The Mark Zuckerbergs of the world have spoken. It is indeed possible for an individual to turn a single idea into a profitable enterprise, build an online brand, and develop contacts in the business world, all before earning a bachelor’s degree. Nay, even a high school diploma, says Teen Business Forum (TBF), an online resource and collaboration tool for teen entrepreneurs. Boasting nearly 2,500 members, TBF seeks to guide teen entrepreneurs through the process of creating and maintaining a business, from brainstorming ideas to finessing marketing tactics, from investing in stock to designing a website.
They are organizing the Teen Business Summit, a three-day event that will bring together entrepreneurs from several countries and of various age groups to discuss how teen entrepreneurs can “Create a Better Future”. The Summit will be conducted entirely online via Skype, August 22-24, so that anyone in the world, including the aspiring teen business leaders of Fairfield County, can tune-in for free.
I had the opportunity to ask the owner of Teen Business Forum, Jack Liu, some questions about TBF and the Summit:
Nicole Narea: What’s your background and how did you become involved with TBF?
Jack Liu: My background is in consulting. One night I was reading some “Make Money Online” blogs and found out they all had multiple websites which they make money on. After that, I went to look for websites to buy on Flippa.com. I found two. One was a blog and the other was TBF.
I really liked TBF because I had never heard of teens starting businesses. I thought it was really cool because I myself was not a teen entrepreneur. But I wished I had been because I would have been further along. So I bought the forum. I knew it had a lot of potential. In the following months, I got to know some of the members very well. We put up a blog, started doing interviews and just kept thinking of what to do next to provide more value to the members.
Nicole Narea: How do you see the internet and social media opening doors for teen entrepreneurs?
Jack Liu: Good question. The answer is “unlimited possibilities”. Ten years ago, teens made money on eBay. That was really when the dot com era started. It lowered the amount of money anyone needed to start a business. Ten years later, it’s lowered even more. Just look at news stories about entrepreneurship. One in ten is about a teen.
There are so many ways to make money on the Internet now. The problem is that most teens just don’t know what’s out there. For example, there’s a website called Fiverr.com where someone can pay another person to do tasks for $5. Teens love that because as long as you have a Paypal account, you can make money. And then there’s affiliate marketing. That is how a lot of teens are making money these days. Basically, it’s helping someone to sell their products but over the Internet. And because the Internet is so scalable, the revenue someone can bring in is ridiculous. Someone making 5 figures a month is not uncommon. In fact, we will have a teen talking about that during the summit. Very cool stuff.
The way I see social media is that it enables people to connect with anyone they want. Experts have called Twitter a straight-access to celebrities. Social media also enables people to connect with entrepreneurs. We have been able to connect with entrepreneurs, such as the ones for the summit entirely through social media. We have in fact not met more than 4-5 of the speakers in person. Just think, a teen nowadays can ask a question to an expert and get an answer in a few days. That is unheard of just a few years ago.
Nicole Narea: Which are the top 5 twitter accounts teens entrepreneurs should follow?
Jack Liu: …You want to follow the ones who are about to become superstars in a few years. You also want to follow ones that are accessible, meaning you can interact with them…These are the ones I recommend:
Nicole Narea: Any suggestions for teens interested in business, but who don’t know where to start? Where can they get inspiration?
Jack Liu: I used to think not knowing where to start was the problem. In reality, it’s the lack of inspiration and knowing what is possible. Well, my team and I truly believe that the Teen Business Summit coming up this August is the best place to get both. We will be addresses both of those issues in depth. We have a highly-sought after personal development entrepreneur, Kevin Hall talking about how to find your true passion. We have a speaker, Sarah Cook talking about how to get support from your parents in business. These big topic issues will be addressed on the first day, along with the very influential Guy Kawasaki talking about how to achieve like-ability. Everyone can benefit from that talk.
On the second day, we’re bringing in very successful entrepreneurs who have been teen entrepreneurs. One you may recognize is Juliette Brindak. She started the website Miss O And Friends when she was just 12. Through the years, she grew the community and recently got a large investment from Proctor and Gamble. All the presentations on the second day show a teen what they will be like in 10 years if they stay on the path of entrepreneurship. It’s a very cool way to show them a snapshot of their future.
And then on the third day is where we address the issue of “how to get started”. All the presentations will be from teens talking about how their current business. The one I like to point out is an entrepreneur with a t-shirt business. As we know, 99% of teens have started a t-shirt business. Well, this entrepreneur, Peter Takis has gotten his shirts in local stores. That by any standards is a success.
And after the summit is over, there’s a whole community of like-minded teens over at Teen Business Forum. That is where all the action is. The teens who join don’t leave. I got this from a member last week who passed his 1000th post. He’s been very active for well over a year.
“I’ve finally reached the 1000 post landmark with this post. I’d like to take this post and thank everyone who makes TBF what it is. Jack, thanks for helping me every single time I PM you, and thanks for promoting TBF and keeping it around – hopefully one year I will be a speaker at the Teen Business Summit. Without TBF I wouldn’t be where I am, nor would I be the person I am (I DO have a life outside the internet everyone – just so you don’t get the wrong idea). TBF has helped me with domaining, investments, websites, and startups in general. TBF is without a doubt my #1 networking spot. So thanks again to everyone and everything that is TBF – and here’s to years of future success.”
Nicole Narea: What advice would you have for a young entrepreneur trying to build their brand?
Jack Liu: Simple. Build a blog. Get web hosting, get WordPress on it and start writing about your journey in becoming an entrepreneur. Write about everything you are learning. The moment you start creating a website, there’s a switch that gets turned on. I have heard countless stories on how learning to build a website/blog led them to learn about marketing, sales, and being a better entrepreneur overall.
Nicole Narea: What value do you see in making the Teen Business Summit accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world? Has something like this ever been done?
Jack Liu: We wanted to make Teen Business Summit free because we are doing this for teens. Some of our members are in Nigeria and as far as Nepal. It didn’t make sense to charge. We wanted to connect ALL the teen entrepreneurs in the world. What better way than to create a global conference that is free.
To my knowledge, nothing like this has been done before. There have been virtual conferences that have been done where recordings of the speakers are played at a specific time. But we are doing it live so a lot is going to be on the line. But to have something be remarkable, you have to do something remarkable. Seth Godin talked a lot about this in Purple Cow. We took that to heart.
Nicole Narea: Are there specific instances that come to mind when you saw the positive impact of TBF? Besides providing a space for teens to collaborate, what opportunities does TBF offer?
Jack Liu: Here are just some of the testimonials from members of TBF. We are making an impact everyday whenever someone joins the community. There’s one story a few months back that just floored me. We had someone from Ireland joined and started asking how to build a business on eBay. We pointed him to an expert, another teen in the community. They talked, shared insight and within 2 months, the teen from Ireland surpassed 99 sales in one month. Within 3 months, he had to rent out space in a warehouse to store his inventory. In fact, he was spending something like $1500 just to buy stock! Here’s the full story.
Currently, TBF is all about networking. A teen may come there not knowing anything about business, just like the testimonial above. And in 6 months-1 year, they meet members there and learn to build websites, drive Facebook traffic, and other things. We also provide interviews with successful entrepreneurs. We did one recently with Marc Ostrofsky, the entrepreneur who is in the Guinness Book of Records for selling Business.com for $7 Million+. We were really surprised to find out that he did not do that many interviews with online media outlets. Most of his media appearances are on things like The View, Times Magazine, etc. His book is one we highly recommend as well.
As you can see, TBF has connections with people that the normal teen may not have access to. So we will provide the awesome content while the teens can just focus on building their business.