Junior Achievement (JA) and Ernst & Young (EY) recently teamed up to conduct a pair of surveys. One polled 1,000 “nationally representative” teens, ages 13-17, in the United States. The other polled 500 U.S. entrepreneurs.
The teen survey found that 41 percent of teenagers would consider starting a business as a career option. It also found that teenage girls show a greater interest than teenage boys. Sixty-one percent of female participants said they have already thought about starting a business, compared to 54 percent of males. On the flipside, however, the survey also found that six percent of teenage boys have already started a business, while only four percent of girls have done so.
The survey of adult entrepreneurs found that 13 percent started their first business at age 18 or younger, and that the average age was 28.
The two surveys have at least one interesting parallel: “fear of failure” is a top concern for both existing entrepreneurs and teens who both say it might stop them from starting a business in the first place. This was the main concern of 67 percent of teens and 65 percent of adult entrepreneurs. Ninety-two percent of those adults, however, have businesses that have turned a profit.
JA President and CEO Jack Kosakowski commented, “This research is encouraging in that it shows many teens have a great interest in starting their own businesses someday, but that the risks associated with entrepreneurship are a major concern for them. Young people need more information and role models to help them better understand what’s involved in starting a business and give them the confidence they need to pursue their dreams.”
EY partner Gary Kozlowski added, “It is exciting to see the high percentage of students who aspire to be entrepreneurs. It’s especially encouraging that so many teen girls have an eye toward starting a business.”
The reality is that there may be an even greater percentage of teenagers interested in starting businesses despite concerns about failure. The surveys also found that 69 percent of teens actually have a business idea, but are unsure of how to start the process. This suggests that, with the proper guidance and/or training, teens have the potential to launch future business ventures. The entrepreneur survey found that 78 percent believe work experience is more helpful than a college degree for actually starting a business. When asked a similar question, only 53 percent of teens believe this to be the case. This suggests that teens could benefit from the wisdom of mentors who have experience in the entrepreneurial world, but also that teens place a great deal of stock in continuing their education.
According to 75 percent of entrepreneurs polled, motivation is the essential characteristic needed to become successful in a business venture.
Asked about advice they would give interested teens, entrepreneurs said they would tell them not to let anything get in their way, do something they love, be true to themselves and don’t be afraid.