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What it takes to succeed as a young entrepreneur

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Matthew Hickman and his business, Kean's Pump Shop

Like many entrepreneurs, Matthew Hickman's decision to go into business for himself was driven by a desire to control his future and make his mark on- the world.

Hickman is achieving those goals as owner of Kean's Pump Shop, a St. John's, Newfoundland business he bought in 2004. The company he took over was solely a water pumping business. But he has since diversified it to provide water, air, heating, and ventilation systems to municipal, commercial and residential clients.

"I worked in a larger organization before starting my own business, but I didn't feel like I could have the impact I wanted," Hickman says. "I've always been driven to have a certain degree of control, and I believe that's a trait many entrepreneurs share. They have a vision and they want to have a chance to execute it."

Overcoming challenges

Hickman says it's taken hard work to build his company, including overcoming what he sees as a bias against young people in the business world.

"Credibility was an issue," says Hickman who began his entrepreneurial career at 26. "The age bias affects everything. It affects your ability to attract financing, quality employees and good suppliers."

To counter the difficulties, his advice to other young entrepreneurs is to build a solid network of contacts and seek the support of experienced business people.

"Get to know as many people as you can. Build relationships with people that are important in the industry."

Entrepreneurs are made, not born

Peter Brown, a senior executive at consulting firm Deloitte, agreed that drawing on advice is a key to success for young entrepreneurs.

"Entrepreneurs are made, not born," Brown says. "They become great from coaching and counselling, combined with opportunity and innovation."

"Experienced entrepreneurs have great days and bad days and they've learned to deal with them, and I think for young entrepreneurs that is a big challenge. That's why advisors can help ," Brown says. "Successful young entrepreneurs find ways to learn from other people's mistakes as well as their own."

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Be persistent

Tenacity is especially important for young entrepreneurs trying to make their way with limited resources.

On the other hand, young entrepreneurs often have some advantages over their more experienced counterparts. One advantage is that they often have less family responsibilities, providing them with more freedom to explore and take risks.

They'll also tend to be more at ease with new technology platforms such as social media and know how to use these tools to market themselves and their businesses effectively.

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