The 5 Step Essential Guide to High School Entrepreneurship

We’ve collaborated with 100s of young, successful high school entrepreneurs, to bring you this step-by-step guide to getting your startup idea off the ground and positioning for massive growth. Included along the way are success stories of the entrepreneurs, details about their startups, tips on high school entrepreneurship, and links to additional resources. This guide is meant for anyone ages 12-20 who think they may have that entrepreneurial potential. Read on to begin your journey and master high school entrepreneurship

Step 0. Overview of High School Entrepreneurship
Step 1. Start by solving a for a Need
Step 2. How to Come up with a Great Startup Idea
Step 3. How to Test out your startup Idea
Step 4. How to win competitions and master crowdfunding
Step 5. How to pitch your startup for seedfunding

If you need inspiration, check out the origin stories of our most successful high school entrepreneurs and see the full list of all catapult high school startups. The best should consider applying to our Incubator.

Essential Guide Overview

1. How to come up with a great startup idea

The best entrepreneurs see problems and solve them. Mukund Venkatakrishnan from our 2015 Philadelphia cohort is a great example.

Mukund built a low-cost device that tests a person’s hearing with a series of beeps, and also programs itself to become a hearing aid customized for that person. It eliminates the need for an expensive doctor and can be used with even the cheapest set of headphones.

Mukund didn’t invent this device out of the blue, he set out to fix a real problem.

Advice for building a startup while in high school - this program changed my life

Mukund is 16 years old and is changing the world with his low cost hearing device

“A few years ago, I visited my grandfather in India, while there, I realized he had hearing loss. The process of getting him tested and fitted for a hearing aid was pretty terrible, it cost over $1500. The average yearly income in India is only $600, so that’s a problem. I began researching the problem of hearing loss, it affects a lot of people and most can do nothing about it, that’s where I came up with my idea.”

One of the biggest challenges young entrepreneurs face is falling in love with a certain solution or invention they’ve created. And when their solution doesn’t work as expected, instead of rethinking, they often stay with their initial solution and are blind to the evidence in front of them.

Entrepreneurs who are dead set on solving a problem don’t care about which solution they ultimately go with, and are open to experimenting and really building a solution that works for the end customer.

Read the complete text for Step 1 – Start by solving a real problem

2. How to Come up with a Great Startup Idea

To make your idea real, you have to build something. Joyce Hsieh didn’t sit around planning to launch a million dollar business, she started by building a single cellphone case. Here’s what Joyce had to say about building her first prototype:

“I started Wild Daisy when I was 13 in the summer of 2012. I was totally not about the idea of looking for a ‘real’ first job. Instead, I decided to be-dazzle and glue metal studs onto phone cases with clear nail polish. I was obsessed and made tons of cases for myself, I changed my phone case everyday to match my outfit. Eventually my friends started asking if they could buy some for themselves. I became an undercover bedazzled phone case dealer in my middle school.

How to start a Business in high school

Joyce’s Instagram feed, notice the 875 likes.

Soon I created a small Etsy shop to sell online and not just locally, then moved to my own custom website months later. Several years of bootstrapping and a long week of in-school-suspension later, I came up with the idea of a clothing line. I moved to sunny San Diego the summer before my freshman year and immediately got my own office and warehouse to serve as home for my brand new clothing line, along with shoes, swim, jewelry, and of course, phone cases. I wasn’t thinking about a career or college or anything, that summer changed my life because I found something I loved doing. It was meant to be more than just a side hobby, I wanted Wild Daisy to be big!”

Old school business was about writing out a +50 page business plan. But startups have debunked that theory, it’s faster to just go out, with a single product and see if it works. We promise that it won’t be wildly successful in the beginning, but the feedback you get, helps you build the next version of your product or service. At the Catapult Incubator, we send you out into the city on your first weekend to talk to real customers and show them your prototype.

