Whether or not you choose to be a student entrepreneur, make college the place where you find your passion.
by Guest Blogger Keith Kaplan I ALBION COLLEGE: Brains (double-major honors student, Mortar Board, College Fellow) and brawn (swim team captain and an avid outdoorsman who most days can be seen paddling on the river that runs through his campus). Regular blogger. Co-founder of the eponymous DK Cookies (on Facebook!).
College is a time for learning – a time for finding yourself and setting yourself up for the future. It’s a time for taking chances, searching out opportunities. This is the last installment in a three-part series on collegiate entrepreneurship and how it can help set you up for the future you dream of having.
So you’ve seen a few businesses and heard about students starting their own businesses. The big question is, “How do I do it?” Starting a business is no simple task. When I interviewed successful entrepreneurs, I asked them what advice they’d give to aspiring student entrepreneurs. Today I’m going to share with you their key takeaways and how you might be able to apply them on your college campus. Don’t plan to start your own business, ever? Read on anyway – these guidelines will serve you well no matter what direction life takes you.
1. Use your resources: Nihal Parthasarathi, co-founder of CourseHorse, mentioned that one of the greatest things to do on your college campus is “use your resources,” from asking your professors for recommendations to bouncing ideas off your friends. Don’t be afraid to ask people for favors, because most of the time they’re more than willing to help you.
2. Don’t be shy: One of the great pieces of advice Nathan Latka gave was not to be shy when you ask for money. He realized that if you have a great product, people won’t complain if you charge more for it. Customers may even view your product as more legitimate and be more likely to use it.
3. Don’t be a bottle neck: There comes a time in running a business when you will need to expand. You can’t do it all. Someday it’ll be time to grow and bring more people on board.
4. Do be a social butterfly: Meet anyone and everyone you can meet and expand your network. The bigger your network, the greater the pool of talent you’ll have to draw on when you need it.
5. Take (smart) risks: Everyone I talked to said that to be successful in running your own business, you need to take chances. Sometimes the results will be positive, and sometimes they’ll be negative. As Matt Mosher, co-founder and CEO of HiredmyWay, said, “Make mistakes to be successful.” This is how he created a multi-million dollar landscaping company.
6. Learn new things: With the free time you have before you start a new business , take any opportunity to learn skills that might be useful once your company’s up and running. Nihal mentioned that he wished he’d learned Photoshop or PHP before he started CourseHorse because he doesn’t have time to study them now.
7. Get excited: No matter what product you’re selling, get excited about it. If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, you shouldn’t be selling it. Jason Bolt, founder of Shady Peeps, mentioned that one of the reasons that they’re successful is because their team is enthusiastic about their sunglasses.
8. Have knowledge: Be smart and don’t go into a business that you don’t know anything about. You’ll be better off going into a business based on something you already know. For example, Jason Bolt already had some experience with design when he went into designing sunglasses.
9. Don’t reinvent the wheel: After speaking to Matt, I learned you shouldn’t try to change the way the business process is performed. Instead, you should focus more on the ideas and originality of your business – exactly what Michigan-based HiredmyWay did to become a revolutionary job-board website.
10. Remember that the ball is in your hands: One of the biggest takeaways Nihal mentioned was the power you hold as an entrepreneur. The amount of effort and time you put into your business are factors that determine success. In turn it’s up to you to create that success.
Entrepreneurship is unique and unlike any other experience. An idea can evolve into something even bigger than you expected. You can see the full business process unfold and hopefully become successful. It’s been said that college is “something to do because you don’t know what you want to do with your life.” This may be true for some, but don’t let it be true for you: Whether you choose to be a student entrepreneur or you don’t, do make college the place where you find a passion and create – or at least set the stage for – your own future.
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