I sold my first business at 17: Yvette Adams

You may not have heard of the Summly app, but you probably now know all about its 17-year-old creator Nick D’Aloisio, who sold it to Yahoo! last week for a reported $28 million.

Selling businesses as a teenager may be rare but it’s not impossible. Speaking to a serial entrepreneur this week I discovered another teenage success story, Yvette Adams.

She needed money to support her waterpolo career while still at high school so established a small publication for students involved in sport. Quickly acquiring some large sponsors, she grabbed the attention of an American who claimed he’d wanted to do something similar and bought her out.

“It wasn’t a great financial sum that I received, but he paid me a wage for the next year which was enough for me to pursue waterpolo,” she tells me.

That was just the start of a successful entrepreneurial career. More than a decade later she’s launched her fifth business Awardshub.com, a portal for sourcing and tracking business-related awards.

So how did Adams build on her teenage success?

The sale of the first business didn’t immediately inspire her to keep creating and building up new ideas on her own time.

She first developed her business skills and acquired a number of mentors working in communications with the NZ government after leaving school, running the National Sports Journalism Awards and regularly liaising with Sir Edmund Hillary.

She’s worked as a press officer for the British High Commission, a managing editor for a UK-based publication for New Zealanders and a PR and marketing manager. In 2002, she launched a new online t-shirt business, selling it four years later for a “five figure sum”.

In 2007, Adams launched the Creative Collective, offering online creative services for marketing plans, websites, social media and training for clients, which is now her key focus with more than 350 clients nationally.

Adams can’t point out where she acquired the entrepreneurial vibe, other than being “young and independent” upon launching her first idea, and willing to give something a go.

“Being an entrepreneur is not something someone suggests for you to do while you’re still at school, you’re encouraged to go to university,” she says.

Adams will join nine other entrepreneurs on a tour of Silicon Valley later this year, organised by the Commonwealth Bank’s Women In Focus. The self-funded trip will see the women tour the start-up and investment zone – not to seek funding but rather to acquire knowledge and ideas from some of the Valley’s best, Facebook, Google and Cisco among them, by leveraging the contacts and networks of CBA

The trip will see Adams fulfil one of her 2013 goals – visiting Silicon Valley, something she’s not confident she could get the most out of doing alone. “I want to go there, be a sponge, learn what I can and bring the best bit back with me,” she says,

With two young children, Adams says her entrepreneurial spirit has enabled her to build a career around her family.

She can’t understand why more women aren’t experimenting with new business ideas that involve technology. “Mining won’t support this country forever,” she says.

“If we can get smarter and get more people creating technology, we’ll be that much more sustainable.”

If a 17-year-old can do it, why not the rest of us?

This article first appeared on Women’s Agenda.

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