury of working from your home (or dorm room, for that matter).
Even if you're no designer or tech wizard, the Internet has lots to offer, says Chris Petree, 16, owner of InGen Bees. Petree runs a bee-keeping business out of his home in North Carolina and, offline, sells honey and bee-keeping supplies, including books and videos. He uses his Web site, www.ingenbees.com, to help sell products and get people interested in his hobby. "It's a media I can use to reach the masses," he says.
Even if your idea has nothing to do with computers, a Web site can increase your sales. "A great Web site is worth the money," Petree says, and do-it-yourself Web design software can cut the costs even more. "The price isn't too bad if you can design your own Web pages."
Trend #3: All the Comforts of
On the other end of the spectrum, the American public seems enamored with all things old-fashioned--home-baked goodies, scrapbooking, and home-grown produce, just to name a few--and teen 'treps are cashing in big-time.
Take Camilla White, 15, of Chicago, who bakes a mean pie--32 mean pies, to be exact--under the business name Jam-N-Yams. While she owns three businesses (one of the others is a craft business--also in the comforts category), her tasty treats are what keep her rolling in the dough.
How does she do it? Offering the unusual, including bread pudding pie, doesn't hurt, as well as her commitment to getting the word out about her business. When she started, White took samples to a local beauty shop, a video store, a candy shop and a management company, where she took orders. "The more places you go," White says, "the more people are going to know about you." She was so successful that a restaurant began featuring her pies on its dessert menu.
Naturally a talented baker like White? Before opening a business, experiment and come up with your own unique creations. Even if baking is not your thing, offering something new will bring more customers. Casey Medlock, the 22-year-old owner of Scrappies, a scrapbooking store in Palatka, Florida, also offers classes. "People from the classes come back for supplies," she says.