Starting a Business in 2014 (Yes, YOU!)

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Ah, the New Year. It’s a time when all things are possible, and resolutions abound. What are your rezzies this year? Fewer trips to Starbucks for that caramel macchiato? More time at the gym? Spending more quality time with your parents? Great goals, to be sure. But in 2014, why not add something big to your agenda? If you have an idea for a business that’s been brewing, maybe this is the year to make it a reality.

There’s no shortage of teen entrepreneur success stories out there. We promise it IS possible. But you need to follow the necessary steps for starting a business—you can’t just jump right into selling your product (a la Kramer on “Seinfeld”) before you do the background work. So how to begin? Put on your sassy thinking cap and follow these sure steps to success:

1. Nail down the idea. Fairly crucial, right? You need a unique idea—and one that really interests you. This should be a passion project; otherwise it’ll be hard to see it through to the end. Now, if your idea isn’t perfectly solidified yet, that’s okay. You’ll likely tweak it and fine-tune as you move forward with your research. But start with a base plan that inspires and energizes you.

2. Find a mentor. Don’t underestimate the importance of finding a great sounding board. This could be a fellow teen entrepreneur, or an adult with a more seasoned history in entrepreneurship. Either way, it can be helpful to talk to someone who’s forged the same path. They’ll be able to give you the ins and outs, as well as valuable tips. This support could mean the difference between giving up and getting on with it!

3. Do the research. Was that a groan we hear? Sorry…but research is the key to making your million-dollar idea a reality. Questions to consider: has someone tried a similar idea in the past? Are there already other businesses like the one you’re planning? How much capital will it require to get off the ground? You need to be able to answer these questions (and loads more) before you can land yourself in the next issue of Forbes.

4. Zone in on your customer base. Figure out who wants your product or service. Think about age, gender, location and need. Maybe it’s teens who are obsessed with new photo apps, or chunky jewelry lovers, or people who live in cold climates. Who needs this thing you’re going to offer? Start talking it up, and figure out where you should advertise. Where does your target customer base hang out?

5. Create the business plan. Okay, so this might be right up there with “research” in the groan department. But you won’t get a start-up off the ground if you can’t provide a well-articulated and thoughtfully organized business plan. Lucky for you, you’ve already done much of the legwork you’ll need what with all that research you did. (We told you it would come in handy!) Now, get thee online—or to the library—and find some examples of successful business plans to emulate. There are plenty of resources targeted directly at teens like Independent Youth. Or maybe the mentor you found in Step Two can help with this, too!

6. Raise the cash. Okay, now it’s getting real, and your business needs money. You can do this the old-fashioned way, by saving from a part-time job, or setting aside that birthday/graduation money. But why not join the likes of Zach Braff and the director of Veronica Mars, and take advantage of Kickstarter? This online program helps you create a fundraising campaign for your idea. Also, don’t forget to seek out supplies or services in addition to cold, hard cash. For example, does your new venture involve baking? See if there’s a kitchen who would lend you their space for a bargain.

7. Enlist help. If you’ve been bugging your friends endlessly about your idea, or talking it up nonstop, now is the time to get them on board with actually making it happen. You may not be able to act out your business plan solo, so find motivated and energetic partners to help when it comes time to actually sell your product or service!

You really can do this. Check out this teen who created her own business based on an afternoon hobby!

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