Guest post: How to start a business if you know nothing about business


By Ben Casnocha — More than half of the current crop of college grads will start a business during their lifetime. And last year alone, 700,000 people started new companies in the United States. We are living in the golden age of entrepreneurship.

Part of the force behind this burst of new business is that the bar to start a company has never been lower, thanks to the Internet. On the web anyone can find cheap labor overseas, learn about almost any topic, and connect with potential partners and customers. Even if you’re in school – like I am – the opportunity to start a new business with few capital costs is enticing.

I launched my own business, Comcate, at age 14, and it’s still around today, five years later. Here are some things I’ve learned about starting a successful business even if you don’t know anything about business. These tips come from my new book My Start-Up Life, (which contains many more tips beyond these for starting and growing a company).

1. Be committed to personal growth and self-improvement.
Start reading books about entrepreneurship. Read about conferences. Reach out to local business leaders and ask for their advice on how to get started. In short, foster a genuine love for learning about the slice of business you are interested in.

2. Harbor a bias toward action.
Learning via books and talking to people can only take you so far. The very best entrepreneurs focus on doing over talking. Learn by doing, learn by failing. Take action. Pick up the phone. Send the email. Show up at the conference. Buy that book. What did you do today?

3. Share your ideas.
If you ask someone to sign a non-disclosure agreement, or if you simply pass on the opportunity to receive useful feedback because you’re scared someone will steal your idea, you are hanging a big, white poster on your chest that says, “I’m naive.” In the early stages, you want as much feedback as possible. This means sharing your ideas with others. There is no such thing as a new idea. Besides, it is execution that distinguishes successes from failures, not raw ideas.

4. Keep the customer at the top of your mind.
As you consider various business opportunities, always try to put yourself in the mind of the potential customer. What specific value would they derive from your product or service? What need are you serving? Leave the office and go immerse yourself in the life of the customer.

5. Enlist the support of others.
You can’t do it alone. Find people who can help you. Parents, neighbors, teachers, mentors, coaches. Your network is probably larger than you think. Somewhere in this network is probably a good co-founder for your business, too. Companies with 2 or 3 co-founders do much better than solo warriors. I talk about mentors so much in my book because they’ve been absolutely critical to my success.

Remember that anyone who tells you there is a single formula to successfully starting your own business is either lying or deluded. There is no single path. There are no top 5 rules.

It’s all personal to you. Who are you? What do you like doing? What are you good at? Where do you need people to help you? What do you know already? Be self-aware enough to answer these questions honestly.

Then get going and start doing (and let me know if you need help). The clock’s a-tickin’ and the world’s a-changin’!

Ben Casnocha, 19, is author of the new book My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley.

27 replies
  1. Philip Baddeley
    Philip Baddeley says:

    This is great advice. Get out and talk to the market. People also need to think about equity and which journey they want to take. Equity Fingerprint is a free business plan resource on equity distribution. If they want to do a facebook, Bebo or Skype they need to raise millions of VC funds. Facebook is up to $38million from more than four investors. Bebo has Benchmark on board. The more “customer engagement” you have, the better the deal with the VCs.
    Hat tip: Geoff Jones

  2. Tarek Demiati
    Tarek Demiati says:

    +1 for reading a lot of books about Entrepreneurship :

    One of my favourites one being “The Art Of The Start” from Guy Kawasaki.
    It’s a master piece, I highly recommend it.

    I’m also a strong believe that entrepreneur should have strong moral values & ethics,
    therefore I can’t agree more with Guy Kawasaki, try becoming a Mensch :

    Too often entrepreneur are too often portrayed as greedy escrow, this need to be adressed.

    HINT : Penelope, this could make a great article in itself : Ethics in the (cinycal?) corporate world :-)

  3. says:


    I just lost all respect for you. Why would sink so low as to blog on Brazen Carrerist? This blog is terrible, and just makes you look bad.

  4. George
    George says:

    These are some great tips for anyone who is starting off in business. Success in business comes with preparation and determination. It is a bout creating a construct in which “luck” could thrive. At the end of the day the more you work at it the better you will get!

  5. Abije Y Oblenghuo
    Abije Y Oblenghuo says:

    This is excellent Ben. I would add that you should go for a turn-key or pre-setup business like the kind you find at or max soutter’s business setup kit ( if you live in South Africa/ Zimbabwe. I’ve found these services extremely helpful especially when i started my first financial consulting business.

  6. Al
    Al says:

    Very sound advice! In my experience, it is better to start your business earlier in life than to “wait”. As people settle into life, it is much more difficult to take the
    percieved risk of business ownership. I have been self employed for many years, and do not envy the 9-5’ers. For what it is worth, anyone considering a new businesses should look into contracting with the government. As most businesses are laying off, the government is still “hiring” by spending billions annually on contracts. My site has more information, it is

    Good Luck…

  7. Reena
    Reena says:

    I would rather not take the risk of starting a business that I don’t know anything about it. Usually, starting a business itself is a risk, plus we are just adding more risk of success there. Of course, your points given definitely adds more value towards confidence from customers but never stop learning about our business will lead in proper way, I guess.

  8. Wes
    Wes says:

    2. Harbor a bias toward action.

    I think this is the best advice, for someone who wants to start their own business. Go out and try something and don’t be afraid to fail. Too often we are guilty of over planning and never implementing the plan.

    The only way to learn if your business is going to work is if you take action.

  9. Heathrow office property
    Heathrow office property says:

    Really good summary of what is needed. Sometimes creating a business about a subject you have little idea about is a really good thing to do. Strange as it sounds if you know too much about the subject you can end up not focusing enough on the business of doing business.

    I found the e-myth – revisited a great help in starting out and avoiding create a job instead of a business.

    My next hang up was having to lower myself to being a salesperson… image of dodgy car salesman… getting over the all salesmen/women are horrid issue seems to be a problem often had by new business people. The 1 minute salesperson was the key book for that issue.

    Look forward to exploring more of this site.

  10. Jonha
    Jonha says:


    I need to commend you big time on this article. I have been wondering why Pen has been giving you and the other guys the precious chance to write for her equally precious blog and I realize that she did a great job on letting you all do so (I still wonder why all boys though). I’ve never been the entrepreneur-minded type but as I keep on reading this blog and being active in Brazen Careerist, I am getting the drive that I need. I am starting to think about who I am, what I want, what I like, what I could give. It’s definitely life-changing.

  11. Hardik
    Hardik says:

    I would like to add one more thing to it, Its the sales part.
    Its always a good idea to have a sales team for your business. It would be the most crucial thing to get your business running.

  12. dymah fatma
    dymah fatma says:

    i want 2 start a mobile e business. i am just a matriculate yet and know nothing about business .plz help me out.. how can i start with it?

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