Today, more young people than ever before are starting their own businesses. As I travel around the country speaking and meeting students, I’m amazed with the businesses, products, and ideas that young people are launching, all on their own! Because of my strong partnership with Microsoft, I recently learned about their YouthSpark initiatives and their recent Talent Show in New York City where they invite young people with fantastic inventions and business and have them display their work, present their ideas to executives and investors, network with one another, and learn more about the business world. I had the opportunity to interview several of the students involved with the event and pulled out some of my favorite advice they shared for other young people starting their own businesses.
• Ignore Stereotypes. One of the students involved in the event, Alaa Abdulraheen, who created her own nail polish mixer says, “My friends were teasing me that Computer Engineering was for boys, so I wanted to show them that girls could do it too.” I like that she let this idea of computer engineering being for boys motivate her instead of letting it discourage her.
• Seek Feedback. The students that I interviewed all participated in Microsoft’s YouthSpark Imagine Cup event. I asked them why training programs like these are so important. One of the students, Grace Noh, said “At these events you can get feedback from real investors and VCs. (Venture Capital companies). As students, we often have great innovative ideas but think we aren’t good enough or ready to do anything with our ideas. These sort of competitions and programs enrich our creativity and give us a sense of what its really like to start a business or create a product.”
• Connect with other Young Leaders. One of the best parts of participating in training programs and business competitions is that you are able to connect with people who think like you! Johnnie Lovett, a recent grad involved with YouthSpark, says, “YouthSpark has been a tremendous help in connecting with other young leaders from across the globe who share similar mindsets and goals for their community.” He points out another great organization that he is part of called NFTE (National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship) where he says he learned the ins and outs of entrepreneurship and building business plans.
• Talk About Your Ideas. Some people are scared to talk about their ideas as people might steal them. One of the youngest students that I interviewed, Shubham Banerjee, who is only 13 years old (unbelievable), was sharing his story about his business and said that he was invited by Intel to showcase his prototype. He went there and spoke about his business and then Intel announced they were going to invest! You never know where talking about your business might lead you!
• Listen and Absorb the Business Jargon. Shubham expressed that one of the biggest challenges of being a 13 year old in business was trying to understand all of the “business language”. To navigate this, as I’m sure it can be very confusing, take lots of notes, listen carefully, and just try to take in everything everyone is saying. Before you know it – you’ll have quite the business vocabulary of your own!
If you’d like to learn more about Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiatives, please visit the YouthSpark Hub Here!