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Updated 06 Dec 2020

11 Entrepreneurial traits successful young entrepreneurs all share

To become a successful young entrepreneur requires a unique set of personality traits. Find out what you need to embody to become a self-starting success. 

Nicole Crampton, 13 June 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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With the rise of the digital age and the introduction of Millennials and Generation Z in the workplace, it’s unlikely that the exact same personal traits that worked 100 years ago will still work for budding entrepreneurs.

But, former titans of industry like Henry Ford are still held up as models for young entrepreneurs to emulate.

Countless studies and millions of Rands have gone into determining the contributing factors that make entrepreneurs successful. Specifically, which personality traits can contribute to a start-up business owner’s success.

Trying to narrow down and embrace every single personality trait that leads to success is impossible. However, there are noticeable similarities between successful young entrepreneurs. If some of these sound familiar, or with a little more effort, achievable, you should consider taking steps towards a new and fulfilling life path.

Here are 11 entrepreneurial traits successful young entrepreneurs all share:

11: Challenge the status quo

This phrase is often invoked to inspire others to pursue powerful and impactful work. Forging your own path allows an entrepreneur to come up with creative solutions to an old and burdensome challenge. Without these kinds of thinkers disrupters would not have come into being and made the global society a more convenient place to operate in.

The entrepreneur

Tim -Hwang

Tim Hwang founded the law firm Robot Robot and Hwang. With no legal certification behind him Hwang’s goal was to create programming tools that would automate the dreary aspects of corporate law, such as incorporating subsidiaries, transferring assets, and filing complaints.

The legal community still hasn’t embraced this status quo-challenging model. “I meet a number of attorneys who cling to the idea that being a human in the system I provide some undefinable, abstract value. Some of these traditional attorneys have reacted with skepticism or outright hatred,” says Hwang.

“Law students have also been less receptive, because the idea of Robot Robot & Hwang is adverse to their interests. They need to do mundane, simple tasks early in their careers, and this would take away that,” he explains.

The lesson:

You’ll need to challenge the status quo, because that’s where the opportunities are. You will face opposition, but consider that now Uber is a household name across the world. Large success comes from rethinking a traditional obstacle.

Related: The 7 traits of the (really) wealthy

10: Clear out the noise

Wherever you go, anything you look at, every person you talk to, or who talks to you is noise around you trying to get your attention. You need to be able to block out the noises that don’t matter so you can focus on the ones that do. Otherwise your new start-up’s direction is going to go in 20 different directions and it will fall apart before it even gets going.

The entrepreneur

Alex -Fourie-

Alex Fourie started his company iFix from his Stellenbosch dorm room at just 19. 11 years, and one name change later the business, WeFix has 25 stores nationwide, with 15 more in the pipeline.

Fourie says that the largest challenge is the sheer quantity of work a CEO has to get through. Ensure you aren’t influenced by the noise around you or being burned out by the large amount of work you need to get through.

Fourie advises: “It’s important for entrepreneurs to create space in their minds and lives to think, and if you have too much on your plate that is sometimes challenging. The key is to balance everything and create space to think through the barrage of noise in our current society.”

The lesson:

Being able to drown out the noise is vital if you want your future business to follow a single direction. Listen to those around you, but have a voice of your own, otherwise whose business is it really?

9: Be resilient

The odds of your first endeavour taking off and becoming a R100 million business aren’t high. You will undoubtedly have to pivot your concept a few times, or maybe even start from scratch a few times before you make your start-up a success.

The entrepreneur

Jake -Johnson

Jake Johnson plays Nick Miller on the Fox TV-hit New Girl. This writer-turned-actor now has another pilot for Fox in the works. You may think that this young creative entrepreneur is just turning out hits, but remember hardly anyone ever hears about the start-ups that didn’t make it.

“I think I’ve missed so many times that to get hurt every time I miss it’s just not realistic. It’s too exhausting,” says Johnson about his failed projects.

“Because I’m on a nice streak right now people will talk about the successes that I’m having, but even now if people saw the amount of rejection and the amount of fails I’ve had on a weekly basis professionally…if I was a batter I’m not hitting a thousand. This business is like baseball, if you hit three out of ten you’re a great hitter,” he adds.

The lesson:

Even the billionaire entrepreneurs on the planet had start-ups that didn’t make it or failures that eventually led to their greatest achievement, such as Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and Vera Wang, fashion designer. Failure is inevitable in the entrepreneur landscape, which is why you need to learn now how to stay tough and keep working hard.

