by Joe Edgar, CEO of TenantCloud
The tortoise and the hare is a great bedtime story, but also proffers some advice to every young business owner and entrepreneur alike. The egotistical rabbit takes on a race of which they consider themselves to be the best and take no mind of their opponent. The CEO of Blockbuster, John Antioco, said in 2000, “Redbox and Netflix aren’t even on the radar.”
Being a young entrepreneur is the tortoise in this analogy, because oftentimes, they don’t yet have a track record or a vast professional network; however, young entrepreneurs possess something much more powerful – tenacity.
As young people enter the job market for the first time, many think their only option is a traditional hourly position or a 9-5 job – the reality is that they can foster their entrepreneurial side from the start. For example, I purchased my first investment property at 14 with money I saved from mowing lawns. Although it was fairly run down and located on a reservation town in Oregon, I worked at it. I pushed myself to work night and day to fix up the property, paid it off in 60 days and made a profit – and then took that and bought more investment properties.
That early experience inspired my passion as an entrepreneur and started me on the path toward becoming a real estate investor. I realized then that being young and inexperienced gave me the tools I needed to be fervent in my goals. For young entrepreneurs who too are looking for how they can start a race when the odds seem against them I share these tips:
You have more resources than you think.
Most teenagers don’t think they have many resources. I grew up on a Native American reservation as one of 13 children who lived in the garage with siblings, because we couldn’t all fit in the house. The closest town had a population of less than 1,000 people and the only employer in town was a small Texaco gas station that was only open during the day. Yet, right in front of me were unkept yards, trees falling down and fences in disarray. I worked for less than a dollar an hour when I first went around offering my services and found an old lawn mower at the local dump that I fixed up. Right in front of me was an untapped market and that demanded a resource that I soon learned was extremely valuable – me.
Leverage your access to capital.
A young entrepreneur often doesn’t realize the access to capital in which they have. Most startups go after venture because they need money to support themselves while growing a business. Young entrepreneurs have an opportunity in their life when they don’t have family to support, monthly bills to pay and haven’t become beholden to the society with debt. My down payment from mowing lawns was only $3,000, but set the pace for me to find my next investment and grow what became a multi-million dollar portfolio. Had I been a young adult that $3,000 would have been harder and taken longer to save. Not having the expenses that later become unavoidable is like getting access to capital you never knew you had. Take advantage of this time in your life to work and save.
Ignorance can be bliss.
Experience can bring great wisdom, but it can also breed fear, particularly fear of risk and an inclination to take the safest route. When you’re young and inexperienced, you aren’t inhibited by the negative consequences, because most times, you haven’t yet experienced them. This mindset is a real asset and allows you to ponder as to what you’re passionate about and go after it. Take the leap and know that inexperience is where dreams start and these empower you to be fervent in bringing your dreams to fruition
Seek out opportunities to get involved.
Get involved in student council, learn about business classes offered at your school and volunteer with organization. As an entrepreneur you are also agreeing to become a leader in both your community and your businesses, so learning key leaderships skills now will save you many headaches later. You will also find that in volunteering you make many friends and those friendships are priceless. One of my first investors in a rental property (he supplied the funds for me to start buying many properties and we’d split the profit) I met as a volunteer for a local play house.
Evaluate whether life distractions are worth the risk of losing focus on your quest to learn and grow as an entrepreneur. I traded-in many party nights for late nights working on investment properties or researching new investment ideas. I spent many weekends researching compound interest, tax laws and learning the ins and outs of the industry. Those long hours I spent paid off as later it is that knowledge and those same ideas that I am still using and bringing to fruition.
The tortoise wins the race because it sets the pace and sticks with it. As a young entrepreneur you too need to set the pace at which you plan to pursue your dreams. Having low capital needs and the ability to go after whatever you want in life provides an opportunity.
Joe Edgar is the CEO of TenantCloud. Prior to TenantCloud he was a principal investor with Petros Partners, a venture fund focused on clean energy technology and prior to Petros he was the Managing Director of the J4T Venture Fund; a $50 million venture fund focused on Texas early stage companies. He was also a member of the U.S. Treasury’s SSBCI Venture Capital Steering Committee.