Young entrepreneur

George S. Chua George S. Chua

When I was teaching Entrepreneurship at the MBA program of UP Diliman, I was often asked how old you needed to be to start doing business. There is no hard and fast rule on what age entre-preneurship should start. Many children, due to unfortunate circumstances, have been forced to sell a variety of products on the streets like newspapers, cigarettes, food items, sampaguita and so on. However, I remember in grade school, some of my more enterprising classmates would sell things like candies, chocolates, sandwiches and even toys to their other classmates, including me!

Even in more affluent countries, young children engage in various neighborhood selling activities such as the iconic lemonade stand or the girl scout cookies. It would seem that as long as you can start talking and know how to count you can start doing business and this is regardless of their circumstance!
However, many people might argue that is not really doing business since there is no business registration, no marketing plan, no financial statements, no organizational chart, and all the other things needed in a more organized and documented fashion. This is no longer the case, young people can now do all of these!

It was such a pleasure for me to be invited to be one of the judges of the recently concluded JA Asia Pacific Company of the Year Competition. JA stands for Junior Achievement and the finalists of each country sent their winning teams to compete amongst themselves. Essentially these teams were high school students who put up a business, complete with all the elements you would expect to see in a professional business plan, including the actual selling of their products or services. There were a total of 20 teams from Australia, Brunei, China, Guam, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. I have to say they were all very good! Their products were well thought of, functional, environmentally friendly, sustainable and mostly sold out their products.

While it can be argued that the probability of being a successful entrepreneur comes with a wealth of experience, someone with adequate financial resources, a mature outlook and a high degree of preparedness. There are also a number of elements that make entrepreneurship easier when you are young and inexperienced such as the malleability to try something different, keeping an open mind, a bigger risk appetite due to not knowing any better, better physical endurance and perhaps more importantly, being too young to have experienced failure, they do not dwell on the negative thoughts of it.

You may think of it this way, people who are trained in a particular sport at an early age tend to do better than those who pick up the sport at a later stage in their life. In the same way that learning a language as a young child is easier and more natural than an adult learning to speak a foreign language. Entrepreneurship is a mindset that becomes a part of you which if you were a salaried worker, the rules are totally different. Salaried people tend to think of office hours as from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and they can then forget about their job. As an entrepreneur, there are no limits to office hours. Salaried workers look forward to payday, bonuses, holidays and other benefits. On the other hand, entrepreneurs need to find ways to provide for their employees on time all the time.

Having been both on the salaried side and the entrepreneurial side, I can only say one thing, I should have quit being a salaried professional much earlier and just focused on being an entrepreneur!

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