As someone who started my own business seven years ago, I find myself continuously humbled and eager to learn about the successes of other entrepreneurs and how they do it.
Surprisingly, there is some science out there about entrepreneur DNA profiles -- which are essentially successful entrepreneurial personalities and traits compiled from real entrepreneurs. Some of us may just be built for this gig.
There is also the nurture side of the equation -- the environment in which we were raised. Mark Zuckerberg's dad cites some key tenets of how he helped raise Mark and the impact it may have had on Mark's success as an entrepreneur.
And then there's 15-year-old Rachel Zietz. The high school sophomore honors student and lacrosse player from Boca Raton, Florida, started her own durable line of lacrosse equipment at only 13 years of age in 2013.
In her second year of business, she achieved revenues of $1 million. (This is where the "humbling" part joins the eager-to-learn part for me.)
How did she do it? After taking a rigorous 33-week course at the Young Entrepreneur's Academy in Boca Raton, she entered the local competition. Even though she didn't win, it got her started on some initial fundraising to build her business.
And she was smart enough to get some help and watch others close to her who were entrepreneurs themselves -- including her parents, who started their own financial services company and modeled the work ethic, passion, and business savvy required to succeed.
There are a few key things that we can all learn from this 15-year-old -- or at least be reminded of if we've lost sight of them as we battle through some of the daily grind required to run our businesses:
Opportunities present themselves as problems.
Rachel experienced a problem in a sport she loved, but she recognized the problem was also an opportunity.
There was a gap in the market, and instead of complaining about the gap, she filled it.
Judging by her year-two revenues, others saw the gap, too.
Once I read about Rachel, I started looking at other "Kidpreneurs." I wondered if they had common perspectives that all of us grownup entrepreneurs could learn from.
They did. They all cited incredible passion for what they did -- whether it was making lemonade, computer software, or lacrosse equipment.
It may seem obvious, but this message is refreshing and important because it's easy to feel like we are losing the passion for what we started while pushing through parts of the work we may not particularly like (for me, it is the client invoicing and follow-up process).
As the CEO of a company I consult with recently said to me:
"Working for money is hard. If I didn't have incredible passion for what I do, I don't think I could do this job."
Put another way, Rachel says:
"...passion is the key to success and it is what drives you to work through obstacles and challenges in your way."
Use all of your resources.
Rachel took advantage of the local entrepreneurial competition in her area. She didn't win. Simply by participating, though, it created her opportunity to start building the financial grounding she would need.
She also paid attention to what her parents did as entrepreneurs. Every resource out there can have some payoff for you, even if in unexpected ways -- so pay attention and learn from others.
The other day, when my 15-year-old son told me and my wife he wanted to start his own computer and tech-support company to service the neighborhood, we were enthusiastically supportive. After all, without him in the house, we'd be one router malfunction away from never having internet again.
But before letting him get started, I asked him to reflect on three key questions that I admitted to him had been reinforced for me by a story about someone his own age.
- Could he articulate what gap his business was filling in the market?
- Did he truly have passion around this?
- What resources could he use to make it happen?
If he could make a good case, we'd greenlight him.
So he went off and did his homework. A week later, he presented a compelling case to the board of directors (me and my wife), and was given the go-ahead to get rolling. He's already secured three clients.