Young entrepreneurs deserve to be taken seriously

Look around and many of today’s most renowned entrepreneurs are under 30. Take Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, the founder of Facebook who became a billionaire at the age of 23. Closer to home, there are several start-up owners in the UAE who are also running successful businesses while still studying in college. Social media platforms such as Instagram will introduce you to many. One that comes to mind is the 19-year-old Emirati chef Bader Najeeb, famous for his scrumptious dessert recipes that he uploads on to his YouTube channel. He has become the go-to personality for catering local events.

Success at a young age is not limited to the entrepreneurial arena; many appointed into UAE managerial positions in the private or public sector are also under 30. While it shows trust from their corporation or from the government, some are sceptical about the amount of experience a young person may have. I’ve encountered this myself – both in my government role or when running my personal business – and I found such a reaction generally comes from those decades older than myself.

My advice for young entrepreneurs is to not allow scepticism to get in the way of your success. Here are my tips on how to be taken more seriously when approaching potential clients and investors for your business:

• Look the part

First impressions last. To avoid clients being distracted by your age, dress appropriately and act in a mature manner. Not only will that help to portray maturity, but it will also establish trust. This applies to email correspondence as well as phone conversations. Avoid communicating in slang, and keep abbreviations to a minimum.

• Have the right business entourage

The American pop artist Taylor Swift is famous not just for her record-breaking releases but also for surrounding herself with successful celebrities across different fields. Business is no different. We have a saying in Arabic that goes: “Tell me who you spend your time with, and I shall tell you who you are”. Attend networking and business events and get familiar with successful entrepreneurs and business owners. Being acquainted with successful people opens doors to new opportunities, helping you gain experience and knowledge.

• Focus on the client

If you are still at the start-up phase with a short career behind you, avoid talking about yourself or your lack of experience. Instead assess the clients’ needs and how you can help them.

• Have a plan

Investors need to know where they are putting their money. So do you know exactly how you want to expand your business? Where do you see the venture in five years? Have you made a cost/profit forecast? If you are unable to communicate your business plan to investors, employees or potential clients, you will not be taken seriously.

• Do your homework

Without a CV brimming with experience or a solid credit history, you may have a challenge securing the trust of potential investors. However, preparing a solid business plan and portraying passion will help to grab their attention.

• Be hands-on

One way to show you are serious about your enterprise is to manage expenses properly. Look for ways to keep costs at bay. Do you need an assistant to begin with or is it something that you could outsource to an online vendor? If you have a job, consider managing your business after office hours to begin with. This will minimise risk and ensure you have a steady flow of income until your venture can stand on its own two feet.

• Last but not least, do not be afraid to flaunt it

When I first started managing my communications business, I avoided highlighting who my clients were until I realised this could work to my advantage. That is not to say that you should share the exact details of the projects you have worked on with your client, but mentioning some names, especially if they are well-known brands, can certainly work to your advantage.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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