Don't Let Anyone Tell You That You're Too Young

1*rZbOTeaHqvb-HOElFJlNyQ.jpeg

In the Fall of 2015, I excitedly walked through the front gates of Georgetown University on my first day of class. Because Georgetown doesn’t have Greek life, many other student organizations substitute for students’ social life. After finding this out, I applied to eight clubs — the same number of schools that I had applied to for college. As each of these clubs were extremely competitive, I had to write multiple essays for each application. And on top of that, I had to include materials such as my resume, transcript, and standardized testing scores. After a long and stressful process, I ended up getting denied by not one, but all eight, organizations that I applied for.

As a motivated and successful student, this was a huge shock to my ego. The last club that I had applied to and interviewed for was the Georgetown University Student Investment Fund. GUSIF manages about $500,000 of Georgetown’s endowment. Because my dad is an investor, I thought that being a member of GUSIF could be an interesting opportunity to explore my interests in financial markets. However, in the interview, the interviewer asked me point blank “What’s happening in the financial news this week?” Despite my perceived interest, I quickly realized that I had no idea how to answer the question. I stared blankly back at the interviewer for a few seconds and said that I didn’t know.

Leaving the interview, I knew that I had not gotten the position. While I was disheartened at first, I thought to myself that I could not be the only motivated college student who could not answer that question. Why couldn’t I answer that question? How accessible is financial news? How much time does it take to stay updated? Is the news itself even understandable? These questions kept swirling around in my mind, and eventually, I decided to solve the problem.

I proposed my idea to several friends, and I started my first business: Flynance. Flynance condensed the financial news into a weekly newsletter for college students by college students. During my freshman year and part of my sophomore year, I started and developed Flynance, holding weekly meetings in the common room of my freshman dorm with 15 friends and now co-workers. At its peak, Flynance had over 60 campus ambassadors across the United States and hundreds of subscribers. I learned more about marketing, operations, outreach, and financial news than I ever could have as a member of GUSIF.

From watching endless episodes of Shark Tank, a popular television show on ABC spotlighting entrepreneurs, as a kid, I knew that companies needed to raise money to grow. Without funding, Flynance teetered between being a student organization and a business. To get the initial capital, I decided to enter one of Georgetown University’s pitch competitions — the Rocket Pitch Competition. The Rocket Pitch Competition allows student entrepreneurs to pitch for two minutes to a panel of Georgetown alumni and D.C.-area entrepreneurs, investors, and faculty for up to $2,500 in funding. After submitting an application to the competition, I was selected to pitch during my freshman fall. During the competition, I felt like I was the most inexperienced person competing by far, as the majority of the competitors were MBA students and much older than I was.

As this was my first pitch competition and entrepreneurial event, I distinctly remember not knowing what to wear. I ended up wearing a business suit with no tie, but I was nervous about it.

While I did not end up winning the pitch competition, it is an experience that I will never forget. While I received positive remarks from many judges at the reception, a fellow Georgetown student bashed my idea to my face. He thought that I was too young to pursue my idea. I tried to ignore his opinion, but it swirled around my mind. While I ended up getting over his rude comments eventually, it was one of the first moments I had felt inadequate at running something simply because of my age.

During the spring of my freshman year, I decided to enter another pitch competition: the StartupHoyas Challenge at Georgetown University — this one being larger and more competitive than the Rocket Pitch Competition in the fall. While the Rocket Pitch Competition gave out only about $2,500 to the winner, the StartupHoyas Challenge awarded $25,000. There were also three rounds to the pitch competition. The first was the application, the second a short pitch to a room of six judges, and the third a longer pitch to the Georgetown University community. While the judges commented on my age, they seemed excited to listen to my pitch about Flynance. But in the third round of the competition, again, a peer made a comment about my age. I remember that it made me feel extremely nervous and too inexperienced to compete. I’ve never been a great public speaker.

But instead of giving into these fears, I decided to embrace them. My inexperience was an advantage because I offered a new perspective.Before going on stage to pitch, one of the organizers of the pitch competition noted that I was the only undergraduate student pitching my idea in the final round with only five pitches remaining.

While I did not end up winning the competition, I walked away with a check that funded my next marketing campaign for Flynance. I was disappointed at first, but I knew that I had done the best that I could have done with the experience that I had. Age can be an advantage and a disadvantage in different situations. While some investors and thought leaders believe that older and more experienced entrepreneurs are better investments than younger and more hungry entrepreneurs, this setback was not going to hold me back.

So I got out there and pitched my idea, and while at first it may have felt like a failure — because of criticisms from peers and judges and because I never actually won — ultimately, I got enough money to keep Flynance afloat and in the process, I learned what I was capable of. I was capable of showing up, making my case, and walking away with my head high.

To learn more about me, you can check out my personal website here, contact me at agh42@georgetown.edu, and follow me on Twitter here. To read more, you can buy my latest book on Amazon in paperback or Kindle here!