In 2018, my brother and I launched Krepling, an eCommerce platform for online stores. We were just 16 and 18 years old, with no business experience, just a great product and a strong grasp of technology – neither of which is enough to win over investors.
Four years on, we’re at the head of one of the fastest-growing platforms on the market, and we’re looking to revolutionise eCommerce. But the journey to get here hasn’t been easy, largely because of our ages.
Being an entrepreneur always comes with setbacks. But if you’re younger, you will face a particular set of hurdles that other startups can often avoid.
You encounter a lot of bias in business. And a lot of discrimination. When you think of discrimination in relation to age, it’s usually the older demographics that are considered at risk. However, it happens at both ends of the spectrum.
If you’re a young entrepreneur, people are more likely to dismiss you than to listen to you. Your ideas are put down as unfeasible because you have no experience to back up your beliefs. Experienced professionals can be reluctant to work for you, because you’re ‘just a kid’. And convincing investors to fund your ventures can be painful. The only way around this is to overcome other people’s bias, with your product, your self-belief, and your professionalism.
Funding is never fun for any business, but if you’re young and lacking both capital and credit history, securing even a basic business loan can be hard. Pitching for investment is nigh on impossible. So, be prepared to work twice as hard as your competitors to get half as far.
As a young entrepreneur you are criticised for a lack of experience. However, a lack of experience isn’t always a bad thing. If you don’t know how things are meant to be done, it gives you scope to find new ways of doing things. That’s what entrepreneurialism is all about. But there are some things that you just need to do in the established way. That’s why it’s good to work with people who have the experience you lack, and can help to simplify potentially problematic areas.
According to recent research, entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to report having a mental health condition, and stress can be a major trigger. When you’re young and inexperienced, stress can be really hard to deal with. Understanding this, and finding someone – a parent, business partner, doctor, or counsellor – to talk to can be vital if you want to come out of the other side unscathed. It’s also really valuable to build connections with like-minded founders who can sympathise with the same pressures that you are.
Fight for your success
When we launched Krepling, we had no real idea about what we would face as young entrepreneurs. In some respects, we really were ‘just kids’, and we were entirely out of our depth, apart from the fact that we understood both the technology and the need for it. I can’t say if our original goal was to revolutionise eCommerce for direct-to-customer businesses, or if that came later when we knew that we were on to something special.
Our ages threw up numerous barriers that we probably should have expected and there’s no easy way to counter these struggles. Entrepreneurs come from all demographics. Age should be no more of a qualifier than race, gender, identity, or background.
As long as you believe in your product and can demonstrate its potential to others, you should be able to find your way through. But you have to be prepared to fight for it.