Related: 3 Top leadership traits to boost your growth

8: Solve problems

Entrepreneurs tend to be logically driven. They approach obstacles, and strategise how to overcome them, learn from them and provide solutions. Successful entrepreneurs tend to be excited about the opportunity to solve a problem. Because of this personality trait, entrepreneurs are emotionally stable and are able to deal with the ups and downs of the start-up roller coaster.

The entrepreneur

Luvuyo -Rani

Luvuyo Rani created a business to teach people how to use computers. His business, Silulo Ulutho Technologies has now over 40 branches that teaches customers how to use computers, and supports 5000 students a year.

“Find what your market wants or needs, and then give them a solution,” says Rani. “We service communities. Silulo Ulutho Technologies makes the use of technology affordable, we reduce the cost and time needed for people to gain technology skills, and gives marginalised communities desperately needed access to the tools of the mainstream economy.”

“The company is a provider of IT related products and services in under-serviced areas such as townships and rural areas, where it is needed the most. We put computer training skills, software installation, website development, computer and accessory retail sales, and computer and mobile phone repair and maintenance services right on the doorsteps of people who would otherwise have to travel considerable distances to access such facilities,” he explains.

The lesson:

By solving a challenge a specific market is experiencing, you all but guarantee that your solution will have customers. If you’re the first to supply something to a specific area or market, you’ll reap the rewards.

7: Be passionate

Those who do what they love tend to be more successful at it. If you take into account how many times entrepreneurs have failed at launching their start-up, you need to love what you’re doing to stick-it-out.

The entrepreneur

14 year old Alex Mangini is passionate about video games. So he founded his own community on the web for video games. 3 years later, after a few pivots, he now makes USD 6000 to USD 8000 a month on themes that he develops through his own freelance design company.

Because he worked his way up in the gaming community and had authentic passion, and authority in this niche, Mangini could turn his passion into a projects and then into a full-fledge business.

Another entrepreneur, Matt Salsamendi, built a platform to allow video game-streamers to interact with their audience, and allow viewers to control certain parts of the game being streamed. He’s 19, and he just sold his first start-up, Beam, to Microsoft.

"I vividly remember many of the hundreds of late nights that were spent, hundreds of thousands of lines of code written. Millions of hours of streams during beta," says Salsamendi.

The lesson:

An advantage for successful young entrepreneurs is that we can transform our hobbies and passions into entrepreneurial ideas easier than ever. Because both Salsamendi and Mangini were passionate about gaming it pushed them through those hours and hours of coding, and various pivots and helped them launch successful start-ups.

6: Be persistent

To become a successful young entrepreneur you have to be persistent. One advantage you have is energy and stamina. You never give up until your business idea, or a version of it, is up and running and doing well.

The entrepreneur

Rapelang -Rabana

Rapelang Rabana founded Rekindle Learning, which offers learning and development through mobile and computer learning solutions. This product can assist individuals in corporate and schooling environments.

“Almost 10 years back, I had made the decision to start my business despite my confusion, turbulent thoughts and emotions, not knowing what life would hold. Now the trust I had placed in myself to chart my own path was reaping rewards I never could have conceived, all because I dared to listen to myself,” says Rabana.

The lesson:

It takes time to perfect your business idea, as well as get it off the ground. You will stumble and make mistakes, but you keep pushing until you achieve success.

Related: 5 Essential traits of the entrepreneurial business woman

5: Learn as much as you can

Staying sharp requires constant learning. How will you stay ahead of your competition or disrupt an industry if you aren’t at the top of your game? Industries are constantly changing and evolving, only those entrepreneurs that are also growing through constant learning will stay ahead of the pack.

The entrepreneur

Elon -Musk

With the Internet, access to information is readily available that there really isn’t an excuse for not learning something. As an example, serial entrepreneur Jay-Z had a college level aptitude for reading at the age of six.

At 30, Elon Musk founded Space X. He never studied astrophysics or aeronautical engineering in school; he learnt it all from reading books independently.

When Mark Cuban started out, he would shut himself in a room for years, working a day job and reading computer science books at night.

The lesson:

Successful young entrepreneurs put in the effort to learn by reading and by doing. To stay ahead of your competition, you need to know more than they do. The information is out there, it’s just a matter of finding it.

4: Be optimistic

Entrepreneurs are an optimistic group, with a tendency to view the glass as half full, and the ability to see only opportunities. “Certainly as an entrepreneur, but almost in any form of work, I feel like you need to be irrationally optimistic about barriers you can break through, or things you can get accomplished, or projects that you can deliver in a certain amount of time,” says Shafqat Islam, chief executive of NewsCred.

