By 13-year-old entrepreneur Kenan Pala
When you want to launch the next big company or invent the next big product, the last thing you think of doing is starting small. When you have a big goal in mind, you may think that by starting small, it will take you forever to get to where you want to go.
One of my favorite quotes is “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” And it’s easy to see why that’s true. When you look at some of today’s biggest, most successful companies, like Google, Apple or Disney, all of them started small. It just took time and hard work—as well as a whole lot of patience—to make their big ideas come true.
Look at it this way: You come upon this million-dollar idea to create a self-tuning guitar. At the same time, your friend starts working on an almost identical product. You choose to spend months thinking it through and developing a high-quality plan, while he rushes his plan, getting it in the hands of potential investors way ahead of you. Who do you think will find a good backer first? You—because your plan is better and more thought-out.
Now, when it comes time to make the product, you’ve got these great investors who advise you and help you find great engineers to get the job done. Your friend, however, hires the quickest, cheapest engineers he can find. Again, he beats you—this time to the market. But the product is so poorly designed that no one wants to buy it. And once you release yours, it sells like crazy.
You both were able to create the guitar, but the more thoughtful, better-made one ends up being the success. Starting small allowed you to achieve your big goal more quickly.
Whether it’s a product or a service, that approach applies to almost any business. You want to build up to your goal by starting small and giving yourself room to learn. Otherwise, you risk making mistakes that will slow growth.
The next time you want to accomplish something big, consider the following three tips that will help you start small:
1. Pursue the right idea. Finding the right idea can take time, but the extra thought today will help you tomorrow. Look at different markets, and find something you can fix or improve upon. After all, the best ideas solve problems the world faces today. But don’t stop there — your final idea should also be something you love working on. For example, I’m passionate about triathlons, and I’d noticed that few companies make gear for my age group. This led to the launch of Kids Tri Hard, an athletic brand that makes affordable gear for young athletes.
2. Develop a timeline. Knowing that your thousand-mile journey begins with one step, why not visualize and chart your path? Plot out when you want to accomplish each step to keep organized and on task. I suggest a week-by-week timeline so you always know what’s coming and what to do to reach your ultimate goal. I have big goals for Kids Tri Hard, but right now, I’m only offering a few products. That was part of the plan, and my timeline serves as a reminder that I’m only halfway there. It keeps me motivated and aware of what I need to do next to increase my product line and grow the business.
3. Devote equal attention to all parts of the pie. Although some parts of a plan may seem less important than others, they’re still deserving of your attention and effort. Don’t rush. Take your time, and complete each task to the best of your ability. Something trivial may end up being meaningful down the road.
Most people would agree that trying to start a company is a big goal. But not everyone realizes that when the time comes to take action, small successes will carry you to your final destination more quickly. Take your time to come up with a great idea, and enjoy every step of the journey along the way.
Kenan Pala is the 13-year-old founder of Kids4Community, a nonprofit that helps kids and their families give back to their communities in meaningful ways. Kenan also founded Kids Tri Hard, a clothing line that provides more affordable clothing options for youth triathletes. As a result of his passion for entrepreneurship and philanthropy, Kenan was recognized as one of the top 10 youth volunteers in the U.S. by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.