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When talking about young entrepreneurs, Asif Ali Gohar and his vegan rice leather often becomes a part of the conversation. He began his business right out of school, after having made the original discovery during a high school project. Starting a business at such a young age has some hurdles that may not be faced by older people or by those who are more experienced. Discussing some of these hurdles and how he overcame them, he supplied some good ideas for others who also want to start their own business while they are still quite young.
Do you wish you had waited until you were older?
No, I think that by wishing that things were different I am not respectful of the experience that I have had. It’s possible that I may have done better, it may have grown faster, if I had been older, but I also wouldn’t have had the same experiences that make me who I am.
I do not think that everyone should start a business so young because not everyone is ready for the responsibility. There are those few people that are ready and will learn so much as they go that they will find success in the future whether their business fails or not. The skills that are learned when you have no choice can be some of the most valuable.
Are people surprised when they meet you and see your age during meetings or social events?
Often yes, people are very surprised when they are coming to a meeting and they are going to meet the owner they are shocked to see that I am this young in appearance. It seems to not make them doubt me, but I do notice that sometimes they ask more questions and are more curious about my own involvement than if my managers run the meetings.
When I go out in social situations, there is sometimes a surprise when I say what I do for a living and when I started my business. Usually, people are pleased and like to ask me about my experiences and how it feels, but other times it is just accepted, and we move on. There are so many things to discuss in life that it cannot all be about business all of the time, so I may not even tell people if I think it will shape the conversation. Sometimes I just want to go out and have fun.
If you could give one piece of advice to other young entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Listen to the advice that you are given, and think about all of it. Do not just brush off people because they are older or different, but also do not assume they are exactly right all the time. Having a mentor can help to sort through the good advice and the bad advice, so a mentor is a great relationship to have. They can bring a lot of value to the relationship and help you to move your business forward without losing yourself.
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