Read the complete text for Step 2 – How to Come Up with a Great Startup Idea

3. How to test out your startup idea

There is a famous saying by Peter Thiel, a well known entrepreneur and venture capitalist, “zero to one”, which is in reference to when you startup goes from having zero customers, to getting its first customer. Because once you find one customer, you are onto something.

Consider the story of HS Mxers, a company that puts on extravagant dance parties for high schoolers:

How to master high school entrepreneurship

HS Mixers Co-Founders Raags and Ishan

“Long before we had figured out all the details, we got a few ‘ambassadors’ students at local high schools, and asked them to pre-sell tickets to our first event. Within a few weeks, the ambassadors came back to us and they were all asking for more tickets, because they had sold out. We sold 400 tickets in like 2 weeks without doing much, we knew we were on to something, even before we knew what something really was.”

You don’t have to make it perfect on your first try. Often times your early customers will tell you what other features or services they would like to have, and they can help you shape your products into something even better.

HS Mxers has expanded up the west coast and is even throwing an events in NYC with the help of other entrepreneurs from the Catapult Network.

Read the step by step guide for Step 3 – How to Test Out Your Startup Idea

4. How to win competitions and master crowdfunding

Young entrepreneurs come to catapult and think they need funding in the millions of dollars. You actually need less to get started, way less. In fact most of our teams launch with less than $5,000 in seed funding. Take Drones 4 Humanity a team from our Spring 2016 cohort

Founder Mohammed built a heavy lifting drone that could deliver more than 100 lbs of supplies to people immediately after a natural disaster. One of Mohammed’s teammates, was able to introduce the team to the Disaster Response Authority in Indonesia who was so interested in the drones that they invited the team down to Indonesia for a demonstration of the technology.

A Founder speaking with Advisors

Mohammed speaking with Advisors

The team needed $15,000 to build 2 drones and fly the team to Indonesia for the test. We suggested they turn to crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is a way to market your startup and gather early seed funding from the community. You make a profile of your venture with basic information, a video, and other relevant details, and then friends and family can support your cause as well as other people online who find about what you are doing.

They launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo while they simultaneously presented their venture at different events to really get the media buzzing. In the end they were able to fund the trip to Indonesia and are in talks with companies about ordering an initial set of drones.

As a young entrepreneur, crowdfunding can be really successful because the community wants to support You and your idea.

Read the step by step guide for Chapter 4 – How to win competitions and master crowdfunding

5. How to pitch your startup for seedfunding

If you’ve done the last 4 steps, this part takes care of itself. Teams always ask us for advice on pitching, and we say, tell your story. It’s compelling that a young entrepreneur is launching a business when many adults are humbled by that experience. Pitching and storytelling isn’t about gimmicks. It’s about telling what really happened, the ups and downs, and showing how through it all, you persevered, and are here, pitching your startup.

That couldn’t have been more true with Katie, the founder of Kidstales. Here’s the story she tells:

“When I was little she was an excellent figure skater, but after an accident left me unable to skate I grew depressed. Until one day, my mom signed me up for a creative writing class. I found an opportunity to share all my feelings and thoughts. What if more people could have this chance to share through creative writing? So I created Kidstales, a weeklong program to teach young people to write creatively and at the end of the week, we put their stories on Amazon so they become published authors.”

Katie is the founder of a high school startup

Katie talking with investors at Demo Day

Kids tales is now in 9 cities around the US and 3 countries thanks to Katie’s ability to tell a real story about the beginning and continued success of Kidstales.

Read the step by step guide for Chapter 5 – How to pitch your idea for seedfunding

There you have it, the 5 steps to getting your startup off the ground. Even though you may be in high school, like all the people highlighted above, you have a clear set of steps you can take to success.

Are you ready to get started and find out if you have high school entrepreneurship potential?

take me to the step by step guide for Chapter 1 – How to come up with a great startup idea

If you are interested in getting professional support from experts in this area, consider applying to Catapult Ideas high school incubator as a founder, if you have an idea, or as a free agent if you want to learn about startups by joining a founder’s team. We specialize in unlocking your high school entrepreneurship potential.