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Teen Entrepreneurs

On T-Shirt Magazine, we have this series of articles called the ‘ Round Table’. T-Shirt designers and entrepreneurs “gather” to discuss a given topic about the t-shirt industry, sharing their experiences in the biz. For the previous Round Table, I had a discussion about creating an eye catching brand with Eric Terry (of Linty Fresh) and Liz Fulghum (of Pop Culture Tees).

For this Round Table, I ask Alex Mitchell (owner of October Promotional Design) and Taylor Smith (co-founder of Universitee Apparel) the following question:

Moust: How do you embrace being a teen entrepreneur and overcome the challenges?

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Alex Mitchell

Alex Mitchell: To be an entrepreneur can mean many things.  In my case its running my design company and clothing line.  I run both October Promotional Design and direct the new clothing line Arkaik: Empire with Jordan Abidor of Arkaik Clothing.  For me, being able to work my own hours and make money at my own pace is a dream.  I constantly see my friends and acquaintances rushing off to work or complaining that they have to work on X day at X time and it “succcccks”.  I whole heartedly embrace the life of an entrepreneur.  Being my own boss is something that I never thought I would come to as I was working at local Pet Store two years ago.  The fact that I took something so simple as t-shirt art and made it into a job is nuts to me in hindsight.  How many people can wake up at 2 in the afternoon and make money working at the computer in their underwear (or any given outfit for that matter)?

As glamorous as it may be, being your own boss has speed bumps. One area I especially struggle in is keeping myself motivated and on task.  When you work a 9-5 job, you have a boss or manager telling you what to do and when to do it. You have to stay on task or you’ll lose your job.  When you’re working for yourself, you literally have to “be your own boss”.  There are many times when I’m faced with going out on a Friday night or staying in and making progress on a design project.  And, sadly enough, I tend to take the fun route and go out.  It’s at this point when working in a design firm becomes ideal–you design and have a boss making you do so.  The downfalls of being young come out when faced with the choice of a party or night in at the computer.

Another challenge that may be overwhelming for young entrepreneurs is overcoming the age barrier. Put yourself in the shoes of a client. You can hire a 25 year old with a BFA or hire an 18-year-old with no formal schooling.  Even if the 18 year olds work shows more potential, doesn’t the piece of mind that age and schooling gives you stand out?  For me, it was a matter of working with people my age in the beginning and getting my name out via word of mouth.  It eventually caught on with a wide range of people from different age groups.

In the long run, however, I feel that the perks of being a teenage entrepreneur outweigh the challenges and downfalls. No feeling is better than that of being in control of your future at a young age.

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Taylor UniversiteesTaylor Smith: For me and my line personally, the amount of challenges I face on a daily basis may seem overwhelming. I currently run one company, Universitee™ apparel, and am in the process of working on three other projects. I am a full time college student and work on the side, part time. Although having such a hectic schedule, for the most part, I find it to be rather entertaining.

I feel like entrepreneur’s who do not face challenges very often, don’t get to enjoy that sense of accomplishment and success you get when overcoming an obstacle. To me, these challenges or obstacles along the way are where I’ve grown the most from. To think the amount of knowledge and experience I have gained from only being in this t-shirt industry for 2 years has blown my mind. I wouldn’t have it any other way. To any entrepreneur looking to grow your idea into something great, don’t let challenges along the way stop you from reaching your goal. They are actually more helpful then you may realize.

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Moust: Well there you have it; that’s how these guys embrace being a teenage entrepreneur and overcome the challenges. Make sure to check out the next Round Table discussion.

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