Interview by Mike Sullivan
Adam Toren co-founded YoungEntrepreneur.com and Blogtrepreneur.com. Adam, along with his brother, is an entrepreneurial mentor, author, and investor, who has started, bought, and sold several companies over the past 20 years. The Toren Brothers currently own and operate a successful media business, which includes several online companies. The Torens are the authors of the award winning book Kidpreneurs (Basic Principles of Entrepreneurship for Kids aged 6-12yrs old), and people are already talking about their new book, Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right.
How old were you when you co-founded YoungEntrepreneur.com and what was the drive and intention behind the site?
My brother Matthew and I co-founded Young Entrepreneur twelve years ago, when I was 24 and he was 25. Many years ago, after our first couple of successful business ventures, we were approached by the Junior Achievement Association. They asked if we’d be willing to come and talk about entrepreneurship with juniors and seniors in high school. We’ve always felt a need to give back and help others, and speaking with these young would-be entrepreneurs helped us solidify how we would do that.
Although it’s changing in some areas, the vast majority of public schools don’t offer any training or even an introduction into entrepreneurship. The old advice of “Get good grades and go get a job” is still pretty standard – even though it’s completely outdated. Recognizing that they weren’t going to get the support they would need to be successful entrepreneurs from their education, we set out to create a resource where young entrepreneurs could go and learn about what it takes to be successful launching and running your own business.
We also created a forum on the site where people can ask questions and get answers from large a community of peers. The YE Forum has become one of the largest entrepreneurial forums online, and our visitors really get a lot of value from it.
How has the vision of YoungEntrepreneur.com evolved or changed since then?
Twelve years ago, very few people really knew what they were doing when it came to running an internet site. There were some resources where you could learn, but nothing like what’s available today. So honestly we made a lot of mistakes as we went along. But we learned from our mistakes, and each one made us more capable internet entrepreneurs – and business owners in general.
The vision of YE has remained fairly consistent since the beginning. We wanted to help people in business and those considering starting a venture to be successful. Our goal was to provide quality information and resources that’s easy to find and to understand. As we’ve learned and grown, how we accomplish that has evolved over time, but the primary aim of the site is the same.
Tell me about the importance of networking as an entrepreneur.
What a great question. As entrepreneurs, many of us have very independent personalities. We don’t always want to admit when we need help or support from others. But the most successful entrepreneurs have evolved to balance their independence with a recognition that having support isn’t a sign of weakness, but is smart and often invaluable to your business.
Networking ties into this concept because it’s a great way to connect with peers who can become your support network. Other entrepreneurs can relate to the challenges you’re going through, and will often have solutions you might not have otherwise considered. You hear a lot of talk about “Mastermind Groups” and a formal, organized mastermind group can be amazingly helpful, but just getting together for lunch or a beer with other entrepreneurs can also be very useful.
The other obvious advantage to being a great networker is that you can find clients and customers that way as well. But whether you’re looking for clients or advice, there’s a right way and wrong way to go about it. It’s about building relationships and giving before getting. If you go into networking with a selfish agenda, it will backfire.
You have co-authored a book with your brother Matthew called, Kidpreneurs. What will kids gain from the book?
Matthew and I wrote Kidpreneurs – Young Entrepreneurs with BIG IDEAS! to further address the need for young people to be exposed to entrepreneurship at an early age. As I mentioned before, our school systems, for the most part, are falling short on providing this information, and we feel it’s important to fill that gap. This is the book we wish we’d had when we were kids. We were very excited that Kidpreneurs won the NAPPA (National Association of Parenting Publication Awards) Gold award for 2010 and that we have been receiving orders from School Boards to include Kidpreneurs in their reading curriculum.
Parents and kids who read Kidpreneurs will come away with an excellent introduction into entrepreneurship, the benefits of taking an entrepreneurial path early, and what it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur. Many people say, “It’s never too late.” We say, “It’s never too early.” There have been some remarkable stories over the past several years of kids as young as nine years old starting successful businesses and becoming thriving business owners by their early teens. We want every kid to have that chance – and realize it!
You and Matthew recently co-authored another book. Tell us about that.
Yes! We’re very excited about our latest book, which is being published by John Wiley & Sons and will be released in September. It’s called Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did It Right. What we did with this book is present in-depth answers to the questions we hear from entrepreneurs most often. Like, “Do I need a business plan, and if so, how do I write it?” “Do I need investors, and how do I find them?” and “How can I use social media to effectively market my business?” We also included complete chapters on finding and maintaining your entrepreneurial vision, social entrepreneurship, and turning a struggling business around.
One of the most exciting aspects of the book is that we present all of these concepts, and then we back them up with real-world examples of successful entrepreneurs who have used the same principles to find success in their own businesses. We’ve got Gary Vaynerchuk, author of Crush It! and The Thank You Economy, Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends and BizSugar.com, and Matt Mickiewicz, the founder of SitePoint and 99Designs, to name a few. All are profiled in Small Business, BIG Vision and provide their advice to back up the concepts presented.
Our goal in writing the book is to further support entrepreneurs of all ages in their quest for entrepreneurial success, and we feel we’ve accomplished that goal in a big way. We hope it will help a lot of people get “unstuck” and reach their own Big Visions!
Have you had any setbacks or disappointments in your career? If so, what were they and have they played a part in who you are today?
Being entrepreneurs since we were kids, my brother and I surely had our fair share of setbacks and disappointments. In a previous question, I talked about making mistakes in the early internet days, and I remember one such setback: When we first started online, we gave an $8,000 deposit to a web design company. The contract and specifications weren’t written up properly, and when we weren’t happy with their services and design, we ended up losing our deposit and having no site!
Spending some money upfront to create proper agreements is definitely worth it in the long run! You hear a lot of negativity around the legal profession, but our lawyer has been invaluable to us and is considered a best friend. We’re still pretty laid back guys in general, but when it comes to the legal stuff, we make sure all our ducks are in a row.
The one disadvantage that has shaped us most would have to be the fact that as young entrepreneurs starting out, we didn’t get the support from others that we would’ve loved to have had. It wasn’t as easy back then to surround yourself with like-minded individuals. No forums or online communities existed, and resources for kids learning about entrepreneurship were very limited. Experiencing that lack of support and resources shaped our future efforts in a big way. Now, almost everything we do ties back into helping entrepreneurs (especially young entrepreneurs) succeed in business ownership.
What’s the one piece of advice that you would want to make sure that every young person knows when it comes to business?
There are actually two things I’d want every young person to know. First: follow your passion. If you’re doing what you love, nothing can stand in your way.
Secondly: I think what sets successful entrepreneurs apart more than anything else is perseverance. I would want young entrepreneurs to know two things about perseverance:
Find the right Domain Name for your business at Fabulous.com!