Forget tales of Gen Y slackers; hard work, dogged determination and self-belief are themes that run deep through the stories of the young entrepreneurs interviewed for Your Business this week.

Restaurateur Samuel North recalls having a few staffing issues when he first set up his business a couple of years ago.

"When I started the business I found it really hard with staff and I went through a lot in the beginning," he says. "No one wanted to listen to a 21-year-old."

Today North proudly reports he's had a stable team for about a year-and-a-half, but his experience highlights some of the challenges young entrepreneurs can face.

The founder and head chef of Wellington-based restaurant Muse on Allen worked and saved hard for six years, and got a loan from his parents and help from his partner to set up the restaurant, which last year took out a top culinary prize - the Visa Wellington on a Plate Award.

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"I have no credit cards, no bank loans - nothing," he says. "The banks ran a mile when I put the idea to them. It's pretty funny looking back at it now; there was no way they were taking the chance on me - and I can't blame them."

Terry Shubkin is CEO of the Young Enterprise Trust, which amongst its programmes runs The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) that gives senior secondary students the chance to set up their own businesses.

Shubkin says perseverance, adaptability, adventurousness, and the ability to think creatively are among the characteristics she's observed among successful young entrepreneurs.

While many students don't continue the businesses they create through YES beyond high school, the real value lies in gaining the exposure to and experience of entrepreneurship, she says.

"If you talk to lots of entrepreneurs you'll find it's often not their first venture that's successful, it's their third or their fourth, so if you can get them to do YES it sets them on that path earlier," says Shubkin.

"What we're trying to achieve is have entrepreneurship seen as a valid career option, to make it more visible and to give those people who do want to become entrepreneurs more experiences so when they do set up their next company they'll be more successful. Ultimately it's about growing the economy, because if we can get more people growing companies and more companies succeeding, life will be better for everyone." Entrepreneur George Smith is CEO and co-founder of Glassjar, a mobile app that allows roommates to automatically pay their bills and rent in a single payment each month.

It's 23-year-old Smith's third venture. The first, called Beanlab, created bespoke coffee blends and was a national YES finalist; the second, Gradvids, came about while he was at Canterbury University and created customised graduation videos that were distributed through Facebook - although the development of that business came to a halt when the earthquakes struck.

Glassjar was one of the companies to go through the Lightning Lab digital accelerator this year, and its team of four are now focused on growing its markets in the US, New Zealand and Australia. Smith says he's always loved the environment of working in startups; establishing a team and getting the right culture takes work, he says, but once done it makes the journey much easier.

"To build a team you just have to sell the vision, your passion and your belief that this will become massive, which it will with Glassjar," he says. "The startup scene is really supportive; if you're passionate and motivated people will share that and help you."

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Samuel North, Muse on Allen:
Can you tell me a bit about your business?

I founded Muse on Allen on 24 of September in 2012 when I was 21. I set out on a bit of a mission - to open a restaurant with a great staff atmosphere and working environment, and to also serve great food and provide great service. I've got a team of 11 - five full time and six part time - and all of us are good mates, socialise together and have the same values.

When I started the business I found it really hard with staff and I went through a lot in the beginning. No one wanted to listen to a 21-year-old. But now I'm proud to have had mostly the same team for a year-and-a-half now. What factors motivated you to set up your own business at such a young age? I always wanted to improve myself, and I never hung around a job for too long - once the challenge was over, I was gone. I found it hard to move up the culinary ladder at such a young age, and I had my own ideas about good food, pushing the boundaries and trying to do something different. I got bored working for hotels and restaurants cooking caesar salads and beef fillet with shoestring fries.

How did you finance setting up the operation?

I had worked really hard for six years and saved hard, but it came to the time when I realised I didn't have enough money and asked my parents for a loan. Even my partner of three-and-a-half years helped with the setting up expense, which I was really grateful for.

I have no credit cards, no bank loans - nothing. The banks ran a mile when I put the idea to them. It's pretty funny looking back at it now; there was no way they were taking the chance on me - and I can't blame them.

I will be looking for investors for my new venture , though, which I plan to open next year, and will see how that goes.

Do you have any particular role models or mentors?

I don't try to focus on what other restaurateurs are doing or have done; I try to focus on what my restaurant needs.

I do have a great business mentor, who I met through a scheme that the BNZ provides for free. Head chefs and colleagues that I've previously worked with have also supported me in different areas - making sure my food costs are in line, teaching me how to maximise my staff without overdoing it, and just guiding me on the day-to-day running of the business. The support I've had from these people has made me who I am now, and made the business what it is.

What are some of the challenges you've faced being a young entrepreneur, especially in the hospitality industry?

I found it tough to start off with - being young, not having any contacts in the industry and finding Wellington a tough circle to break into. But I just didn't let it worry me and persisted with the food and service I wanted to do.

Another challenge is staffing. I have staff aged from 18 to 42 and all of them have different personalities. I think that's something bosses need to be aware of, because no one is the same, and you can't always treat everyone the same way.

But on the other hand, what do you love about being an entrepreneur?

There were some serious lows before I could enjoy the highs, but after winning the Visa Wellington on a Plate Award in 2013 it took off from there. I was able to employ more staff, make adjustments to the restaurant and start focusing on my business rather than working in it all the time. Being an restaurateur means a lot to me now. I can make critical decisions without consulting others, and focus on moving the business forward.

What's your ultimate vision for what you'd like to achieve in business?

I'd like to start thinking about opening another restaurant - something that Wellington doesn't have, and focusing on food and service in a way people have never experienced before. I have a personal standard when it comes to hospitality and it's not all about getting money off people and getting them out the door. It's about the experience, and I want implement this vision in my next restaurant business.


Coming up in Your Business: It may still be October, but planning for the busy lead up to Christmas and the summer holidays is generally well underway. What preparation are you doing as a small business owner to ensure everything runs smoothly over Christmas? If you've got some tips to share, drop me a note:
nzhsmallbusiness@gmail.com.