The Importance of Entrepreneurial Exposure at a Young Age
Insight provided by Jessica Nelson, originally published on September 17th, 2020.
To find a time in life when you have the ability to pursue a business idea and take an entrepreneurial risk, completely unaware of the outcome, is extremely difficult. When considering starting a business people often think about how much is on the line if their idea fails and what they would be sacrificing in their own life if they took such risk. Since entrepreneurship is not a career for everyone, taking that initial step at a young age minimizes risks and losses, while you have a network of people that are willing to help and encourage you. This network may include parents, relatives, mentors and teachers. Taking the first step to try entrepreneurship at a young age is crucial to help develop creativity and resilience. Businesses often fail, but a true entrepreneur learns to adapt, tweaking their ideas to identify market need. Employers seek individuals with these skills because they are able to adjust to the changing demands of today’s society. Whether you aspire to be a future entrepreneur or take the alternate route of working for others, having an entrepreneurial experience at a young age instills qualities that allow you to stand out no matter which path you take.
In middle school, my brother and I took the entrepreneurial risk and started our own ice cream boat business on a local New Hampshire lake. We purchased a small metal boat from two retired fishermen who were ecstatic to see our idea come to life. Growing up, it was rare to see an ice cream truck in our rural area so we thought this opportunity would create lifelong memories for kids. I am so fortunate to have had this experience at a young age, as it helped me develop my personal skills and understand the importance of following a passion and pursuing an idea that I truly love. Tracking our inventory, profits, and expenses while keeping our customers happy is a unique experience. Through this process I learned that customer satisfaction is primary and that financial success will follow. Through the ice cream boat business, we built a reputation that kept people coming back each weekend with a larger crowd.
Recently, we have considered the possibility of franchising the ice cream boat business to provide initial resources and a support network to encourage other young entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a daunting career to enter and I believe that allowing kids at a young age to own a franchise of the ice cream boat business will give them first-hand experience with guidance. Starting a business has taught me how to have the confidence and perseverance when your idea hits bumps in the road or others have doubts. When starting the ice cream boat business, Investing our time and money in the initial assets was daunting as the business is limited due to seasonality. We overcame this challenge by working with the local lake association to spread awareness and excitement for our business. These experiences piqued my interest to study entrepreneurship at UNH and learn how to scale a business idea. I quickly became involved with the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneurship Center at the University of New Hampshire, where ideation is encouraged through start-up competitions, mentors and bootcamps.
Waiting too long to see if entrepreneurship is a career for you may cause you to get to a point where there are too many risks to try it. Young entrepreneurs have plentiful resources and many organizations and mentors are excited to help out. The UNH Entrepreneurship Center has been one of the most helpful resources for me as a young entrepreneur. It enabled me to vet my ideas with other entrepreneurs and challenge myself in an environment that encourages creativity and mitigates risks. Each year I participate in the i2 Passport program through the Entrepreneurship Center. This semester long competition allows me to learn from successful entrepreneurs, pitch my ideas and receive feedback.
As a member of the Rines Angel Fund, we invest in teams that we believe in. Often, The Fund members find it difficult to pinpoint a great team as many attributes, personalities and work ethics are in the mix. I believe the best way to understand what characteristics you are looking for when investing in an entrepreneur, is to gather a team and try an entrepreneurial venture yourself. The University and your local community has the resources to help you get started.
When I finish my entrepreneurial studies at the University of New Hampshire, I hope to use these experiences and skills to start my own business focused on sustainability. UNH and the Rines Angel Fund has taught me to challenge myself, allowing me to find my true interest in entrepreneurship.
Jessica Nelson from Deerfield, NH is a senior pursuing a degree in Business Administration with a focus in Entrepreneurial Studies and a dual minor in Sales and Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems. Her interest in entrepreneurship began when she co-founded an ice-cream boat business, which she still manages today. Bringing these skills and experiences to the Rines Angel Fund, Jessica hopes to learn how a start-up leverages investors’ interests in their company.