Ideas + Insights

Why building a business in your 20’s is the best idea ever

Tess Robinson

Ever been hit by a snowball in the face? Yeah, it stings. Tell you what also stings? Pulling 70 hours weeks while your mates are out partying, gallivanting the globe, or bingeing on the next must-see Netflix series.

In the not-too-distant past, I was an ambitious 22-year old who had dropped out of my fourth university degree with about $300 in my bank account. My circle of friends were either backpacking the world dodging responsibility, pissing their wage up the wall on a Saturday night, or working in hospitality, spending their hard earned cash on full-priced Zimmerman and endless cheese platters. Crazytown.

I, on the (very) other hand, didn’t just drop out of university to go down any of those particularly fun routes. I dropped out of university because I was confused about my future. And so, with no money, no experience and no bloody idea, I decided to start my own business.

Although I never actually completed a degree (much to my father’s dismay), I had close to enough Photoshop knowledge to pull off the title of ‘Graphic Designer’. And so I started by doing loads of work for friends and friends of friends for dirt cheap. I mean, seriously cheap. Having never stepped foot in another design agency, I was seriously clueless about how to run a design project, let alone a fully fledged business with clients and timelines and budgets and cashflow and tax debts. But what I lacked in business know-how, I made up for tenfold in passion, tenacity and determination.

And so, whilst my friends were out having the time of their lives, I was at my desk, pulling all-nighters and all-weekers on a regular basis. I put my head in the books, logged out of Facebook and ate tinned tuna and broccoli for a really long time. I traded in trips to Coachella for all nighters at the computer, and fancy dinners were swapped out for leftovers as I ate at my desk and worked the days away.

Do I have any regrets? No wayyyy. In fact, I am such a sicko that since starting my first business at 22, in the 5 years since, I’ve added another 3 business babies to the scoreboard. Maniac much? I’ve soaked up every minute of building a business. Yes, even the painful, I’d-prefer-to-die moments. Why? Because I feel like I was made for this and I feel like building a business in your 20s is just the absolute best thing you can do.

Like the idea of smashing the glass ceiling? Then smash it. Want to explore the deepest depths of your potential? Seek it. Do you wish to change the very way we perceive the world in which we live? Then change it!!

All too often, people think that business ownership is the exclusive right of the seasoned and experienced homies. That after years of climbing your way up the corporate ladder, you will have the wisdom, expertise and know-how needed to establish your own company. Well, let this be a very serious and strong news flash — your age does NOT define your ability to run a business!

Being a 20-something is arguably the best time to establish your business. And here’s why:

    Building a business means taking leaps and jumps that require serious risk. Your youth acts as a perfect opportunity to be able to tolerate such enormous risk, because you’re, well, crazy! You’ll have fewer responsibilities, fewer commitments and much more time to make up any losses you incur. You may not yet have mortgage payments, medical bills, or even children. If your business takes a while to get off the ground, or heaven-forbid, it flops flat on its face entirely, your kids won’t die of starvation. We hope.
    It takes a lot of energy to make a startup work. No amount of coffee, energy drinks or even sleep will prepare you for the craziness of running your own business. I’m 27, and I can promise you that the journey is real, the Instagram feed is real, and the struggle is REAL! But I am capable. Imagine how I’d feel pulling 70 hour weeks at 50?Let’s face it, we’re all dying. Every day. In your 20s you’re supposedly in your prime, full of adrenaline, dopamine and that go-get-em zest for life. And trust me, you’re going to need it. Sustained energy and relentless drive are the secret and perfect ingredients of every single success story there ever were in all of the land.
    I started a design agency without ever having stepped foot inside one. Yep, I was oblivious.I had no idea how these things ran. This was both a detriment and a delight — on one hand, I had to make mistakes in order to learn. On the other, however, I had no preconceived ideas of which systems to implement or what software to use, hell, I didn’t even know which positions to hire for. This meant that I executed solely based on intuition and independent thinking, thus carving new ways of working and interacting with staff and clients. Being fresh out of uni, I was full of new ideas and a hunger to learn. Us 20-somethings have had less amount of time exposed to the norms and rules of the professional world and we are less committed to those entrenched ideals. We are free thinkers, open to every solution and ready to soak it all up.
    Big brothers demolish just about everything in sight, and your appetite is figuratively just as strong in your 20s. Because it has to be voracious in order to overcome the obvious challenges.I would love to say that I was super prepared, had a business plan down pat, and stacks of cash in the bank before starting Smack Bang Designs, but the reality looked awfully different. I was a university dropout, with just enough money for one week’s rent. I had a pocketful of dreams and not much else. But I made it work. I guess when you’re thrown in the deep end like that you’ve only got 2 choices – sink or swim. For me, sinking was just never a real option. I was hungry to make it work, so I did.
    It’s a magical reality — us millennials have time on our side! Developing a business in your 20s means you’ve got plenty of time to learn, fail, grow and refine. There is no shortcut for success, as we all know know, but starting a business while you’re young gives you a little more time to learn a lot of things. In case you fail, you will still have years to adapt and develop. And between you and me, failure is a sure fire way to developing into a better, brighter, bolder human anyway!
    Whether you’re starting a multinational tech giant or selling belly button dusters at the markets, technology and social media are non-negotiables for any 21st century business. In your 20s, you’ll stand a better chance of recognising and incorporating these new technologies quickly and effectively. Lucky for us, we practically sleep on top of our phones and can’t seem to go 20 seconds without refreshing our Insta feed, so implementing this marketing strategy into our business plan is a no brainer.
    First of all, if your post-school entrepreneurial endeavours stumble, you won’t fall very far. Your financial demands are probably as low as they will ever be. You’ve most likely just finished a few years of a solid Mi Goreng noodles diet and haven’t yet acquired the taste for expensive things. You’ll be happy to forgo the basic hierarchy of needs, often content sleeping in a mate’s walk in-wardrobe to get by. There will be time to make money down the track, but for now fishing for coins in the bottom of your duffle bag is just fine.
    Starting a business in your 20s is the fastest and easiest way to fast-track getting to know yourself. Nothing turns you into an adult quicker than the responsibilities of a business baby. When you’re forced to dive deep into your own psyche, reflect on who you are, pull up your big kid pants and simply do the work, you get to know yourself really well. Those nights spent crying over tax debts while still turning up to a string of meetings the next morning with a smile on your dial are moments when you realise just how strong and resilient you’ve become.

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