Four lessons I learned from starting a small business aged 14

Four lessons I learned from starting a small business aged 14

My childhood was a wonderful time but my family lived on next to nothing. I’d have given anything for the toys I saw in the shop windows. This experience meant I was determined to earn money for myself early and by the time I was 14, I was running between two jobs and unintentionally entered the entrepreneurship world determined to start a successful small business.

I was an electronics geek, learning the ins and outs on secondhand kits from the market. I proved a dab hand at circuitry and I managed to convince my older sister to let me use her car as a testing ground. I managed to figure out how to install a stereo unit and a set of speakers. News spread of my new found talent and so began my first venture. My strategy? To charge 50 per cent less than the professional businesses in the local area.

Marketing has always been in my blood, even back then using word of mouth. Not only did my first enterprise teach me some essential strategies for small businesses but it also meant I could live financially independent from my parents. Between 14 and 20 years old I had the money to live how I wanted.

1. Find a gap in the market

It’s vitally important to seize a market opportunity when it presents itself. The built-in car stereos at the time were pretty poor so the potential for upgrades was there for the taking. Since then, technology and system integration has come on leaps and bounds so the market has certainly shrunk in recent years.

2. Quality work will do most of the marketing for you

I was proud of my business and it showed in the work I did. The craftsmanship spoke for itself and when people showed off their sound systems to their friends, those friends soon became my customers. I learnt that working hard and doing an excellent job was my marketing. I have carried this ethos into the businesses I run today and my agency has grown bigger and bigger solely because of referrals.

3. Know your audience

Unbeknownst to me, my car stereo audience was a very select one. These were people who loved their cars and were prepared to shell out to make it even better. Finding your specific audience will mean you can target them with messages they will be interested in where they will see it. 

4. Find and strengthen your position among competitors

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is vital. My car stereo business was run from my parents garage so I didn’t have any overheads. This meant I could afford my pricing to be significantly lower than my competition. I made sure that it was worth choosing me over anyone else because the customer could be sure they were getting better quality, service and price.

I’ve carried these lessons from first starting a small business through to the several subsequent successful businesses I have founded.