5 Lessons I Learned Starting a Business at 19

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I had no intention of creating my own software company. I was a bit forced to do it. You see, a few years ago, I was a full-time YouTuber. Everything was going well until they demonetized my channel. This means that I was earning $0 from the ads that were placed on my videos.

There was a point where I was getting 2-3 million views a month on my channel and I didn’t get a dime. As a way to recover from this low point, I decided to put my life savings ($5,000) into starting a maker economy software company at age 19. I dropped out of college to work on my SaaS startup full time and have learned valuable lessons along the way. Here are five of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far:

Related: How to Start and Grow a Business: A Digital Guide for Young Entrepreneurs

1. Done is better than perfect

I had no experience in coding, let alone building and growing a startup. Despite these challenges, I believed 100% in my idea. Backed by a proof of concept, I was willing to do whatever I could within my limited budget to turn my SaaS idea into a reality.

With a well-written vision and a lot of persistence, I was able to find a good overseas developer who not only fit my budget but believed in my Trend Watchers vision.

We still work together to this day. Early versions of Trend Watchers were horrible, but over time the UI/UX slowly improved. When I look back on my journey from a software development point of view, I shouldn’t have gotten this far. I went through so many setbacks and obstacles. I should have quit at the starting line, but by having a great vision and team combined with a desire to succeed, we were able to pull through.

No matter how challenging a task may seem, it’s always better done than perfect. Perfection often comes through the countless mistakes you make along the way.

2. The importance of data collection

One thing I implemented early on is good data collection. What do I mean by data collection? Data collection has a bad reputation, thanks to big companies and scammers who abuse it to make a quick buck. But there is a bright side to data collection. The data collection can be used to make better marketing decisions. It can also be used to find out what users like and dislike.

I collect data in a variety of ways, but two of the most useful data collection tactics I’ve used are asking good questions about our registration sequence and having session recording software that tracks how long users are on each page and what they’re doing. click. These two data collection methods have helped make the right decisions and software updates to improve the user experience.

Related: The Complete 12-Step Guide to Starting a Business

3. Get a proof of concept before you build

For the people behind, I’m going to repeat myself: Get a proof of concept before you build. In early 2022, I thought it would be a good idea to create a marketplace within Trend Watchers. Marketplaces are great and when used correctly can be a great engine of growth for startups, but no one wanted that. They just wanted trends that they could use to go viral online.

Rather than listen to market feedback, I went ahead and built it anyway, and it was a huge flop. It also caused a lot of other problems, but I wasted a lot of time and money on something my users didn’t want at the time. Because of that experience, I always run surveys and get a proof of concept before adding a new feature.

4. Tell your story

Starting a software company at age 19 with my own money was financially challenging enough. The next question was, how am I going to market this with a $0 marketing budget?

Growing up, I’ve always been an amazing storyteller. In my free time after school, I always wrote my own books. I’d go into our home office, grab some sheets of paper from the printer, fold them in half, staple them together, and boom: I had a book.

I decided to take advantage of this skill that I developed at a young age to slowly build a movement of loyal followers that would help me gain traction for Trend Watchers. The two platforms I decided to focus on to document my progress were Instagram and tapping into the press. This was not an overnight success. It took tons of writing, documentation, and presentations for my brand story to slowly start to get heard, and now it’s starting to pay off.

An interesting insight I recently discovered about my paying clients is that they tend to stick around longer knowing their money is being put to work. Many of my paying clients follow my story through my email list or Instagram page for weekly updates.

If you’re working to grow your startup, document your journey. Not only do you end up with a well-written journal at the end, but you may also find loyal customers along the way.

5. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way

Some of the best decisions I’ve ever made were urgent opportunities that came my way. Some of these opportunities included opportunities to purchase programs, go to different places, and break my schedule to attend certain events. About 90% of these opportunities came out of nowhere, and every time I took one, it helped me significantly in the process of growing my business.

Related: 6 Tips for Building a Successful, Scalable Software Company

As most people know, starting and growing a business is not easy, especially for a young adult with no prior experience. Reading books and watching YouTube videos can be very helpful and informative, but experience really is the best teacher. The skills and lessons I’ve gained through my experience have helped me grow exponentially, and hopefully these five lessons above can help other entrepreneurs, young or old, grow their businesses too.

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