YFE has the honor of running weekly profiles on entrepreneurial women in their 20s and 30s. One question that is always asked is whether or not they have found their age is an advantage. The answer almost always includes some form of yes, but will often cite being taken seriously as a problem.
A story ran in The Globe and Mail today titled “Young entrepreneurs caged by age.” The article reviews accounts from three young men who explain the ways they have circumvented the disadvantages that come with building a business as a young entrepreneur. They own construction, SEO, and app businesses and have all come across problems when it comes to how young they are that range from real estate, employee retention, to landing large accounts.
The article lists some of the issues these young men have had to overcome and how they did so. For example, to make sure those visiting his offices wouldn’t be confused by who is boss, one of the owners mentioned in the article, Jason Parks of Profab Corp. ”…hung pictures of himself, clearly labelled as CEO, at the reception desks of his two fabrication facilities.”
As a young woman myself who has partnered with her parents in business, being taken seriously has been a pain point of mine on occassion. Some of our hosting clients would rather speak with my mother than me, association officials have attempted to micro manage me where they haven’t others, and I will get an odd look here and there. Philippa of the What Took You So Long Foundation commented in her recent YFE profile that “Occasionally you might come across people who underestimate you based on outward appearances. This, you can turn to be another advantage when you shock them out of their first impressions and win them over. But it remains a sad fact that there are still groups of people who don’t grasp the potential of Generation Y’s enthusiasm for breaking molds and doing good.”
Problems may arise not only from being young, but also from being a woman in business. ”I’ve met some men who have been super nice and promising with leads, but have cut me off after they found out I am not interested in a personal relationship,” explains Ayako of vlv style. Apart from the questions that arise with the motives of others, is the feelings of inadequacy some women bring to the table. Being a young, female entrepreneur requires us to “be more assertive then we like to be,” Devani Freeman argues.
Being pushed past our comfort zones may also be seen as an advantage when you are young. As Sara Jahangir of Wondermilk explains, “the advantages are that I have nothing to lose. I am at that place in my life where I can try, test and take risks without any repercussions.” Krystal Harrell has a similar outlook on her age and business after struggling with others putting her down and seeing her as just a kid. She finally decided to own up to her age. “I don’t let my appearance determine my outcome, I have embraced it” as Harrell explains. Ultimately, if you are passionate enough and know what you want, you can use your drive and enthusiasm to make up for what you lack in years of experience.
Steve Curtis of Zag Global Inc. admits in “Young entrepreneurs caged by age“ that to get where he is today in his company he “had a lot of growing up to do.” You don’t have to be perfect today in business. Know where you want to be and figure out what it will take to get you there. If it’s therapy like it was for Curtis go get it, if it’s hanging up your photo with the title CEO in the reception office like it was for Parks, do it.
“You have to build a reputation. However, I think it’s easier to be motivated to achieve when you’re younger. Hopefully you can learn faster and you are generally more adaptable to change” explains Rebecca McWattie of Stop Traffic Clothing. Being taken seriously may take time as you build your reputation, but with enthusiasm and dedication it may happen sooner than you think.
Like Krystal reminded us with in her profile, “embrace your age and go for it.” What has been an issue for you in building your business being in your 20s and 30s? What have you done to solve it?