Top advice for young people starting a business

Billionaire Mark Cuban was only 12 years old when he started his first side business, so he knows what it takes to start a business at a young age.

And if you’re going to do that, he says, there’s one simple thing to consider.

“The key to starting a business when you’re young is to do things you can do yourself — things you can do on your own time,” Cuban recently told a group of high school students at Louisville High School in Texas.

That means starting with what you know, he noted.

“If it’s a product, make something that’s easy to get and easy to sell,” Cuban said. What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?

Cuban began learning the business as a pre-teen selling trash bags door-to-door in suburban Pittsburgh. Later, he sold a variety of collectibles, from baseball cards to coins and stamps, and said the proceeds helped pay for college.

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In each of these cases, Cuban used household and collectible items available to kids and sold them for a profit—following his own advice for today’s teenagers.

Similarly, as a college student, he worked as a bartender and gave dance lessons to earn extra money. Cuban later showed off his dancing skills publicly by appearing on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2007, finishing eighth in the competition.

“I was a troublemaker … I was always selling. There was always something going on. That was my nature,” Cuban said in a 2016 episode of ABC’s “Shrek Tank.”

Now, Cuban says he regularly tells kids and teens who want to start their own businesses to do what he did. “Build something they can build or a service they can provide to friends, family and neighbors,” he told CNBC Make It in September.

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Of course, this is easier said than done: successfully starting and growing your own business is challenging. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 20 percent of new businesses fail within a year of launching.

“Being an entrepreneur and starting a business doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy and all of a sudden you’re going to make a lot of money,” Cuban told the Louisville High School students. “Being an entrepreneur is the hard way.”

If it were easy, he added, “you all would have done this before and come on Shrek Tank and take my place.”

Finding something you can control and do yourself is hard enough. It’s much harder to excel at it—which happens to be Cuba’s #1 rule for making money.

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The billionaire previously said that includes extensive research into your business plan and potential competition, seeking funding and creating back-up plans for flexibility if adjustments need to be made on the fly.

As long as you don’t mind doing it, especially after choosing a business opportunity, a world of opportunities opens up, Cuban told the high school students.

“If you are willing to take the initiative and start a business, anything is possible,” he said.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

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