Business ideas for 2018: Teenaiders

Anxiety is growing amongst young people, fuelled by an unhealthy relationship with social media and it's up to brands to provide solutions...

A generation of young people are growing up as digital natives, forming online identities from an early age that can be as important as those in their real lives. This exposes them to pressures and anxieties around body image and mental health on a scale that their parents’ generation couldn’t have imagined.

In 2017, a survey conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health outed Instagram as the worst social media app for young people’s mental health, especially for its negative impact on young women.

According to Mintel’s Europe Consumer Trends 2018 report, research from the University of Sheffield and Ofcom found that an hour on social media each day reduces happiness indexes by 14%. This is just part of a wider global trend, with depression having grown by a staggering 18% in the past decade.

In fact, four of the five most popular social media channels have been found to damage young peoples’ mental health, contributing to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety, acting as platforms for bullying and interfering with normal sleeping patterns.

Meanwhile, the pressure of academic work and concerns for the future are contributing to increased levels of stress and anxiety amongst teens: Mintel research found that a quarter of seven to 15-year-olds are concerned about what they will do after school. And as technology increasingly replaces youth-oriented roles in supermarkets and customer communications, these entry-level jobs are also under threat.

Consumer-facing brands are well-positioned to tackle these challenges and respond to the changing expectations of their target market with positive messages and new ideas.

Brands who fail to do so could find themselves being left behind, or even publicly called out by their own customers.

Starting a teenaider business: Why it’s a good business idea

Young consumers are savvier than ever, and won’t tolerate representations and ideas that are outdated or offensive, or platforms that promote unrealistic standards.

The old adage ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ no longer rings true – one false step can be shared like wildfire across social media, giving rise to mass consumer disapproval of even the world’s biggest brands.

However, not all attempts to be ‘right on’ have been met with a positive response. If consumers suspect you’re doing it for cynical reasons, or if it’s handled clumsily, a well-meaning campaign can do more harm than good (looking at you Pepsi).

Where established brands have failed, new, nimble brands can succeed.

These same platforms that can do so much damage also provide the scope to disseminate alternative ideas and information amongst the youth market that challenge the status quo.

By positioning yourself at the forefront of changing mores and aligning your brand with positive messages in an honest and genuine way, you can win over disenchanted young consumers.

In 2018, brands need to be seen doing more than just making a profit; you have the chance to improve the lives of your customers, not just sell to them. And in our increasingly uncertain and polarised world, it’s never been more important to empower and reassure the next generation.

Businesses have great influence, and those seen to be embracing diversity, celebrating difference and supporting those in need will be the winners. 2018 is the year of the ‘teenaider’.

Teenaider business opportunities

Who better to start a business targeted at improving the lives of young people than young people. Age should be no barrier to business, and as a young person, you have first-hand experience of the issues and challenges facing your generation. Why not do something about it?

23-year-old young entrepreneur Guy Riese launched his start-up after contracting glandular fever during his A levels and falling behind in his studies. During his illness, Riese explored learning techniques based on cognitive science and returned to score top marks in his chemistry class. He then founded UpLearn to enable students to access the same techniques, charging £200 per year, with the guarantee of an A grade or their money back.

Body positive clothing is also a growing trend. Even major fashion brands are embracing it, but not always successfully. Many high street shops model their clothes around their ideal body shape and then scale up or down for different sizes, failing to accommodate the wildly different body shapes that humans come in. Starting from scratch with a brand that caters for all different sizes (or a very specific shape and size) could win you the customers left behind by the high-street.

According to Mintel’s report Lifestyles of Children and Teens 2017, 24% of children aged seven to 15 cite appearance as a major source of anxiety, rising to 52% for girls between 13 and 15. This makes it a key market to tackle with positive messages about body image and inclusive clothing.

Another opportunity in the teenaider space is to launch a business that helps teenagers and young people go offline and get involved in sports or activities. This is a great antidote to our increasingly unhealthy use of screens and allows us to step out of the highly cultivated and unrealistic world we see online that can cause so many anxieties.

UK-business Time To Log Off is spearheading a movement to help teenagers disconnect from their devices and reconnect with the real world, offering detox days, retreats, and even a Teenage Digital Detox Camp to tackle internet addiction amongst young people.

John Bishop, managing director of Evolve – an organisation that tackles mental health in schools – agrees that there’s an opportunity for businesses that focus on less screen time: “School holidays may lend themselves to an alternative delivery model where exciting programmes are offered that encourage physical activity, social interaction and personal development, all of which are the perfect antidote to the spike in screen time that is associated with these times of the year.”

Insider opinion

Jen Hyatt, the founder of Troo Life Coach, explains the influence brands could have on teenagers: “Neuroscience tells us that habits developed in the teenage years are more likely to ‘stick’. This provides a real opportunity to help teens develop behaviours that bring lifetime benefit.

“If habits are learned for life, the products and services that help develop and reinforce those habits are going to bring significant commercial benefit.

“Teens are notoriously mercurial as a market. Build your brand through co-creation to be sure it is one that will be widely adopted.

“Troo Life Coach (TLC) delivers data, collaboration and wellbeing through AI coaching. Its first prototype focused on stress amongst teens and gained significant traction with 78% of teens finding it very or fairly useful in managing stress.”