Advice is ubiquitous and overwhelming for entrepreneurs, but still we are frequently asked to lend our experience working with student entrepreneurs. Rather than write a diatribe on the subject, we’ve decided to instead combine our insights into 30 compact, and hopefully insightful, nuggets of advice.

  1. Be authentic. Don’t try to be anything you’re not. You do not have to be a giant company or have an office of workers behind you to be successful. Tell people your story; why you started your business, where you are now, and where you want to go.
  2. Always ask for help. Regardless of your age, no one is expected to know everything about everything. Specialize your skill set and regularly ask others for help. Plus, since you’re in high school but already exploring the world of entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial veterans will be impressed by your drive and happy to lend you their guidance!
  3. Always deliver on promises. You have to keep your word. If you promise to meet a deadline, meet it. No excuses. Your word will quickly become your brand.
  4. Don’t lie. This may seem like a no-brainer, but if it is, why do so many people lie? Tell the truth and you will gain people’s respect. With regards to the previous piece of advice, if you’re going to be late on a delivery, tell people you are, apologize, and then move as quickly as possible to deliver.
  5. Ask people to tell you stories. The best advice comes out of real world examples. You’ll learn more listening to anecdotes than reading business theory. Ask people about their worst customers, their best sales, and their favorite memories.
  6. Treat your customers like family. Your first customers will determine the success of your business. Make sure they understand how valuable they are to you and don’t be afraid of asking them for help, too!
  7. Always ask for feedback. Gather as much information from your customers as possible. Ask about the product, the experience, the price, and where you should be selling. Don’t forget to ask for referrals!
  8. Stay enthusiastic, engaging, and eager to help. You should be the easiest person in the world to get in touch with. There is no problem or issue too small for you when it comes to pleasing your customers.
  9. Set your priorities. For our students, we’re crystal clear: Family, School, and then Business. Always remember where in the priority chain you are.
  10. Set goals, measure, and recalibrate often. You’ll never know if you’re succeeding if you have nothing to measure your progress against. Set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound) and keep pace with them.
  11. Find mentors. As a high school student, this can be daunting, but don’t fret! Look for experts in your industry or trusted business leaders in your community and ask for a moment of their time. We promise people will go out of their way to help you if you have a sincere interest in their field.
  12. Stay close with your system of support. Every founder, regardless of age, needs a support system to help them get through the rough times. Don’t shun your friends or family. Let them know how you’re feeling and how they can help. Don’t bottle up your emotions.
  13. Communicate openly. Being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster in every aspect of your life: emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Be honest with people; pretending everything is ‘all good’ when that’s not the case tends to lead to serious conflict when you confront someone over what you perceive as a long chain of issues, but they see as an isolated incident, because you never confronted them in the first place.
  14. Communicate often. The only thing in the world worse than delivering bad news is a total communication blackout. Nothing is scarier than a lack of information – everything else can be worked through.
  15. Learn and practice skills. Skill based education will sweep over the educational landscape like a tidal wave in the coming years. Learn how to learn so that you can develop skills quickly. Then continue to use and hone those skills.
  16. Appreciate the value of a team. Many people hate teams in high school, usually because one or two people end up completing the entire assignment. News flash: It’s not always like that! Find people as dedicated to an idea as you are and work with them. You’ll be amazed at the true power of a team.
  17. Expand your circle. In high school and college, it’s easy to become trapped in a ‘bubble’ around your school and community. Be proactive and seek out friendships, mentorships, and relationships outside of your comfort zone.
  18. Decide how to incorporate your business experience in your college application. Being a student entrepreneur in high school is impressive! Start working with your college counselor and your parents to figure out the best strategy to make this a highlight of your college application.
  19. Use the press. Reporters and news outlets crave unique stories. A high school student or team running a chocolate company, or fashion company, or cheese exporting company is an awesome story. Design a press strategy to maximize exposure.
  20. Know your numbers. If your high school doesn’t offer an accounting course (which it probably doesn’t), take an accounting MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). If you don’t know your way around your financial numbers, you’ll never have control over your business.
  21. Learn technology. Notice this doesn’t say learn how to code. If you’re interested in programming, go for it! If you’re not, that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. Learn how technology works; understand the difference between server-side and browse-side languages; be able to speak with programmers.
  22. Don’t limit yourself (geographically). It’s easier now more than ever to ship anywhere in the world. If you make something awesome, it’s almost guaranteed people outside of your neighborhood, county, state, or even country would be willing to buy it.
  23. Don’t limit yourself (mentally). Never think “I’m just a high school student.” So what? Success doesn’t consider how old you are. You can do anything any other founder can.
  24. Be conscious of your limitation and don’t overstretch. It’s important to always be pushing yourself to become better, faster, stronger, and more efficient. But you do have a limit of time and energy. Don’t burn out before college!
  25. Sell Something! Don’t get wrapped up in anything else. Be excited to sell and stay focused on three questions: what do I sell, who do I sell it to, how do I make money?
  26. Speak with an attorney. As soon as you’re ready to start selling, find an attorney who would be willing to give you an hour of their time to talk through the business. This conversation will help you to avoid unnecessary liability and protect you (and your parents)!
  27. Don’t underestimate the amount of effort social media takes. Yes, Facebook is free and so is Twitter. The amount of energy you have to put into these platforms for marketing purposes will greatly exceed your expectations.
  28. Create great content. Social media and marketing in general thrives on great content. People devour articles, posts, videos, images, .gifs, .pdfs, slide shows, presentations and anything else you can produce…but only if it’s high quality!
  29. Don’t ignore B2B opportunities. Bulk sales are your best friend. It may seem easier to sell directly to consumers, but don’t be fooled. One big account could double or triple your revenues.
  30. Don’t take everyone’s advice. Everyone is going to feel compelled to offer you their unsolicited advice. Some of it will be incredibly sage…and a lot of it will be garbage. Learning when to stick to your plan or your gut is an important lesson that you’ll only learn with time!

Feature image courtesy of GotCredit via Flickr