You know how the story goes. People like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates founded their now-multinational corporations while they were in college. So, why don’t you try to start a business and turn it into a money-maker, too?
There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by such stories. But your decision to become an entrepreneur should be a well-weighed one. After all, you’ll be investing your time, effort, and money into making it work.
Plus, venturing into the business world with zero preparation whatsoever might not be the best idea. But as for this part, consider yourself covered.
Your priorities should be clear from the get-go
Running a business is akin to a full-time job – except there’s no 40-hour week rule. You might think, “Oh, it’s great, I’ll be able to work less and still earn a living!”. But that’s rarely the reality.
The truth is, you shouldn’t expect to earn money from the get-go. And don’t expect to be able to treat it as a hobby. You’re likely to end up working on your venture day and night, leaving little time for parties and even studies.
Some might say it’s completely possible to juggle college and business. But it’s hard to agree with it.
Creating a viable product, testing, and improving it alone will require a tremendous effort. And, your customers are unlikely to cut you any slack because you have that coursework to finish. So, decide early on how you’re going to manage your time.
Use classes for your business’s benefit
If your major and/or minor are related to the industry or business administration in general, use it. Put to practice the theory that you learn in those classes right away.
Plus, your professors are very knowledgeable. So, don’t hesitate to raise your hand (or approach them after classes) and ask them questions related to your business. Their knowledge and experience is an invaluable resource at your disposal.
If you don’t have such classes in your curriculum yet, worry not. You can still find electives that would tackle the whole ‘running a business’ ordeal.
In this case, the advice remains the same. Treat the theory as the basis for practice, use it in the real-world setting, and ask as many business-related questions as possible.
Your Alma mater has plenty of resources to help you
This is one of the main reasons why college students are in the best spot for starting their own enterprise. There are just so many resources available to you simply because you’re a student!
Here’s just a quick overview of what you can benefit from thanks to your alma mater:
- Free Wi-Fi;
- Free meeting spaces, coworking’s, and hubs;
- Library materials;
- Student discounts on some products and services, especially on software;
- Orientation sessions and advisors;
- Business plan competitions;
- Fairs and networking events;
- Incubator and mentorship programs.
Even the coolest product is nothing without customers
Before you invest a substantial amount of money into your venture, make sure you have a customer base to sell your product to. How? Two words: market research.
Yes, it sounds a bit boring (especially if you’re not a facts-and-figures type of person). But it’s necessary: you need to know there’s a demand for what you have to offer. If you don’t, you risk becoming one of that 42% of small businesses that fail because they have no market for their product.
Here’s what you should take into account when compiling your market research notes:
- Your buyer persona’s characteristics: age, location, job titles, etc.;
- Their challenges, preferences, and habits;
- Direct and indirect competitors.
Here’s a tip on the ‘how’ of market research: stats are important, but so is talking to your potential customers. So, get in the room with them and discuss whether they have this problem you want to address and what they think of your product.
Testing any product is vital
Most genius business ideas weren’t a result of a Eureka moment that struck the entrepreneur while they were taking a shower. No, those ideas were a product of many cycles of trial and error.
Of course, the initial idea must be viable, at least. But then you’ll have to go through this cycle several times before you have a truly great product:
- Getting a version of the prototype or minimum viable product ready to be tested;
- Presenting it to a focus group and listening to the feedback: what works and what doesn’t;
- Improving the product – and repeating.
You don’t have to venture into this on your own
Do you know what makes it so much easier to get started and keep going on the entrepreneurial journey? Having someone to bounce your ideas off, give you feedback, share their time-tested know-how with you, or even partner up with.
This is where networking kicks in. And people of all kinds are more inclined to help out a student. Here’s just a quick overview of who you might want to approach:
- Peers: they can become your partners, co-founders, or your focus group;
- Alums: they can fund your start-up, share their experience with you, or even become your mentors;
- Professors: typically, they are a well of knowledge, and they don’t mind helping their students out;
- Successful entrepreneurs: they’re more than ready to get their brains picked by students.
So, go ahead and find yourself a mentor. This person will guide you in your journey using their real-world experience – and they’ll help you avoid many pitfalls and mistakes rookies have no idea of.
Overnight success is a myth
Becoming a huge success overnight is just a pipe dream that has nothing in common with the reality of entrepreneurship. Prepare for the possibility that, despite long hours and exhaustion, you won’t succeed. Not every start-up breaks even – in fact, around three-quarters of new businesses don’t manage to become sustainable.
So, be realistic about your chances and goals. Don’t expect to earn tens of thousands of dollars in a couple of months of hard work. Expect to keep grinding, instead – resilience is key here.
College is a great time to become an entrepreneur
College is arguably the best time to get in on the entrepreneurship game. You’re not bound by a bunch of commitments yet, especially in terms of finances. You have plenty of free or almost free resources to boost your chances of success at your disposal.
In a nutshell, your risks are low while your potential reward is high.
In other words, it’s worth trying. If you make it, you won’t have to worry about finding a job after graduation. If you don’t, you’ll still have invaluable experience to put on your resume. Plus, this will make you more mature, and fast. That’s a priceless acquisition in and of itself.