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Teen Entrepreneurs: Part 2 [Entrepreneurship
Posted on December 15, 2014 @ 08:43:00 AM by Paul Meagher

In my last blog, Teen Entrepreneurs, I discussed my own approach to trying to foster some entrepreneurship in my son and daughter. In today's blog, I want to offer up a case study of a successful teen entrepreneur, Jonathan Dysinger, so that we might reflect on how he achieved his success. Johnathan Dysinger was 15 when he started work on designing the Quick Cut Greens Harvester which now sells for around $500 and is currently sold out. There is a very bright future ahead for his company, Farmer's Friend, and his first product, the Quick Cut Greens Harvester. Here is the official promotional video for the product.

The magazine Growing For Market has a story on how Johnathan came up with the idea and what was involved in bringing it to market. I'm not going to repeat these details here. I just want to comment on what general lessons might be gleaned from this example.

The first lesson is that teen entrepreneurs are no different than other entrepreneurs insofar as they are interested in solving problems that are deeply meaningful to them. In the case of Johnathan, he spent long hours harvesting greens and was very interested in finding a way to harvest greens more easily. Many teens these days are not as involved in the work of their parents and it is something to consider whether this is an element of developing entrepreneurial capability in your teens.

The second lesson has to do with the discovery and validation of an entrepreneurial project. The idea for this project was suggested by Elliot Coleman who is a highly-respected pioneer in market gardening (Elliot is the gray haired fellow in the video above). While Johnathan may have had the latent desire to solve the problem of harvesting greens more easily based upon his experience, it took the suggestion of a mentor for him to realize that it was a real problem, that it was not being currently solved, and that it would be quite valuable to those who work in the area that he was involved in. So the discovery and validation of entrepreneurial projects for teens does not necessarily originate in the teen and might be best fostered by putting them in contact with a mentor who is involved in the area that they are involved or interested in.

A third lesson has to do with getting support for your idea. In this case, his parents were able to offer support for the initial development of his prototypes. Once the idea reached a more advanced stage, the parents were again able to marshal support for the idea by going through their network to raise additional funds for manufacturing. So the development of teen entrepreneurship is not just a matter of letting the teen go off on their own to design and develop a product or service, the parent will probably need to be involved financially all the way through. It may be a losing proposition for most parents but if they stay involved and provide capital and support at the right times and in the right amounts, then maybe such projects will stand a better chance of being successful. Also, at a certain point, the parent may need to recognize that the idea has reached a level beyond their ability to finance. The parent will need to help raise funds to take the project to another level by tapping into their business network.

Finally, there are some advantages to being a teen entrepreneur. I think society notices a bit more when a teenager makes the leap into entrepreneurship and I think society might be there for them a bit more than they would be for even young adult entrepreneurs. The media picks up on these stories, mentors might be more open and supportive of young entrepreneurs with startup ambitions, and financing might be more available because there is so much potential that, if fostered correctly, could help both the financier and society for a long time to come. Investors want to get in early when they see potential and you can't get in much earlier than supporting a teen in a startup, especially when that teen is surrounded by parents who are also supporting him/her financially and in many other ways.

So these are just a few lessons we might draw from this case study. Another high profile case study of a young entrepreneur might be Parker Schnabel (pictured below) who is one of the featured miners on the popular TV series Gold Rush Alaska (one of my favorite shows on TV now). I think you see some of the same dynamics playing out if you were to do a case study on Parker (i.e., entrepreneurial ideas originating/validated with his grandfather mentor, ongoing financial support from parents, good media coverage owing to age, relative ease of raising capital because of early potential and family involvement). Parker is more accurately classified as a young adult now but was a teenager when he started up his own mining venture. One challenge that Parker's case illustrates more clearly is the problem of being taken seriously by adults. In Parker's case, I think that his grounded self-confidence and work-ethic are big factors in gaining respect from his seniors and would be important personal attributes for successful teen entrepreneurs to possess as well.

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