Becoming a multimillionaire or launching a profitable business enterprise was once seen as something that people did in their 30s and 40s. Now, more and more teens are starting successful corporations, small businesses and social ventures.
Internet entrepreneurs like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or What Ever Life’s Ashley Qualls, who launched her site at 17, are proof that you don’t have to wait until you graduate college – or high school for that matter – to pursue your passion. And these days, you don’t have to do it alone. There are numerous organizations that offer training to aspiring moguls.
The Young Entrepreneur Series (Y.E.S.), based in the Detroit area, recently announced its new Future CEO Leaders program designed to teach teen girls about business, leadership, philanthropy and social responsibility through self-empowerment. Registrations are being accepted for the six-month program through Oct. 15, 2011.
Empowered Flower Girl spoke with global business consultant and Y.E.S. Executive Director Tonya McNeal-Weary about how she got started and how she’s helping girls realize their entrepreneurial potential.
What was your first job ever?
My first job was actually working for my cousin as a receptionist at a tire repair shop. I was 18 years old.
When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I realized I wanted to become an entrepreneur and run my own business when I was about 20 years old. I have always liked the idea of being my own boss.
Who was your business mentor growing up?
I didn’t have any formal mentoring relationships growing up; however I had role models whom I looked up to. Having a mentor or a positive role model can be very helpful as you are deciding on career options, or maybe looking to decide what path to take for your future.
Teens hear every day that when they graduate jobs will be hard to find, what can a young person do now to prepare for their future career?
The reality is that jobs are more scarce than ever before – making the few jobs that are available more competitive. I would encourage young people today to invest in a good college education, seek additional opportunities including internships, study abroad programs, and learning a foreign language. This would make them more competitive in today’s job market. I would also encourage young people to turn their unique talents and hobbies into a business of their own. Help to create jobs and rebuild our economy.
What advice would you give to a girl thinking of starting a business or nonprofit?
I would advise her to never give up on her dream. Starting a business is not easy. You have to have drive and dedication. Having a good mentor can really be beneficial as well. Definitely take advantage of various resources available to entrepreneurs. There are many agencies and organizations that offer free and low-cost services to assist new entrepreneurs. There are risks that come with entrepreneurship but as with any other investment – the greater the risk, the greater the reward.
Not in Detroit? Not a problem. There are numerous groups throughout North America that offer leadership training, tips, news and other resources for aspiring business owners. Google it! Or check out these sites:
Small Business Association – http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/teens/
Entrepreneur Online – http://www.entrepreneur.com/tsu
Elevator Pitch – http://www.elevatorpitch2011.com/
Young Entrepreneur – http://www.youngentrepreneur.com/