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Ask the Expert: Advice on Starting Out as a Young Entrepreneur

Expert: Julie King

Cam asked:

I'm a young, 19 year old entrepreneur and am currently working for a production company in the Southern Ontario area (doing concert sound and lighting) and my name is getting around that I do sound. I'm getting a fair amount of calls for people wanting me personally to do shows for them, and I have been. I want to start my own company, but being young and inexperienced I have no guidance in how to go about doing that and what the implications are. Any advice, info or guidance would be much appreciated!

Julie King answered:

"Starting your own business is an exciting and challenging task, and most entrepreneurs encounter many ups and down as they work on their businesses.

The good news is that your post shows the type of enthusiasm and forethought that will be needed to launch a new business, and that you are willing to look outwards for help. I think that learning how to work with others in areas where you are not an expert is very important to the development of any small business! As well, already having interested and existing clients is an excellent beginning.

It would be impossible to cover all the things you need to know to get started in business. In this post I will outline some key points related to starting a business and will direct you to place where you will be able to get more information.

Young Entrepreneurs:
Being a young entrepreneur will most likely have both disadvantages and advantages!

As a young entrepreneur myself, I can tell you that one of the biggest disadvantages can be the way that other business owners may perceive you. One of the best ways around this is to create a strong image that places you where you want to be in other people's perception, and to support that visual image with appropriate language for your industry.

Being a young entrepreneur can help you market your company, as many media companies are very interested in stories about young entrepreneurs who are building successful companies.

Also, young entrepreneurs often enjoy freedoms that you will likely not have later in your life when things like a family and debts (ex. car loan, mortgage) will place demands on the results that you must produce. It is rare for a business to be profitable while it starts up, and having as few financial responsibilities as possible is a great advantage.

Start with a strategic approach, where you realize that the answers are most likely already available and take shortcuts to reach those answers (research, reading relevant books, etc.). There is already a wealth of information available for young and new entrepreneurs who are starting out in business, many of which are available for free.

I recently had a chance to look at a book called: Canadian Small Business by Eckert, Ryan, Ray, and Knowles, Published by Dryden, ISBN: 0-7747-3147-8.

This is one of the better guides to starting a business that I've seen. Personally I would choose the fast-track method if using this book, but it has the advantage of going into much more depth than you will find in the self-help rack books related to starting your own business. The book is designed to help you build a business plan as you progress through it, and includes a number of worksheets that will help you work on your business.

Helpful Organizations:
Here are a few organizations specifically for young entrepreneurs:

Business Start-Up Programs:
There are many programs being run to help entrepreneurs and young entrepreneurs start their own businesses. Many of these programs are funded by HRDC, and require that the entrepreneur has received EI benefits in the last 3 years, but there are also some programs available that do not have this requirement.

There is a program for young entrepreneurs being run currently that is sponsored by the provincial government and the Royal Bank. These programs are run out of Enterprise Centres across the province, and involve 4 seminar sessions at an approximate total cost of $125 for all 4 sessions. At the end of the 4 sessions participants can apply for one of the only remaining government guaranteed loan programs, which has a maximum loan amount of $7500. You can get full details about the loan program through your local enterprise centre.

Enterprise Centres:
There are 2 business help centres in your area; there is a small centre in Orangeville, and a larger centre in Brampton. The Brampton office offers the young entrepreneur seminars, and its next sessions will be starting on September 15th, 1998. To find out more about this program, or to sign up, you can drop by the centre, which is located in downtown Brampton. Here is the address:

Brampton Small Business Enterprise Centre
33 Queen Street West
phone: 905-874-2650

Your local Enterprise Centre will also offer a number of other services that can help you start your own business. For example, the Brampton centre has a free business plan review program and can help you put the finishing touches on a business plan that you have prepared for your new venture.

Additional Resources:
There is a wealth of information on this topic online! Some time ago I put together a brief guide to Starting a Business in Canada, with links to online resources for new entrepreneurs. You'll find the Guide online at:

Many of the banks also provide information and resources for new entrepreneurs. For example, the Toronto Dominion Bank currently is giving away a free workbook. More Business for Your Business: A Marketing Workbook for Small Business, which is Larry Easto's latest book, written to assist small business owners to strategically market their business to attract and retain clients. The workbook is sponsored by TD Main$treet Banking, and is available to small business owners, free of charge, at any TD Bank branch.

Red Tape:
When you start up your new venture, there will be many decisions to make. Should you register a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or incorporate a company? Should you register for the GST when you register your company? Will your business need to collect provincial taxes? What name will you give your company, and should you take action to protect that name?

Making strategic decisions from the outset as you consider these questions can save you time and money in the long run. It is worthwhile to consult with an expert or ask at your local Enterprise Centre as you decide what form your business will take.

Preparing a Business Plan:
Since you will be developing a business from scratch, it is extremely important for you to develop a business plan for your new business. A business plan will describe your company in detail, describing your market, customers, competition, marketing strategies, management team, plans for growth, financial projections, and more. Before you can actually complete your plan, you will need to have considered and worked on all aspects of your business.

The book mentioned above, and the following links will help you get started on the track to writing your own business plan:

About the author

Julie King is the co-founder and managing editor of CanadaOne, Canada's first small business portal.

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