Eston Nzuki from Narobi in Kenya sent me a #challengerichard to “write an article about the things to do in your 20s to get where you are now”. Challenge accepted! Here’s my advice for young entrepreneurs.
Do what you love and love what you do
When you start your own business, it’s important to try your hand at everything and identify which areas of operation you’re best at and enjoy doing the most. It was nearly impossible for me to keep up in school due to my dyslexia; I struggled with subjects like math and science, but I was passionate about topics like pop culture, music and current affairs (especially the wars in Vietnam and Nigeria).
I left at 16 to start Student magazine, which focused on the subject areas I liked the most. My passion for what I was doing sometimes kept me working all night and certainly helped me to focus during the day. It also helped me to stay positive during stressful times, and tackle challenges head on. We spend roughly 80 per cent of our waking lives at work, so it’s important that we do what we love and love what we do.
Don’t be shy to ask for help
No one is good at everything. Some skills take years to master, while others, you may never master at all. When I started Student, I tried my hand at every part of the business. You name it, I did it: writing, editing, advertising, marketing, accounting. I soon realised that I just wasn’t suited for some particular roles – namely those that involved working with numbers.
So I reached out to people who possessed the skills I lacked and asked them for help, and then I quickly learned to hand over responsibilities to those who did them better than me. So, ask yourself: which areas of the business interest you the most? Sales? Design? Marketing? Distribution? And if you’re not in the position to hire people, get out to local networking events and seek out a mentor, or other entrepreneurs who have advice to share. Talking to people is not only a great way to help you overcome challenges; it can also help you refocus.
Take a notebook with you wherever you go
I firmly believe that anyone who aspires to lead a company must develop a habit of taking notes. I carry a notebook everywhere, and am an avid note-taker and list-maker. This helps me to focus on what I need to get done and encourages me to be productive – and discourages me from procrastinating!
I can’t tell you where I’d be if I hadn’t had a pen on hand to write down my ideas (or more importantly, other people's) as soon as they came to me. Some of Virgin’s most successful companies have been born from random moments; if we hadn't opened our notebooks, they would never have happened.
I didn’t get where I am today by sitting at a desk. I’ve never had an office, and always lived on the move. Travel is one of the best ways to learn about the world, what you love and what you want to change. It’s a wonderful way to meet people, have fun and discover new ideas. Get out there and see what you can find.
Most importantly… Don’t ever let other people use your age as an excuse to not take you seriously. Young entrepreneurs look at the world with fresh eyes and such lively determination. Some of the modern world’s greatest ideas and innovations came from people in their 20s or younger. You could be next.