Billionaire Mark Cuban was only 12 when he started his first side business, so he knows what it takes to start a business at a young age.
And, he says if you want to do the same, you need to consider one simple thing.
“The key to starting a business at a young age is doing something you can do — something you can do on your own time,” Cuban recently told a group of high school students at Louisville High School in Texas.
That means starting with what you know, he points out.
“If it’s a product, do something that’s easy to get and sell,” Cuban said, adding: “It really comes down to one simple thing. The best businesses are the ones you can control and make yourself thing. That’s what an entrepreneur is.”
Cuban is known to have learned to run his own business early on as a teenager, selling garbage bags door-to-door in suburban Pittsburgh. He later sold various collectibles, from baseball cards to coins and stamps, proceeds he said helped pay for his college tuition.
In each case, Cuban used household items and collectibles that kids had access to and then sold them for a profit—following his own advice for today’s teens.
Likewise, as a college student, he worked as a bartender and taught dance lessons for extra income. Cuban later publicly showcased his dancing skills on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2007, where he finished 8th in the competition.
“I’m a liar … I’m always selling. I always have something to do. It’s just who I am,” Cuban said on a 2016 episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
Now, Cuban says he routinely tells kids and teens who want to start their own businesses to do what he did. Build it around “something they can make or a service they can provide to friends, family and neighbors,” he told CNBC Make It in September.
Of course, that’s easier said than done: successfully launching and growing your own business is notoriously challenging. About 20 percent of new businesses fail within a year of launching, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Being an entrepreneur and starting a business doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy and all of a sudden you’re making a lot of money,” Cuban told Louisville High School students. “Being an entrepreneur is the harder path.”
If it’s easy, he added, “you’re all already doing it, then join ‘Shark Tank’ and take my place.”
Finding things you can control and do yourself is hard enough. Getting good at it — that’s Cuban’s number one priority, by the way. The first rule of making money – it’s much harder.
The billionaire has previously said it involves extensively researching your business plan and potential competition, seeking funding, and developing backup plans to provide flexibility should you need to adjust on the fly.
As long as you don’t mind putting in the work, especially after you choose your business opportunity, a world of opportunities opens up for you, Cuban told the high schooler.
“If you’re willing to take the initiative to start a business, anything is possible,” he said.
Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”
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