A young relative asked me: “If you were 23 what sort of business would you open?” I realised what an interesting question this is. Imagine being 23, with the experience to know what to consider and where the opportunities lie. Thanks for the great question entrepreneur-to-be Jean!
The first answer is that if you want to be a business owner you should become one.
Starting a business is nowhere near as difficult as people suggest. Even desperately poor and illiterate people open sustainable businesses all over the world without business advice, bank loans or advertising.
If that’s your dream, choose a business that can grow as opposed to lifestyle entrepreneur businesses like photography.
Be capable of running it
You should be capable of operating the business. At 23 you may lack business experience but business owners need to be able to handle finances, marketing, sales, HR and administration.
Don’t choose a complicated or highly regulated business, like food or medical supplies. Choose an area you know or love. Many people have built good businesses from their passions and interests.
With Pick n Pay and Nandos, a belief in food mass retailing and a love of Portuguese peri-peri chicken built great business empires.
Should you sell services or products? Service businesses are easier and less expensive to start, but are often harder to grow out of the survival stage. Look beyond the initial launch phase; a mix of products and services may be ideal.
Beware of cutting corners or operating illegally. It’s not worth the risk. Pay taxes, register and be an honourable employer.
To make money from this business it should not be the same as dozens of others. On many street corners, hawkers sell sunglasses, cellphone chargers and coat hangers in competition with each other, and very few make more than survival income.
You don’t want to be like them, so be different from the competition. Whatever business you open, you have to be able to answer the question ‘why would customers switch from their current suppliers to me?’
Good service or low prices alone will not do that — you need real differences.
At 23, with low commitments you can take risks that people in their 40s with a bond and children in school could never take, so use this opportunity. Despite your fears it’s okay to fail – many great entrepreneurs have.
The most adventurous businesses are the riskiest, but also the most rewarding.
Seek out developing rather than declining businesses. For example online sales versus appliance repair — broken appliances are becoming throw away items, but anything involving time- saving and convenience is growing.
How to succeed
In any field the business most likely to succeed is the one that provides goods or services that people would like but have difficulty finding. In your chosen field the way to do this is to ask everyone you meet what their biggest pain is.
Then when you find lots of people with the same pain you pitch a business there.
Once you have an idea for the type of business that would be right for you, use available, often free resources to discuss this with experienced entrepreneurs or mentors.
Many business mentors and coaches will offer a free initial consultation, there are magazines, advice columns online and in print, and entrepreneurs who can advise you. Use them.