The first step in starting a business is not writing a business plan. Nor is it raising money, nor attending conferences, nor hiring consultants, nor holding focus groups. The very first step must be a rich and honest conversation with.yourself!
Introspection--the detailed self-examination of your motives and feelings--is a critical first step. Many entrepreneurs who fail bypass this exercise. Being true to yourself, especially as a teenager, is important. Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I going to let an adult or peer get in the way of me starting a business?
- If someone says my idea is stupid or won't work, will I stop believing in my idea?
- Am I motivated, tenacious, hard-working and resourceful? Am I prepared to be a student of life?
This first set of questions is to be answered as soon as you consider starting a business as a teenager in an adult business world. If you can pass the first round by answering all of the above positively, move on to questions a bit more concrete:
- Will I have the time to dedicate to starting a business? Every teen at first says "No way!" but after subtracting the time you spend watching TV, chatting online and aimlessly surfing Web pages, you may find you have quite a bit of time on your hands. Also note that the time commitment needed to start a business varies from one hour to one year. That is, at least initially, you can dictate how involved you want to be in your enterprise.
- How am I doing in school? If you are failing all your classes, your focus should obviously be on your academics. However grades are far from an accurate indicator of your intelligence, resourcefulness, tenacity or motivation--and consequently, a far-from-accurate indicator of the probability of entrepreneurial success.
Starting down this path of engaging in an honest conversation with yourself will allow you to evaluate your potential as an entrepreneur. But do not stop here. Talk with trusted advisors, family members and peers. Take each of their opinions with a grain of salt--no single opinion should outweigh others in influence. Keep in mind, too, that you will often encounter shock, laughter and an overall "come on, you're just a kid--why don't you go play soccer?" response. Do not let this deter you from pursuing your vision.
Introspection is a good path to venture on. Only you truly know what you can or cannot do. Listen to your gut. Talk to it. Engage in a dialogue. Engage in introspection. It should undoubtedly be your first step if you are considering the exciting journey of entrepreneurship.
Fifteen-year-old Ben Casnocha is founder, CEO and chairman of Comcate Inc., a San Francisco firm focused on providing technology solutions for local governments. His work has been profiled in more than 50 magazines, newspapers, radio stations, TV outlets and Web sites nationwide. Got something to squawk about? Write to Casnocha at firstname.lastname@example.org.