Recently, my Wild Creations co-founder and I were honored to have been asked to speak at a retreat for Independent Youth, an organization aimed at empowering young people to become tomorrow's business leaders and entrepreneurial innovators. The weekend long retreat brought together a handful of talented and young entrepreneurs from around the country, ranging in age from 11 to 16, to promote team building and collaboration.

Our responsibility was to work with these young men and women (more like boys and girls), all of whom had business ideas in varying stages of startup, to discuss scaling their businesses. It turned out that these kids were smart--really smart--and I ultimately found myself feeding off their youthful exuberance and unbridled ambition.

Sometimes you're the mentor, sometimes you're the mentee.

In the end, my entrepreneurial "battery" got a much needed recharge. Here are the five lessons this amazingly talented group of youth entrepreneurs taught me.

  1. Excuses are for adults. When I consult startups, I try to drill down into the business idea, presenting a myriad of reasons why it might not be feasible. When I do, I often hear excuses why my reasoning is wrong or misguided. These young minds on the other hand would simply fire back two or three reasons why it would work. Next time you face criticism and adversity, do not get defensive and use excuses. Attack the problem and find new ways to make it work.
  2. Solve a problem. Many startups and inventors pursue an idea because they believe it will be cool and popular. When I asked how these young entrepreneurs came up with their ideas, the typical answer I got was that they identified a problem that had no existing solution in the market. How brilliantly simple, right? In the end, remember that to be a successful, your business should solve a problem and provide value to your customers, not just be cool.
  3. Collaboration is the future. The purpose of the retreat was to build an environment that encouraged team building and the sharing of ideas. It was apparent that they learned quickly that each of them separately was a talented force, but together as a "family" they could conquer the world.  This is important, because business success depends much more on creating and nurturing these types of professional networks.
  4. Creativity spurs creativity. The great thing about youth is they have no shortage of creativity. As we get older, life tends to stifle our imagination and ability to innovate. If you are someone who feels like you are in a rut, hang out with a youth entrepreneur. Their enthusiasm and creativity, which has yet to be overly soiled by failure and societal paradigms, will rub off on you.
  5. Always make room for fun. During the retreat, I was witness to an epic game of Monopoly and was schooled in a game of Guesstures. As an entrepreneur, it is all too easy to get caught up in the daily grind of our business and to fall into the habit of allowing technology to consumer our time. When it comes down to it, you have to make time for fun or otherwise get caught in a perpetual cycle of mundane work that will make your entrepreneurial experience terrible.

Working with these young entrepreneurs was incredibly inspiring to me.  You do not need to dedicate an entire weekend for a retreat to get the same return. Instead, you can simply offer up your guidance by being a mentor to a young entrepreneur through organizations like Independent Youth. It is a great way to give back to your business community--as well as find a little inspiration for yourself.

Do you have an experience working with youth entrepreneurs?  Please share with others in the comments below.

Published on: Jul 25, 2014