Q: I'm a 20-year-old college student, and I have many ideas-I just don't know how plausible they are. But how possible is it for a 20-year-old to start a company?
A: The real question is, how possible is it for anyone to start a business? Age matters little; take a look at the TeenStartUps.com section of Entrepreneur.com, and you'll find that out pretty quickly. While there was a time when young entrepreneurs were looked at as failures waiting to happen, nowadays most people look at a potential entrepreneur's drive to succeed rather than the year he or she was born.
You remind me of a lot of entrepreneurs we've written about in the past. Each November, we run a special "Young Millionaires" feature in Entrepreneur to spotlight successful entrepreneurs under 40 who have achieved a high level of sales success. Entrepreneur Press has published a whole volume devoted to young entrepreneurs, How to Be a Teenage Millionaire. Virtually every issue of Entrepreneur includes success stories of people just like you who are either currently young entrepreneurs or who were young when they started out.
We celebrate their achievements because we know that most entrepreneurs have dreamed of starting a business for many, many years--possibly since they were children. Entrepreneurship isn't something that crops up in your 40s or 50s and suddenly makes sense just because you're a little older. It's generally something that's ingrained. And when a person chooses to pursue entrepreneurship is not as important as how he or she goes about doing it.
It's no surprise to me that you have "many ideas." Most entrepreneurs get tons of ideas before settling on the one that they want to focus the most energy on. Consider your many brainstorms a reflection of the creativity that makes you an entrepreneurial hopeful. Without that creativity, you wouldn't even imagine venturing out of your comfort zone and starting a business.
By the way, it's rather uncomfortable to start a business. Having a lot of ideas is actually not a very pleasant thing, as you might have discovered by now. It can be frustrating to go through your days with dozens of ideas bouncing about it your head, not knowing which one is "the one." Wouldn't it be easier if someone would just tell you which business to start?
If you're getting the feeling that I'm answering your question with a question, you get a gold star. And perhaps I'm cheating a bit in doing so. Perhaps you wanted a structured outline of steps to take in starting your business. My apologies, but I won't give that to you. That's not to say there aren't specific steps to take when starting a business-just that at this stage of the game, I'd much rather inspire you to find your own solutions. Take your own first steps, knowing that doing so will make you a better, smarter, stronger entrepreneur who is prepared to tackle any challenge.
Once you've settled on the idea that you want to pursue-and you'll know it when you see it-then you can focus on specifics such as a business plan, marketing objectives and financing. But until then, relish this idea stage. Take your time, and be thankful that you are young, with a road ahead that won't leave you restless, itching to pull over at a rest stop and break away from something as mundane as a 9-to-5 job.
Karen E. Spaeder is editor of Entrepreneur.com and managing editor ofEntrepreneur magazine.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.
Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.