Entrepreneurship

The best advice for young people starting a business

Billionaire Mark Cuban was just 12 when he started his first party, so he knows what it takes to start a business at a young age.

And, he says, there’s one simple thing you should consider if you want to do just that.

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

That means starting with what you know, he noted.

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

Cuban famously got an early start in learning to run his own business as a teenager selling trash bags door-to-door in suburban Pittsburgh. He later sold a variety of collectibles, from baseball cards to coins and stamps, saying the proceeds helped pay for college.

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

Similarly, as a student, he worked as a bartender and gave dance lessons to earn extra money. Cuban later showed off his dancing prowess publicly by appearing on Dancing with the Stars in 2007, placing 8th in the competition.

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

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

This is, of course, easier said than done: successfully starting and growing your own business is notoriously challenging. About 20% of new businesses fail within a year of starting, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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

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

It’s hard enough to find something you can control and do yourself. Becoming great at it — which, by the way, is Cuba’s No. 1 rule for making money — is much more difficult.

That includes extensively researching your business plan and potential competition, seeking financing and creating back-up plans that will allow for flexibility if you need to adjust on the fly, the billionaire said.

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

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

Disclosure: CNBC owns exclusive offline cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

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