Success Without College: A High School Entrepreneur's Perspective

Gianfranco Filice College Advice

A note from Katie: Success isn't all about the classroom, and it doesn't start with college. Today's post is by high schooler Gianfranco Filice who started a business to pursue both an entrepreneurial passion and a humanitarian interest. He offers some great insights into business resources, mindset strategies, coping with difficulties, and the difference young people can make when they follow a targeted goal. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did! 

Hard work

With this right mindset and determination, you can be successful in any industry; it depends on your desire to learn and work hard. Whether it is through a college education or through personal development catered to what you are trying to accomplish, finding what you love and using that knowledge to fuel your desire to work hard ultimately can lead you to new avenues and lessons that you otherwise wouldn’t have imagined for yourself.  This is exactly what happened to me.

Ripple

What started it all

I am 16 years old, and in late 2012, my mother was diagnosed with state-four cancer. Through this troubling and traumatizing experience, I began to see the fragility that accompanied life and began to understand that my days on earth will always be limited. Understanding my finite existence, I learned that if you want to make a difference in the world, you have to make the opportunity versus wait for it.

This brought along the idea for a social good company called Ripple during my 8th grade year. Currently, I am a junior in high school, and using my desire to learn, I’ve turned Ripple from an idea into a true, social good company. It took countless sacrificed hours from lunch periods to weekends in order to learn everything that I possible could. With each obstacle, I began to find enjoyment in overcoming each challenge. This ultimately made the struggle so much more bearable, and the end result so much more enjoyable.

Ripple High School Entrepreneur

Some of the best parts about the experience have been getting support from people I truly admire: people from city council members, executives of Fortune 500 companies, and friends each had something positive to say or advice to offer. Using some of the resources available to me and my drive to succeed lead to me to write a 35 page business plan that would later be praised from a MBA graduate as being better that some business plans he had read in graduate school. That encouragement and having the initiative to touch base with experienced individuals lead me to constantly fine tune and cultivate Ripple.

Ripple’s purpose is to create awareness of humanitarian issues for young adults using clothing and social media. We do this by creating partnerships with nonprofit organizations to which we donate a portion of the profit of our sales to their cause in exchange for a metric. A metric is a tangible result that comes from the amount of money that is donated. For example, for each t-shirt sold, through our partner Children’s Hunger Fund, we provide 20 emergency meals to children living in extreme poverty.

When starting this company, I was extremely uneducated in all things business besides the simplicity of buying, selling and making a profit. Without an ability to attend college, I had to take it upon myself to learn the things I needed to and by any methods that were helpful.

What I learned and how I learned it

Books

Using books, you can peer into the minds of some of the most successful individuals in a particular field or industry. I took this approach to not only learn about marketing (Seth Godin), pitches (Guy Kawiskaki), and bootstrapping (Chris Guillebeau), but also how to develop my mentality to become successful in the long run with books such as Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill or As A Man Thinketh by James Allan.

Informational Interviews

One of the best resources that any aspiring individual can take advantage of is informational interviews. Essentially, you get in contact with someone in your prospective field, ask them for a few minutes of their time, and you pick their brains for a few minutes and see what advice and suggestions they can give you based on their past experiences. Sometimes they will even pass along different resources and additional connections. All it takes is having the initiative to ask.

One specific resource that I would recommend is SCORE (Service Corp Of Retired Executives). These are a group of former company executives from different backgrounds and industries that offer advice and assistance for starting and existing businesses. If you have a business idea, these people will tear it apart and put it back together and give you the guidance on what you need to do to accomplish it. The wealth of their experience alone is worth thousands of dollars. You can choose a mentor depending on your field, and if you are a seasoned business individual, they will help you with expanding your sales, discover new marketing techniques, and all things in between. It’s available to everyone, and did I mention it is free?

Blogs

A blog is essentially an online resource of individuals who take the time to provide create insight and content for you. This can include how to’s, updates on current events, and some people even post informational interviews with people pertaining to different fields. Some of the more noble blogs include Forbes and Entrepreneur. You’d be surprised at the amount of knowledge that people give away on the Internet. A little searching on the Internet can yield huge results.

One personal example: I used an Entrepreneur.com blog post to help me put together a pitch deck for when I was presenting my business plan to a group of investors. A pitch deck is essentially a business plan that is condensed into a PowerPoint of 13 slides which overview what your company does and what will make it successful.

Learning on your own is a degree in itself

Information and experience can come at a moment’s notice. Taking the initiative to cultivate ideas or projects you may have always thought about may bring you down roads you never would have imagined for yourself. Resources are available, it’s more about the desire to learn and experience and adapt to new situations. Take upon a new project and see where it can take you.

Take On Your Own Journey

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My journey with Ripple not only forced me to be a more creative and assertive person, but a leader amongst my peers. It forced me to adopt working habits that were unmatched, to change my schedule to be as efficient as possible, and to understand the value of the process versus the desire for the reward. Having a willingness to learn more will allow you to experience new things in ways you may not have thought possible.

Take on that project you always thought of starting. You can do anything by being assertive and using the resources around you to not only make your project into a reality, but to give you life-long skills that will ultimately make you a more productive and happy person. 

 

Please check out Gianfranco's website at www.rippledesign.org to check out his work, and add all questions and feedback in the comments section below--we'd love to hear from you! I'd also love to hear about any projects (business or otherwise) you're undertaking to follow your passions and build the life and careers you dream of.

If you liked this post, you might also like "What is College For?," "Unconventional Twentysomethings," and "Success: Planning Short- and Long-Term Goals for the Coming Year."