This post is part of our StartupDad Series, in which David Moody — father of a teen entrepreneur and founder of the StartupDad blog — explores the trials, tribulations, joys, and achievements that young entrepreneurs and their friends and family face.
It sounds crazy that isolation would be a problem for entrepreneurs, right? How could this be when what many people believe about entrepreneurs is that they have a fun and exciting life, meet lots of interesting people, and are popular in the party scene. Those things can be true if you are successful. However, starting out as a teen entrepreneur can be quite different than that.
For Joshua, our teen entrepreneur, the year after high school was the worst. In high school, he was reasonably popular, elected Vice President of his senior class, and involved in typical high school things when he wasn’t working on business projects. After graduation, however, he found himself in no man’s land. His friends had all gone off to college and he was still living at home. He decided to pursue growing the company instead of attending college. In order to conserve investor’s cash, he wasn’t taking compensation from his company, so he couldn’t afford to move out. His company was in a trademark dispute with a large gaming company which caused their progress to grind to a halt while they were in legal limbo. His co-founders had another company to run, which was their primary focus. That’s a lot to handle at eighteen years old.
Joshua felt very isolated. He was gradually creeping into a dark place. He didn’t see his friends often. His peers in the entrepreneurial world were all at least ten years older than he was, and he felt he had little in common with them. His relationship with us, and especially me, was deteriorating. He didn’t want to be where he was, but he felt trapped.
What resources are out there to help with this?
- School clubs – Involvement in clubs, either as a member or instructor, is a good way to interact and maybe even help others. Many young entrepreneurs I’ve met already know much more about business, product development and technology than the typical high school student in Junior Achievement or Future Business Leaders of America programs. If that is the case, ask the program director or sponsor about being an instructor for some of the topics. If there are no clubs like this in your school or area, start one.
- State associations and maker spaces – There are a number of associations and networks that provide a forum for interaction with other young entrepreneurs. If you are in a highly populated area, odds are there is an association or maker space located near you as these entities have proliferated in recent years. If you are in a more rural area, search for regional or state organizations and get connected with them. The network has value.
- National associations and networks – At the national level there are a number of associations and networks for young entrepreneurs, including Youth Biz, Young Entrepreneur Council, and Young Entrepreneur Academy.
In addition to the above, a good list of a dozen national and international organizations for teen and young adult entrepreneurs can be found in this Entrepreneur article, entitled, “12 Organizations Entrepreneurs Need to Join.” Also check out TeenBusiness, an informative website for teen entrepreneurs.
As we look back on our experience, as a young entrepreneur, Joshua was always a bit isolated from a normal teen life. While he was a likeable person with a good personality, his interests and priorities were different from his classmates. He wasn’t involved in many extracurricular activities, because most of his time outside class was spent working on his company or other products and projects. Once he stopped playing basketball and soccer, making things became his sport.
For Joshua, his situation improved when the legal matters were finally settled and he was able to move in with some of his high school classmates who were in college. That restored his sense of independence and the company could finally move forward again.
THE TAKEAWAY: Being a young entrepreneur can be exciting, but also lonely, at times. You are only alone if you want to be. Don’t let yourself become isolated when you are surrounded by resources. Reach out, get the support you need, and stay engaged.