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What personal characteristics have contributed to your success at such an early age?
I would have to say persistence has been big. I got a lot of money/business knowledge from my mother which was very helpful. An ability to learn quickly, take a few risks (not really monetary risks, but more personal risks as far as just taking that first step or doing something a bit out of the ordinary), and keep at it really have been the personal characteristics that have been important to me.

Is there anything you feel, if you had known when embarking on your entrepreneurial venture, would have benefited you?
Absolutely. I have learned a few good lessons. First, no matter how hard you work and how well you position yourself, if you are trying to sell or provide something for which the demand has not materialized in the market place, you will be hard-pressed to be successful. I once thought that as long as I worked hard and kept at it, I’d be successful. While this is true to some extent, if you are working hard or ‘keeping at it’ in the wrong market niche, with a poor product, or in a declining industry, you can have one tough time.

What would you consider the most valuable lesson you have learned thus far?
I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that there are a lot of people out there just in it for a quick buck. They want to know how they can make a million dollars in the next thirty days. While this is a fine aspiration, it is not one based on reality. As an aspiring entrepreneur, you must not think, "How much money can I make and how fast can I make it?" People that think this way are often the type that high-fly for a few weeks or a couple months, are big talkers and small deliverers, and crash and burn never to be heard from again after their fifteen minutes. If you truly want to succeed you must shift your paradigm. You must think, "What need is there in the marketplace, how can I fill it, and how can I create value." Only by thinking in this manner will one actually be able to build the lasting, solid organizations needed to properly pursue an opportunity, and create the value necessary in the marketplace to earn the revenue needed to make a significant profit, your original goal. As Zig Ziglar said, "One can get anything if he is willing to help enough others get what they want." An aspiring entrepreneur must never forget this important axiom.

What factors made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
A desire to make extra money initially. I was 11 and wanted to buy the name brand clothes so I could be ‘cool’ going into 7th grade. I knew I was good with computers so I put up a few flyers and started helping people with the computer. From there it was a natural progression into web site design and web marketing in my later teens. With my more recent ventures, and as I have gained a more holistic sense of economics and development, a significant motivation for me is the possibility of creating true value through my actions and doing what I can in my own small way to increase standards of living by encouraging competition, creating efficiency in the marketplace and offering better products and services at a lower cost to the customer. Finally, I just LOVE the game!

What “words of wisdom” would you offer to an aspiring entrepreneur?
I think have to use the following nine tips from my book, Zero to One Million, to answer this question.

  1. First, know that it is not easy to build a company to one million dollars in sales. It is likely that you will not be able to achieve this goal on your first try. You must have persistence and keep at it. It may or may not be a good time in your life to go after an entrepreneurial opportunity, and you may or may not have that great idea just yet. Everything takes time. You must take the long run approach. You must build relationships for the long term, do whatever you must, including interning or working for others for a period of time to gain experience and excess capital, and just keep at it. Becoming a successful entrepreneur is not easy. You must have persistence.

  2. Being an entrepreneur is not for everybody. But if you find it for you, and you can find a way to succeed, it is extremely rewarding.

  3. You may not be able to do everything at once. Take a long run approach.

  4. If you presently do not have the financial resources, the experience, or a good business idea, intern at or get a job at a company in an industry you are interested in and start building your network and gaining experience.

  5. Always focus on building relationships.

  6. Make sure you are constantly learning.

  7. Take a proactive role in planning, goal setting, and personal evaluation.

  8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

  9. Get out there and do it. Take the initiative and have a bias toward action. Get experience however you can, build your network, have confidence, and be in it to win. It is up to you.

This Entrepreneurship article was written by Melisa Boulrice on 2/11/2005

Ryan P. Allis, 20, is the author of Zero to One Million, a guide to building a company to $1 million in sales, and the founder of Ryan is also the CEO of Broadwick Corp., a provider of the permission-based email marketing software and CEO of Virante, Inc., a web marketing and search engine optimization firm. Ryan is an economics major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is a Blanchard Scholar. [learn more.