Dodging the doubters: how to get rich despite the sceptics
Already a millionaire at just 25 ... Jack Delosa.
Like many young entrepreneurs, Jack Delosa faced a huge amount of scepticism from friends and family when he bailed out of a commerce/law degree aged 18 to buy into his first business.
“You're told it's risky and it is. You're told you'll get burned and you do," says Delosa, now 25.
Everyone around me told me formal education was the only way. My high school friends were the worst, telling me I'd end up unemployable.
"People can cite examples to back up their argument. There's a whole cultural perception that the path of an entrepreneur is not a valid career path.”
The teenage Delosa borrowed $20,000 from "a very reluctant bank" to go into business - a call centre - with two other young investors. He didn't even know what an invoice was and faced an incredibly tough two years during which he lost money, staff left the business and he was working harder than any of his peers. But slowly he turned the business around.
"Mum said to me at the time that she didn't want me to get burnt and experience the lows; I said to her I wanted to get burnt so that I could experience the highs. I always say don't become a millionaire for what it earns you, become a millionaire for what if makes you.'"
Surround yourself with the right people
Today, Delosa runs The Entourage, a community and training ground for sub-40 entrepreneurs. He also has a range of investments and provides venture capital to start-ups. The millionaire's advice to young entrepreneurs facing scepticism is to surround themselves with other successful entrepreneurs.
“If you were learning to be a engineer you wouldn't take advice from a lawyer about how to build a bridge and the same applies to people who want to be an entrepreneur," he says.
"Surround yourself with people who have that experience. And be coachable and willing to take advice.”
A biking businessman
Another young entrepreneur who overcame the doubters to become a runaway success is Peter Moriarty, who runs IT support and technology consulting firm itGenius Australia. He started his first business at the age of 15, getting around the local area on his pushbike with his laptop in his backpack, fixing computer glitches.
“Once I had a car I'd be ducking off at lunch to see two or three clients, seeing clients after school and on weekends, or sitting in the lunch room at school reconciling accounts on MYOB.”
Moriarty, now 23, took the opportunity to learn first-hand how a business operates by working for a client straight after school for a year, before setting up his own business a year later. That was three-and-a-half years ago and he says he's doubled turnover every year since. Despite his success, Moriarty says he knows all about the scepticism young entrepreneurs face.
“Everyone around me told me formal education was the only way. My high school friends were the worst, telling me I'd end up unemployable – I was just faced with this constant doubt. But my dad was a builder and had run his own business for 20 years and he told me to do what makes me happy.”
Moriarty eventually changed his friendship circle and last year discovered The Entourage, a group of like-minded people he can turn to for support.
“I believe anything you put your mind to you can achieve and after initially working 80 hours a week for four years to get things off the ground I've built an amazing business. Most of my clients don't care about my age and are impressed enough with my ambition and drive to give me a go,” he says.
'Why would I give up?'
It's this fearless determination that seems to be a particular trait of the successful young entrepreneur. Brandon Cowan is only 18 but he's already made a mark with his app development company Crazy Dog Apps. His iParkedHere app was one of the top ten iTunes apps within 10 months of being launched in Australia in December 2010. He's also built an app called PetRescue, a national database hooking up pets on death row with potential owners nearby.
Along the way he's received constant knockbacks. For instance, he developed a website so L-platers could log the number of hours they had undertaken. But despite repeated attempts, he's never had a response from the roads and traffic authorities he's contacted about selling the app to them. So what makes him keep trying?
“Why would I give up?” says Cowan. “If I've already put in time and effort to build something I may as well keep going,” he says, from the lab where he's working on what he hopes is the next Angry Birds, a highly addictive gaming app.
A veteran at 26
Carl Taylor started his first business, a costume shop, at 15 and sold it at 18. Now 26, he's sold three businesses and authored a book, Red Means Go. He also runs the Business Builders Academy, which teaches entrepreneurs how to buy, build and sell businesses. He's unfazed by gloom merchants.
“Some people are inspired by me, others give me an attitude. I work in technology businesses so my youth is an asset," he says. "Any client who has a problem with my age wouldn't choose to work with me.”
Taylor's mission in life now is to inspire other young entrepreneurs.
“I buy businesses at wholesale, add value to them and sell them at retail. Nine thousand businesses went into liquidation last year. That's such an opportunity for young entrepreneurs," he says.
"They could have gone in and saved those businesses and what I want to do now is create a community of young entrepreneurs who can do exactly that.”
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