YoungCEO

I’ve worked with entrepreneurs and small business owners my entire professional life. Frankly, that’s not a very long time, but I’ve learned a lot from the experiences I’ve been through and witnessed. For instance, at 18 years old, my younger sister launched a successful small businessand juggled her seemingly endless systems engineering homework with vendor deliveries, accounting, and employee timesheets.

If I have learned anything from her unlikely success and the accomplishments of others around me, it’s that you’re never too young to make it big. Age is just a number.

Today, tech culture has made it easier than ever for young, bright individuals to go against the grain and dive into the business world instead of wasting their talents on boring schoolwork.

Here are three tips for young innovators to improve their odds of achieving success at a time when young people are finally starting to be taken seriously in business.

Make your case

If you want to start a business, you need a persuasive and thoughtful business plan. Do your research, present it to friends and family, figure out your niche, and perfect it before you go public with the idea. Sure, there’s nothing like being laughed at to fuel your fire and prove critics wrong, but you’re better off creating an extraordinary plan that does justice to your venture. Napkin sketches will only get you so far. When it’s time to sell yourself, you’ve got to move and excite people.

Figure out your funding

No matter what type of industry you’re in, figure out your funding first. Startups can’t run on air alone, so either hit up family and friends for capital, or figure out another way to get it. Some angel investor firms work closely with young business owners and entrepreneurs. Other financial companies actually seek out high-risk individuals like first-time business owners and young entrepreneurs with poor credit. Depending on the industry you’re in and your personal financial situation, you can either sign up for high risk merchant accounts, like HighRiskPay.com, or work with more mainstream financial institutions like banks or point of sale systems.

Dress the part

That baby face will serve you well later in life, but when you’re a young entrepreneur it can often be a hindrance. People won’t always take you seriously when you approach them with your plan if you look like Doogie Howser. So dress like an adult. Don’t pull a Mark Zuckerberg and show up to meetings in jeans and a grungy black t-shirt. If you want to impress investors, venture capitalists, or others who can help your idea become a reality, you’re going to need to look like the business owner you are.

Fake it ‘til you make it

This has served many of my entrepreneur friends well over the years. When you’re just getting off the ground and struggling to expand, the best way to achieve success is to literally fake it ‘til you make it. If you give off the illusion of professionalism and success, you’ll attract the clients you need to actually get there. One company I worked for had never performed their services for a large business. When an opportunity came up to pitch one of the largest Fortune 500 companies in the world, they leapt at the opportunity, promised the moon, and, upon winning the contract, successfully provided services for more than 60,000 employees nationwide. After they pulled off this miracle, new business came pouring in and they eventually had to start turning away potential clients. That was the sign they had achieved the success they’d been faking all along.

Fortunately, pioneers in the business world have already paved the way for young entrepreneurs. From Mark Zuckerberg to the Google guys to the eighth grader whose game displaced Angry Birds in the app store, the public has seen that great ideas come from those of all ages.

Take these tips to heart when launching your business, no matter how young or old your birth certificate says you are.