Even if you don’t see yourself as an entrepreneurial spirit, don’t be afraid to start something new.
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 first of a three-part series on collegiate entrepreneurship and how it can help set you up for the future you dream of having.
Let me tell you a little story. About a year ago, my dear friend David Gentile, who was my roommate at the time, called me up and asked me if I wanted to start a cookie business on the Albion College campus. Me loving cookies so much, I said, “Count me in.” At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, other than hoping that I would be eating a lot of cookies.
To make a long story short, Dave and I ended up co-founding DK Cookies, a cookie delivery service, our senior year. It was a lot of work and, well, okay, maybe we didn’t make as much profit as we would have liked. But as I look back on it, I’m so glad I took the opportunity.
Why? Because I learned things that will stand me in good stead for the rest of my life.
I believe that being an entrepreneur can help set you up for a great future. If you look at some of today’s most popular companies, you’ll see that many of them were started when their founders were still in college. Examples include Facebook, Google, Reddit, Insomnia Cookies, Napster, FedEx, Microsoft, and even Dell.
What all these youthful founders had in common was an ability to see beyond simply what was in front of them, plus the courage and conviction to get their ideas out of their heads and into the real world.
It’s not that I think being an entrepreneur is for everyone. It’s not. If you’re going to go down that road you need more than an entrepreneurial spirit. You need to be self-motivated, someone who can go out and get what you want for yourself. You need to be willing to take risks, and know just how much of a gamble you can take and still sleep at night.
Even if you don’t see yourself as an entrepreneurial spirit, though, I still encourage you to try to start something new.
I say this because no matter what happens, whether your venture is successful or not, you’re going to come out of it having learned something. From my own experience this past year as a co-founder of DK Cookies, I learned invaluable lessons in:
- Handling cash flows in a business environment
- Dealing with legal procedures and regulations
- Responding to a changing customer demand
- The true meaning of patience
Not everybody is along for the ride when it comes to using college to hone your entrepreneurial chops, though. In the fall of 2010, billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, announced that he was giving away $100,000 grants to 24 talented young entrepreneurs under the age of 20 to pursue their entrepreneurial dream instead of going to college or university. Thiel acknowledges that in encouraging young people to drop out of school, the program is controversial in some quarters. But, he notes, “[M]ore people are now realizing that college isn’t always the best option” for some students, adding “I hope our fellows inspire a generation about what they want in life and how to achieve it.”
What do you think? Is Thiel’s program a good thing, or is it a better move to graduate and then start a business?
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