The Challenges of Running a Business as a Teenager

jeremy / July 2, 2018

If you are a teenage entrepreneur, you deserve kudos for starting a business so young. It is a daunting task that terrifies even adults, but having the courage to put yourself out there is commendable—especially with all of the additional challenges you will face. Child labor laws, social attitudes, resources, and other factors can potentially make your journey more difficult than it is for adults. Here are a few challenges you may face as a teenage business owner with some tips for overcoming them.

People skills

Teenagers are capable of much more than what adults give them credit for. However, you still do not have as much experience interacting with other people as they do, so your engagement skills might be a little underdeveloped. Communication skills are essential to running a business, so it is imperative that you do not shrug off your inexperience and convince yourself that you will get by with being shy. Not only are you in charge of your business, but you are also its face, so how you interact with customers will influence whether they recommend you to their friends or not.

As a young person, you will also most likely face age-based stereotypes. Older folks may immediately judge you as irresponsible, untrustworthy, or untalented. These prejudices will not come only from customers, but from other entrepreneurs. Having excellent people skills will help convince them otherwise: can you navigate a conversation? Network efficiently? Make a public speech, or promote your business confidently? Can you negotiate deals firmly? You’ll be amazed at how people’s attitudes will shift when you can command a room, or at least give off the impression that you know what you’re doing.

How to overcome: You need a supportive environment to practice your people skills, and as a teenager, these environments are easy to find. Interact with other kids from school, extracurricular activities, or from other communities. Founder and CEO of KarmaBox Vending A.J. MacQuarrie recommends getting involved with theater:

“I was involved in community theater since I was very young and I started my own theater company when I was 17. It was my first real business. It developed so many skills in working with people and overcoming shyness. Today, I can command important phone calls and my team, and I credit my experience being involved in 35 productions with developing the skills necessary to build up my business into a nationwide healthy vending company.”

You are already putting yourself out there by starting a business, so do not be afraid to put yourself out there with people. Doing so is essential for your business’s success and your future professional growth.

Attracting customers

On a related note, how are you supposed to market yourself? You probably do not have enough money or capital to produce a TV commercial, and customers feel more comfortable doing business with companies that have more brand recognition. You need to convince people that you are an expert in your field (even if it’s lawn mowing), which is difficult for teenagers.

How to overcome: Be as professional as possible, regardless of how informal your business may be. Create an aesthetically pleasing logo, print business cards, and leverage the tool older generations did not have at your age: the internet. Social media is free, so use your channels to promote your products or services. It never hurts to have a website, either—anything to establish some legitimacy.

Taxes and legality

Even though you are a teenager, you are not exempt from paying taxes and must always follow the law. This part is often the scariest for young entrepreneurs. Such topics are not always covered thoroughly in school, and you probably do not know the difference between a 1099 and 1040. As a minor, you are also forbidden from applying for loans, signing a contract, and legally incorporating a business. You essentially have to oversee your business like an adult but without the accompanying privileges.

How to overcome: Get an adult to help you. Educate yourself, of course, but you are going to need someone savvy with these technicalities. You can find a parent, relative, family friend, or even hire a professional tax accountant or attorney.

If your relationship with this person is strong, you have another opportunity: ask them to be your business mentor. A mentor is an invaluable resource that everyone needs, regardless of age. Having someone else’s experience to draw on will help you avoid any possible mistakes and save you a significant amount of trouble figuring things out for yourself.

Running a business as a teenager is going to have unique challenges. Do not give up, though—while failure is inevitable in life; you can always learn from your obstacles and keep doing better. Your age should not impact your determination or ability to realize your goals.

If you are a teenage entrepreneur, what challenges have you faced and overcome?

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