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Start-up Advice

11 Steps to Starting a Successful Business in Your 20s

Your 20s are meant for hustling.

Jason Parks

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Your 20s are meant for hustling. While your friends are enjoying “Sunday Funday” and going out on a Thursday night, you can be growing your own business and laying the foundation for your future success.

Millennials and Gen Zers have an amazing opportunity at their fingertips. While our parents’ generation had to put in the time and work their way up the corporate ladder, the iGeneration and Net Generation have a quicker (and more fun!) alternative. Since we grew up with technology, we have a competitive advantage to build brands that rely on digital marketing and technology.

Whether you want to create the next Snapchat, start a marketing agency or become an Instagram influencer, it’s time to stop stalking others’ lives on social media and get to work on your own business.

1. Start a side hustle.

Most people underestimate how much time there is outside of work if you have a standard 9-5 job. If you are working at a job you dislike and want to be your own boss, stop complaining about your current terrible job and take action. Grab a cup of coffee after work and start hustling from 6 p.m to 2 a.m. on your new business venture.

If you are an artist, start posting YouTube videos about the details behind your painting process. Open up an ecommerce store on Shopify. Promote your products on Instagram. All of this can be done as a side hustle while you grow your business. Best of all, you are still collecting a paycheck from someone else.

2. Stop boozing.

If you are truly passionate about entrepreneurship, you will quickly understand that the weekends are the most productive time to get work done. You literally can put in 20 hours of work on the weekend to grow your brand.

This isn’t going to happen if you are going to the bars on Friday and Saturday night. First off, you are going to drain your bank account from buying shots for all of your buddies. Secondly, you are not going to be productive when you’re hung over.

Start setting your alarm clock and for 6:30 a.m. on the weekends. Put in a full day of work. You won’t have any regrets about missing a night or two out when you’re in your 30s and have a million-dollar business.

Related: 5 Ways To Validate A Business Idea, Right Now

3. Wake up early.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “The sun has not caught me in bed in 50 years.” Apple CEO Tim Cook is known for getting up early and sending out company emails at 4:30 in the morning. The youngest CEO in the NBA, Brett Yormark, gets up at 3:30 in the morning in order to get to the office by 4:30.

When it comes to business, the early bird catches the worm. You can actually be playing offense rather than defense, which will allow you to work on growing your business.

Make sure to put your alarm clock on the opposite side of the room, which will force you to get out of bed and not hit the snooze button. Do 50 pushups within 5 minutes of turning of your alarm clock to truly wake yourself up. If you need extra motivation for waking up early, follow Before 5 AM on Instagram.

4. Build your personal brand. 

It blows my mind how much time people spend on social media promoting themselves yet they don’t have a website that gives people more information or a place where people can get in contact with them.

Everyone should see if their first and last name is available for purchase on GoDaddy. If you have a common name, insert your middle name and your craft as part of the URL (example: SarahSmithNYCArtist.com). The next time you go into a business meeting, you’ll be amazed how much more impressed people will be by your professional website.

5. Become an expert by contributing content.

In addition to owning a marketing and app development agency, I am also the partner of an ecommerce skincare website that sells dermatology strength products. We are constantly trying to get media mentions from Glamour, Bustle and Teen Vogue. Do you know what I discovered? A ton of the writers on these nationally recognized sites are college students!

If you love sports, start reaching out to sites like YardBarker to become a contributor. If you love fashion, what’s holding you back for writing for Teen Vogue? This will boost your personal brand, establish credibility and present new opportunities you never imagined.

6. Talk it out. 

When you are an entrepreneur, you live on a lonely island. Nobody will ever realize just how much hustle you put in on a daily basis. Your friends who work a 9-5 job won’t understand how your business means the world to you.

Since entrepreneurship can be lonely, make sure you have someone you can air it out with. Whether it is your girlfriend or boyfriend, mom or dad, or just a mentor you can trust, in order to grow, you need to be able to have a sounding board along the journey.

Related: The 5 Stages Start-ups Must Go Through to Make That First R1 Million

7. Have patience.

The issue with the digital age that we live in is that people are impatient. They expect results yesterday.

