Here's Everything I Wish I'd Known When I Started My Company At 16

Vanessa Van Petten

I started my company as a naive 16-year-old. There are so many things I wish I had known.

Stray From the Plan

When I started RadicalParenting.com I was constantly told, “Stick to your big goal” or “Full speed ahead.” Having an end goal is great, but I didn’t realise that being flexible and being open to unexpected; opportunities were equally important. For example, as a writer, I wanted to offer books and blog posts to our audience. I was given the opportunity to do webinars and decided to give it a shot, even though it wasn’t in the plan. The webinars turned out to be hugely successful and taught me that video as well as articles are the a powerful combination. Having a plan is great, but being willing to changing directions when new opportunities arise can really help boost your business.

Offer Before You Ask

As a newbie to networking, my approach was all wrong. I went to conferences with a sack full of business cards and asked everyone what they could do for me. I quickly learned that I even though I was meeting people, there was nothing substantial about our interactions. We would trade emails and then never converse again or my blunt ask would turn them off. After a few failed conferences, I learned that if I found out as much as I could about their business I could target the specific ways we could help each other. So, when you go to a conference find out their business and then think of ways that you can both leverage each others audiences, specialties or connections. Not only will they remember you, but your business will benefit as well.

Keep It Simple

Starting a company is not as hard as maintaining a company. The first few steps of starting my company like building the website, getting incorporated and writing my business plan were challenging. However, I believed everything would get easier from there — boy was I wrong. Once I built our website I realised I had to maintain it, add content to it and optimise it if anyone other than my parents were going to find it. Keeping the business growing as a harder challenge than I thought. I wish I had known that making company processes, products and systems simple from the start would make running the company less expensive and complicated later. If you are starting a company or a new project think about both how to do it and how to maintain it.

Vanessa Van Petten specialises in social and emotional intelligence research and development. The focus of her company, The Science of People, is to research youth behaviour and help adults keep up with young adults. 

The Young Entrepreneur Council (Y.E.C.) is an invite-only nonprofit organisation comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The Y.E.C promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.

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