For years, we’ve been saying that college is, for many people, a waste. Our founder, Andrew Henderson, too, dropped out of school and never looked back.
He grew up around the radio industry. When he was 19 years old, he decided to go ahead and start his very first business in radio.
While he wasn’t the on-air talent himself, he followed that side of the radio business because it was an essential part of the company he was running.
He recalls listening to a clip from The Howard Stern Show where the presenter talked about his progression from starting out on small-time radio to becoming a hundred-million-dollar-a-year man in radio.
He told a particular story that stood out to our founder and is especially relevant to any young entrepreneur.
He said that, back in the 1970s, every time he or someone he knew was looking for a job, they would look up the job ads, and there would always be ads for DJs wanted.
“Come work in Baltimore!”
“Come work in Los Angeles!”
“Come work in Tupelo, Mississippi!”
And every single month, without fail, there was an ad for one radio station in Alaska. Not even in Anchorage, but in Nome (i.e., the middle of nowhere), Alaska. “Come and be a DJ in the middle of nowhere!”
Every month, they were hiring.
What’s the lesson? Basically, if you could show up, you could have a DJ job in Alaska. You could build your career from there. And if you had the talent of a person like Howard Stern, you could use it as a springboard.
In this article, we share insights of serial entrepreneurs like our founder, Andrew Henderson, who has now spent well over a decade living and doing business overseas in the hopes of opening the eyes of young entrepreneurs to the world of possibilities available and waiting for them.
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College Isn’t The Only Option
The movement to skip college is gaining steam in the West.
The reality is that prospects for business school graduates aren’t good. Sure, Harvard graduates are getting jobs for the most part, albeit at lower price tags than you might think, but graduates from lesser schools aren’t doing as well.
Even well-recognized schools like NYU and USC are seeing close to one-quarter of recent grads unemployed three months after graduating.
While some may suggest skipping grad school and packing your bags for the hub of whatever business you want to be in, like San Francisco for tech, Los Angeles for entertainment, etc., we suggest taking advantage of the warmer business climate outside of the US.
Yes, the six-figure tuition you saved will go a long way toward starting your own business or even businesses. Eyes nowadays are set on being a tech entrepreneur with a solid business model.
While determined successful entrepreneurs can prove themselves in any climate, the economic outlook for the West isn’t good, and more regulation and higher taxation can only bring one down. The grass can really be greener on the other side of the fence. For adventure-seeking and open-minded young entrepreneurs, programs overseas could stretch their resources even further while providing a greater upside.
For the US and many European students, Colombia offers immediate permanent residency with as little as $25,000 in capital that you can spend immediately on your company. There is a growing entrepreneurial spirit there.
For those who don’t want to start their own business, Colombia’s growing economy has placed a greater and greater demand for management positions, and a fancy degree or business school may not be needed.
For those who prefer Europe, Ireland provides the Startup Entrepreneur Programme for those who have or can raise around US$50,000 to start a business.
Estonia, for example, lets you keep business income in the company without forcing a taxable distribution. The benefits available overseas are as varied as your goals.
For the young management candidate or startup guru, the options outside the US are vast and will allow you even more reasons to save your tuition money and use that cash elsewhere.
Stay up to date with the business world, and make sure to read up on the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, and the like.
A parent company running tens of thousands of client projects can always start with an ambitious, business-minded entrepreneur from a small town.
Opportunities In The Least Expected Places
So many young entrepreneurs are looking for the next big business idea in the United States, Australia, or wherever they live. No doubt, there is no shortage of business ideas anywhere in the world. People are constantly inventing and innovating new things.
But if you’re willing to do what other people aren’t doing, you’ll get results that other people won’t.
Our founder spent a lot of time in Southeast Asia, going to the markets that no one was talking about to see where the real opportunities were.
What he discovered and still believes to this day is that if young entrepreneurs are willing to take the equivalent of a radio job in Nome, Alaska, they can springboard into something very successful.
We’ve told the story before of a gentleman who opened a tiny ice cream parlor in Cambodia. Because there were really no other great ice cream parlors or even any to speak of at that time, he was able to build his business into a tremendous chain that still exists to this day with millions and millions of dollars. It’s a dominating market force.
Also, in Cambodia, there’s a local coffee chain called Brown Coffee. For the longest time, people thought Starbucks would never come and compete with Brown Coffee. The chain is so well established. People love it so much.
Starbucks did come eventually. Others, like Costa Coffee, eventually came, too. But Brown Coffee continued to dominate the Cambodian market because it had the first-mover advantage at a time when no one wanted to invest in opening Western-style cafes in Cambodia.
Young entrepreneurs can experience more success doing business in a place like Cambodia than going to college or heading to Silicon Valley.
The point is there are so many opportunities around the world that are so simple.
We’ve talked about the idea of unsexy businesses. Some of our founder’s greatest hits as an investor have been things that aren’t that sexy.
And you would never think that these people have tens of millions of dollars, but they do because they did something no one else wanted to open.
Opening up a modeling agency in Los Angeles or a real estate agency in New York is fine. You should do what you want. But understand that the competition for real estate agencies in New York City is going to be a lot higher than the competition for opening up the first coffee chain in a place like Laos.
There are frontier markets all around the world where most people don’t want to move. They’re the Nome, Alaskas of the world.
Most people who are living in Los Angeles would shrug at the idea of moving to Namibia, Myanmar, or Bolivia. But if you’re willing to do that, there are business opportunities that have long been developed and have long been highly competitive where you’re from that you can introduce in a new market where you have the advantage.
You need less capital than you would to start the business where you’re from. You can hire people more affordably. You can get stuff done where the government’s perhaps a bit more flexible.
If you follow those principles and ask yourself where you can go and do something that no one else is willing to do, your probability of success will skyrocket.
If you know how to run a business, if you come in and take the right steps, you have a much better chance of opening up an ice cream parlor in Cambodia than the modeling agency in Los Angeles.
Young Entrepreneurs, Is It Worth It?
The reason many young entrepreneurs pass on these golden opportunities comes down to the simple fact that people don’t want to leave their friends, family, or their hometown. They don’t want to venture into the great unknown.
They don’t know if the risk is worth the reward.
And the truth is that we cannot tell you if it will be worth it for you. But we can tell you this: we just finished working with a guy who has a company worth $70 million and a multi-million dollar per year income.
Over the years, he has built it up steadily by doing business entirely in these kinds of markets.
He does very little business in the Western world because all of his opportunities are in frontier markets where you can go in and be the only game in town in many cases.
So, if you want to skyrocket your probability for success, if you haven’t yet become the seven or eight-figure entrepreneur that we talk about, and if you want an opportunity to increase your probability, the Nome, Alaska idea is one of the best ways that you can give yourself that advantage.
If anything, you will gain a different perspective, see a different culture, learn how the world works, and realize that business is different overseas.
In today’s era, as the education system is increasingly removed from the realities of a growing and developing world, skipping college and heading straight to the markets that are ready and waiting for you is a great idea for young entrepreneurs who are just starting out.
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