5 Lessons I Learned Starting a Business at 19

5 Lessons I Learned Starting a Business at 19

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I had no intention of starting my own software company. I was kinda forced into it. You see, a few years ago I was a full-time YouTuber. Everything was fine until my channel was demonetized. This means that I was earning $0 from ads placed on my videos.

There was a time when I was getting 2-3 million views a month on my channel and I wasn’t getting a dime. In order to bounce back from this low, I decided to put my savings ($5,000) into starting a creator-savings software startup at age 19. I dropped out of college to work full time on my SaaS startup and learned some 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 anything within my limited budget to turn my SaaS idea into reality.

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

We still work together to this day. The first versions of Trend Watchers were hideous, but over time the UI/UX slowly improved. Looking back on my journey from a software development perspective, I shouldn’t have gone this far. I have been through so many setbacks and obstacles. I should have given up on the start line, but having a great vision and team mixed with the drive to succeed, we pulled through.

No matter how difficult a task may seem, it’s always better than perfect. Often, perfection comes through the countless mistakes you make along the way.

2. The importance of data collection

One thing I set up 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 silver lining to data collection. 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 many 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 stay on each page and what they click on. These two methods of collecting data helped in making 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 in the back, I’ll repeat myself: get a proof of concept before you build. At the beginning of 2022, I thought it would be a good idea to create a marketplace within Trend Watchers. Marketplaces are great, and when used correctly, they can be a great growth engine for startups – but nobody wanted that. They just wanted trends they could use to go viral online.

Instead of listening to that market feedback, I went ahead and built it anyway, and it was a major 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 this experience, I always conduct surveys and get a proof of concept before adding a new feature.

4. Tell your story

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

Growing up, I was always an amazing storyteller. In my free time after school, I always wrote my own books. I would go into our home office, take a few sheets of paper from the printer, fold them in half, staple them together and boom – I had a book.

I decided to leverage this skill I developed at a young age to slowly build a loyal follower movement that would help me attract Trend Watchers. The two platforms I decided to focus on to document my progress were Instagram and the press. It was not an overnight success. It took tons of writing, documentation, and pitching to slowly start getting my brand story heard, and now it’s starting to pay off.

An interesting idea I recently discovered about my paying customers is that they tend to stay longer knowing their money is being put to work. Many of my paying customers follow my story through my mailing list or Instagram page for weekly updates.

If you’re working on growing your startup, document your journey. Not only do you end up with a well-written diary at the end, but you can also find loyal customers along the way.

5. Seize every opportunity that presents itself

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

Related: 6 Tips for Building a Scalable and Successful Software Business

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 have learned through my experience have helped me grow exponentially and hopefully these five lessons above can also help other entrepreneurs young and old to develop their business.

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