The entrepreneur

Riaz -Moola

Riaz Moola founded Hyperion Development as a freelance cooperative aimed at helping people develop crucial computer science and coding skills. It offers free tuition to 85% of its users, while charging 15% that can afford to pay for the service. It allows them to make a profit while doing good.

“Many South African entrepreneurs simply think too small. We live in a connected world, so we can operate and compete on the global stage. People often can’t believe that we got funding from Facebook,” says Moola.

“The fact of the matter is, there’s no reason why a South African company can’t get funding from a massive international operation. It can be done. It’s not necessarily easy. We had to work very hard to get it. But it’s not impossible. You just need to start thinking big,” he advises.

The lesson:

Think big, and believe in your business, otherwise you’re not going to get very far. By working hard, trying again and again, and never losing faith in your business you can become a success.

Related: 3 Personality traits you need for success: Grit, determination and the will to succeed

3: Stick to your guns

Entrepreneurs have an obsessive, fiery passion and desire to accomplish what they do. Entrepreneurs never let anything get them down, and they’re always defying the odds. It’s them against the world and the journey is a tough one, filled with naysayers and critics. But when you win, you win big.

The entrepreneur

Evan -Spiegel

SnapChat co-founder Evan Spiegel revealed that majority of his initial investors hated the idea. “Everyone said, ‘That is a terrible idea,’” Spiegel said. “’Not only is nobody going to use it,’ they said, A venture capitalist sitting in on the class said it could be interesting, if he made the photos permanent and partnered with Best Buy. I nearly gagged,” says Spiegel.

He stuck to his guns and made it possible. Now, SnapChat is worth USD30 billion.

The lesson:

Not everyone is going to see how amazing your idea is. Stick to your guns and make the product/service that you envisioned, if it doesn’t work out figure out why and make it better. Never look back with regret because an investor convinced you to change your idea, rather find an investor who’s on board with your original idea.

2: Make an impact

61% of Millennials are concerned about the state of the world and feel personally responsible to make a difference, according to Forbes. Jasmine Lau, co-founder of Philanthropy in Motion, says: “There's always that glamour of being an entrepreneur. But the most important thing for budding founders to find is that problem that consumes you and ‘keeps you up at night’.”

The entrepreneur

Ezlyn -Barends

Ezlyn Barends created a business on her passion for helping others and changing the world. DreamGirls International Outreach and Mentoring Programme is now a global franchise. “We have developed our own culture, which we call the DreamGirls way of doing things,” says Barends.

“Because the organisation was built on a specific set of values, it is about so much more than merely helping girls to get a tertiary qualification. The essence is about being helpful and supportive of everyone involved,” she adds.

Another entrepreneur, Ludwick Marishane, at the age of 17 invented DryBath, which provides a waterless way to stay hygienic for those who don’t have access to regular water. “I intended for DryBath to benefit poor, water scare communities all around the world,” he explains.

The lesson:

Your business doesn’t necessarily need to just make a profit. In fact, large businesses are looking to invest in a start-up that makes money, but also makes an impact. Help the world solve a challenge and your business could be a success.

Related: 9 Traits that women must learn to remain successful in business

1: Be disruptive

A successful young entrepreneur is disruptive in a number of ways. By asking why, an entrepreneur can find a socially conscious component to selling everyday items. By challenging what we do, a company can flip the business model on its head. By changing how we do things, your business has the potential to disrupt an entire industry.

The entrepreneur

Domestly, co-founded by Thatoyaona Marumo and Berno Potgieter, is an on-demand cleaning service. It connects homeowners with domestic workers, effectively delivering on-demand cleaning service. This app adds a whole new level of efficiency, ease and innovation to what they do.

"And that’s where the disruption happens," he says, "It has allowed us to bring in a better way of doing things, a quicker way of doing things and a more convenient way of getting things done," says Marumo.

“I believe the reason we have been so successful is because we didn’t try to dictate or manage the market,” says Marumo. “The expectations of a cleaning service in Camps Bay will be different to that in Randburg, so when we expanded into a new area we allowed things to pan out in each market naturally.”

The lesson:

Ask why, challenge what is currently being done and change how it’s done, and you can disrupt an entire industry. You just need to consider a different way of offering a service, or covering a gap that isn’t being serviced by any other business. Disruption tends to happen in industries that haven’t innovated or upgraded in a long time, leaving opportunities for young entrepreneurs to become a success.

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Nicole Crampton

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