What inspires people to become entrepreneurs? And what is the right age to start up your own business? These 4 millennial entrepreneurs have one thing in common- they started young.
Briton Sanuj Kohli, 30, group executive director at Laser & Electronics Middle East Group (Leme) has built an enterprise during the past decade spanning five companies and 18 countries, with over 75 employees. He set up his very first business at the age of 16 – a car wash and patio cleaning business in his summer holidays in Berkshire, England, making Dh 32,000 from 50 clients.
Then in his last term at university, he persuaded a German business to make him their exclusive distributor for the region, selling circuit board machinery for the electronics industry. Using that contract in hand, he set up Leme Group in 2006 with his father, who gave him a loan of Dh 160,000. The business was running at a loss for the first two years before a government company gave him his ‘first break’ and invested in a set of machines. It has now sold 100 machines in 14 countries. In 2009, he In 2009, he cofounded the WaterWise waterless car wash with his brother Rishi. To go beyond, in 2011, he launched the lighting company Leme Lighting, Leme Signage in 2013 and, last year, Leme Media, manufacturing digital LED screens. The group now has offices in China, Hong Kong, Kenya, the UK and the UAE.
“Young entrepreneurs can make mistakes and still start over, which can be difficult when you are older and have more responsibilities. You tend to be more resilient, optimistic and determined. We are also more in tune with the latest technology and ideas,” he says.
However, he says young entrepreneurs sometimes believe their ideas are the best and ignore feedback. “This can hurt the business,” he says.
Mr Kohli says at times he wanted to give up but his father encouraged him to keep at it. “Success only comes from hard work,” he says. “I used to work seven days a week.”
German Julian Straube, aged 30, is working on his fourth business- a barbershop in Dubai Marina. He is the man behind Algebra Real Estate, Algebra Contracting and Algebra Safety Training in Dubai – all launched in the past six years. His first business included breeding fish and selling them to pet shops, at the age of 10.
“Young entrepreneurs have fewer commitments in life and can focus a lot of their time on business,” he says. “A lot of the mistakes I made had to do with trust – being confident in promises and making handshake agreements that later backfired. All my businesses were self-funded so I was always limited by investment, which slowed down progress – but this was a personal choice. We could have grown much faster with more investment.”
Mr Straube advises would-be entrepreneurs to stick to what you know. “I had been working in real estate before setting up my estate agency so I knew exactly what I was doing.”
Brazilian Bel Pesce is 28 and is a serial entrepreneur who visited the UAE recently to speak to the Sharjah Business Women Council. Since studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Ms. Pesce has written three books, is a Ted speaker and is also the founder of Fazinova School in São Paulo. This school offers courses on entrepreneurship and innovation. About 30 million people have already used her courses, talks or books and her goal is to reach 1 billion.
She says, “Age doesn’t matter. What matters is finding the true reason you want to do something in life. When you are younger, you can put up with more mistakes and risk – and it’s seen as cute when you ask lots of questions. People talk about mistakes as if they’re something horrible. The worst mistake you can make is to do nothing. You don’t need to go to university – education is the way you see the world – but, if you can work and go to university, try to do both and don’t drop out.”
Bilal Ballout, 31, is the chief innovation officer at BMB Group. Having grown up in the UAE, he was home for the summer from university in Newcastle, England, working in the family roastery shop in 2007. This is where he came up with the idea of building a company trading bakery and chocolate ingredients across the Middle East. Over the next two years his brother Mohammad and a friend came on board and they pivoted the business to also make Arabic sweets and chocolate. BMB now employs 1,000 staff in Jebel Ali, Doha and Riyadh, and is looking to expand into the US and Europe.
“There is an advantage to starting young but passion is key to success, no matter what age you are,” he says. His advice is to put your plan in writing to ensure you don’t accept opportunities that do not fit. “We did not have a focused vision in our business plan and only learnt that later on.”
Original Source: TheNational.ae