Bill Gates was famously quoted saying, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

In order to build a business, you need to be patient for the long run. Don’t think about where you want your business to be in a year; think about your goals for 10 years down the road and how you are going to execute to make all of your ambitions come to fruition. If you are in your 20s, what will differentiate you as an entrepreneur is patience. Make sure to move fast on getting stuff done but be patient for the long-term gains.

I’ve owned my company for seven years now. I know that 96 percent of businesses fail before turning 10. I keep that statistic in my mind each and every day because I want to be part of the 4 percent that succeed past 10.

Each year you celebrate your business anniversary, your muscles will continue to grow.

8. Make money. 

I can’t stand all of the people who claim they are entrepreneurs. One simple question separates the contenders from the pretenders: “Are you generating revenue?” There are so many people out there who claim to be crushing it with their “entrepreneurial journey” but when you dig into it, they aren’t generating a penny in revenue. I’m not even getting into the details of generating a profit, which is what every business must do to survive.

If you aren’t making money with your business, you need to start and you need to start soon. Just like a hockey team needs to score goals in order to win a game, your business needs to make money to actually be considered a business. Stop with the pretend stuff and start selling your product or service.

9. Start meeting with millionaires.

On a monthly basis, start meeting with a millionaire for coffee. You’ll be amazed that there is no secret sauce to succeed in business. You’ll learn that hard work leads to better luck and success. You’ll also become inspired and motivated while listening to someone who has succeeded in the business world.

If you try and meet with Evan Spiegal from Snapchat, you aren’t going to have much luck. You’d be amazed, though, how many CEOs of billion- and multi-million-dollar companies would be willing to meet with you if you are persistent.

Don’t think for a second that you are the only one gaining value from the meeting. The CEOs and founders that you meet with — who will likely be in their 40s, 50s and 60s — will be asking you a lot of questions. The reason? Their customers are most likely your age, and they understand the spending power of millennials and Gen Zers.

10. Become an SEO and paid advertising expert. 

Do you want to know a more efficient way to grow your business than attending outdated networking events? Rank towards the top of Google so people will contact you directly for business inquires. Whether you just graduated from law school and plan on opening up your own practice or you are selling customized dog collars, SEO and paid ads can literally help any business.

This is one of the main reasons I’ve been able to grow my marketing agency quickly and efficiently. In the Columbus, Ohio markets, we crush it for terms like “social media company” and “SEO Company.”

There is no college degree or class you have to take to become an SEO or PPC expert. You just have to get your hands dirty, read articles and watch videos. If you are starting a business, you need to be well versed in this area so you can generate leads and sales online each and every day.

Related: 10 Things You Can Expect During Your First 10 Years Of Business

11. Be cheap.

Earlier in the article, I talked about how you can save money by not going to the bars every weekend. Do everything you can to be frugal with your money. You never know when the economy will turn south or when your biggest client or customer will drop off. If you are spending lavishly, you won’t be well prepared for tough times.

Start eating more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and eat out less. Stop buying clothes at Nordstrom and start shopping at TJ Maxx.

Every dollar is so important when you are starting a business. There’s a reason Warren Buffett has lived in the same house in Omaha, Neb., that he bought for $58,000 in 1958. The real winners in business are smart with their money.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com

Jason Parks is a proud Columbus native and the founder and CEO of The Media Captain, a digital marketing agency. He has been featured in the New York Times, Yahoo News, Search Engine Watch and AOL on digital-marketing topics and success stories.

Start-up Advice

Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk

Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…

Chris Ogden

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You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.

Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.

It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.

There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…

Step 01: Do your research

No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.

Step 02: Understand the costs

Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.

A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.

Step 03: Know when to walk away

As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.

You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.

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Start-up Advice

Mind The Gap

The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.

Chris Ogden

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Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.

Here are five…

1. Network

It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.

2. Look for pain

Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.

Be the Panado that fixes these pains.

3. Luck

luck

This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.

4. Luck needs courage

You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.

Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.

5. Pay attention

This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.

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Start-up Advice

5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.

Catherine Black

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Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.

Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:

1. This too shall pass

Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.

2. Appreciate what this phase brings

The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.

3. Establish boundaries

Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.

4. Take a break

Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.

5. Give it space to make mistakes

While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.

During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.

While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.

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