Entrepreneurship

Good advice for young people starting a business

Billionaire Mark Cuban was only 12 years old when he launched his first side hustle, he knows what it takes to start a business at a young age.

And he says there’s one simple thing to consider if you want to do it too.

“The key to starting a business when you’re young is to do things you can do yourself—things you can do with your own time,” Cuban recently shared a group of high school students at Lewisville High School in Texas.

That means starting with what you know, he noted.

“If it’s a product, make something that’s easy for you to get and easy for you to sell,” Cuban said, adding, “It really comes down to one simple thing. The best businesses are things you can control and do it yourself. That’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.”

Cuban got an early start learning how to run his own business as a pre-teen sale of garbage bags door-to-door in a Pittsburgh suburb. Later he sold a variety of collectibles, from baseball cards to coins and stampssays the revenue helped pay for his college tuition.

In each of these cases, Cuban used household items and collectibles available to a child and sold them for a profit — following his own advice to teenagers today.

In the same way, he worked as a university student as a bartender and taught dance lessons to earn extra money. Cuban later showed off his dancing skills in public performing on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2007 and finished 8th in the competition.

“I was a hustler … I always sold. I always had something going on. It was just my nature,” Cuban said during a 2016 episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

Now Cuban says he regularly tells kids and teenagers who want to start their own businesses to do what he did. Build around “something they can do or a service they can offer to friends, family and neighbors,” he told CNBC Make It in September.

Of course, that’s easier said than done: launching and growing your own business successfully is notoriously challenging. About 20% of new businesses fail within a year of launching, according to data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Being an entrepreneur and starting a business doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy and all of a sudden you make a lot of money,” Cuban told the Lewisville High School students. “Being an entrepreneur is the harder way.”

If it were easy, he added, “you all would already be doing it and coming on ‘Shark Tank’ and taking my place.”

Finding something you can control and do yourself is hard enough. Getting good at it – which is Cuban, by the way No. 1 rule to make money – is much more difficult.

It involves a comprehensive study of your business plan and potential competition, seeking financing and creating backup plans to allow for flexibility if you need to adjust on the fly, the billionaire has previously said.

As long as you don’t mind putting in the work, especially after you’ve chosen your business option, a world of opportunities can open up to you, Cuban told the high school students.

“If you’re willing to take the initiative and start a business, anything is possible,” he said.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

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