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Guide to High School Entrepreneurship

January 23, 2023

Starting a business in high school can be a challenging, but also an extremely rewarding experience. 60% of teenagers want to start their own company one day according to a recent survey.  Being a high school entrepreneur can provide students with valuable skills, experiences, and opportunities that will serve them well throughout their lives. In this guide to high school entrepreneurship, we will go over the process, key tips, and resources for high school students who are interested in entrepreneurship.

Learn to Identify Startup Opportunities All Around You

high school entrepreneurship - brainstorming post-its

Identify a problem or need in your community and come up with a solution: A great place to start is by identifying a problem or need in your community and coming up with a product or service that addresses it. Look around your community and see what you can improve.

Think about ways that your favorite products or services solve needs and gaps in the market, and how other offerings aren’t solving a need well enough. This could be a gap in the market for a particular product or service, or a need for a more efficient way of doing things. Take notice and keep a journal in your everyday life, look up negative reviews of offerings to find opportunities, and leverage tools like ChatGPT to come up with ideas.  Once you have identified a problem or need, use that as the foundation for your business idea.

Be Relentless About Research and Data 

Before you start your business, it’s important to do your research. Learn about your target market, your competition, and the costs and revenue potential of your business. Use this information to create a business plan that outlines your goals, strategies, and financial projections. A business plan will help you to stay focused and on track.  There are a few pieces of information to especially keep track of:

  • Target customer – know this person inside and out, and be specific about them.  Know where they hang out, their buying habits, how they think, everything!  It’s not enough to know their age or other demographics, but to know things that matter about how they will relate to your offering and why they will care about your value proposition.
  • Value proposition – know what you can do for that customer that will be better than what currently exists.  What’s more, ensure that you focus on the 1-2 benefits that matter, without trying to do everything.  Top companies do not optimize for everything that their industry might be able to offer, but sacrifice some features to ensure their target audience is satisfied.
  • One metric that matters – instead of measuring every number possible, focus on a metric that will drive all the rest.  For some companies, this might be the number of daily returning users to their phone app, for others, this might be the number of business partnerships.  Determine what underlies your success so that you do not get distracted by social media likes or other non-important numbers.

Build a Startup CoFounder Team of Complementary People

Starting and running a business can be a lot of work, so it’s important to have a team of people to help you. Find people who share your entrepreneurial spirit and are willing to work with you to build your business. By having a team of people with different skill sets and perspectives, you can achieve more and tackle different aspects of your business more efficiently.

Having an experienced mentor can also provide guidance and advice can be invaluable for a high school entrepreneur. Look for someone in your community who has experience in the field you’re interested in and ask if they would be willing to mentor you. A mentor can provide you with valuable insights and advice, as well as help you to avoid common pitfalls.

students working with a LaunchX startup mentor

Test Your Startup Offering Early and Often

One of the most important parts of your startup process will be getting in front of the customer early and often.  Even during your market research phase, understanding the needs of the customer and what resonates with them and not, then sharing early sketches or an MVP of your offering provides immense value to ensure you continue to create value for your customer and your company.

Here is a general outline of the process:

  1. Develop a proof of concept: This is an early version of the product or service that demonstrates the feasibility of the idea. It should be built quickly and inexpensively, and be enough to show potential customers, investors, and partners.
  2. Build a minimum viable product (MVP): Based on the results of the market research, develop a minimum viable product, which is a version of the product or service that has just enough features to satisfy early customers.
  3. Test and iterate: Test the MVP with potential customers to gather feedback and use it to iterate on the product. Continuously gather data, analyze it, and improve the MVP until it is ready for the commercial launch.
  4. Develop a go-to-market strategy: Determine the best way to reach potential customers, create a pricing and positioning strategy, and plan the launch of the product or service.
  5. Scale and grow: Once the product or service is launched, scale the business to meet the demand. Continuously gather data, test new strategies, and improve the product or service to drive growth.

Keep in mind that startups are different and that you will need to tailor the process based on the specifics of your product and target market.

Leverage Startup Resources for High School Entrepreneurship

As a high school student, you may have limited resources to start your venture, but you will be surprised how much you can achieve by connecting with the right people. Seek out opportunities to network with entrepreneurs and business leaders in your community. Joining entrepreneur clubs, attending entrepreneur events, participating in startup competitions are few examples.

Many high school entrepreneurship programs and organizations offer resources such as training, funding, and networking opportunities. Take advantage of these resources to help you get started and grow your business. This can include programs like DECA, Junior Achievement, and the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), or summer programs like LaunchX.

Remember to be Adaptable

Entrepreneurship is not without its challenges, and sometimes things don’t go as planned. Learning to be flexible and adapt quickly to changing circumstances is a valuable skill for any entrepreneur. Be open to feedback, and be willing to pivot or change course when necessary.

Starting a business in high school can be a lot of work, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Keep your goals in mind, stay focused, and keep working towards your vision. Remember, the earlier you start, the more time you have to learn, grow and succeed!

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