Billionaire Mark Cuban was only 12 years old when he launched his first side hustle, so he knows what it takes to start a business at a young age.
And, he says there’s one simple thing you need to consider if you want to do it too.
“The key to starting a business when you’re young is doing things you can do yourself — things you can do on your own time,” Cuban recently told a group of high school students in Lewisville High School in Texas.
That means starting with what you know, he said.
“If it’s a product, make something that’s easy for you to get and easy for you to sell,” Cuban said, adding: “It really comes down to one simple thing. The best businesses are things you can control and do yourself. That’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.”
Cuban famously started learning to run his own business early as a pre-teen selling trash bags door-to-door in a Pittsburgh suburb. He later sold a variety of collectibles, from baseball cards to coins and stamps, saying the proceeds helped pay his college tuition.
In each of those cases, Cuban used household items and collectibles accessible to a child and sold them for profit — following his own advice for today’s teenagers.
Similarly, as a college student, he worked as a bartender and taught dance lessons to earn extra money. Cuban later demonstrated his dancing skills to the public by appearing on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2007, finishing 8th in the competition.
“I was a hustler … I have always been selling. I always have something going on. That was just my nature,” Cuban said on a 2016 episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
Today, Cuban says he regularly tells kids and teenagers who want to start their own businesses to do what he did. Build around “something they can do or a service they can offer friends, family and neighbors,” he told CNBC Make It in September.
That’s easier said than done, of course: Successfully launching and growing your own business is very difficult. About 20% of new businesses fail within a year of launch, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Being an entrepreneur and starting a business doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy and you’re going to make a lot of money all of a sudden,” Cuban told students at Lewisville High School. “Being an entrepreneur is the harder way.”
If it were easy, he added, “you all would already be doing it and coming on ‘Shark Tank’ and taking my place.”
Finding something you can control and do yourself is hard enough. Being good at it — which, incidentally, is the No. 1 Cuban rule for making money — is harder.
This involves extensively researching your business plan and potential competition, finding funding, and creating backup plans to allow for flexibility if you need to adjust on the fly, the billionaire said.
As long as you don’t think about putting in that job, especially after you choose your business opportunity, a world of opportunity can open up for you, Cuban told the high school students.
“If you are willing to take the initiative and start a business, anything is possible,” he said.
Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”
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