To my friends in college, interested in entrepreneurship, I ask:
Have you heard any of these things before?
-”I want to start a business someday, but I should really wait until I have more experience.”
-”A college student? Starting a business? What do they know?”
-”Go get a ‘real job’ instead. The real world awaits.”
You probably think there’s validity to these statements because you do not, in fact, have much experience; and you do, in fact, wonder how someone with little experience could, in fact, be a successful entrepreneur.
That’s what I thought for years. It kept me from trying to follow my entrepreneurial dreams for years. Until it hit me:
College is probably the best–and most riskless–time to start mastering entrepreneurship. Why wait?
We’ve already chatted about succeeding in college for smart and motivated people. I pointed out that college is one of the most flexible times in our lives and that failure (from taking an interesting and important risk, but not succeeding) has low repercussions now (no kids, few fixed payments, etc.), and the importance of doing things to develop yourself rather than spending time partying or goofing off.
So intuitively, applying the broader concepts we’ve already discussed, entrepreneurship now makes more sense than entrepreneurship later.
But let’s dissect the specific issue of mastering entrepreneurship in college more specifically:
1. Key focus of a college entrepreneur: entrepreneurship for the process, rather than the result- prioritize learning about entrepreneurship over “waiting” for the “greatest idea in the world”.
During college, I got involved with a group of engineers who were designing a sports safety product. We applied for a grant through Arizona State University. I was the main man for writing the grant application.
This was the first time I’d written a grant, and I was essentially clueless. But I spent about 20 hours on the 2-page application, and did the best I could.
Months later, we found out we were unsuccessful.
Soon after that, we applied for another grant, and again it was my job to spearhead the application. This one was 10 times as difficult: we had to present financial projections, business strategy, market segmentation, etc.
This was entrepreneurship for the process. It wasn’t so important that we’d been unsuccessful in our grant. It was that I learned how to write a grant and a business plan in the first place.
How do you think I’ll do on future ventures, now that I had these 2 tries (and some other ones aside from this) under my belt?
Since I was in college, I could do these kind of things without it being a “big deal” (financially, emotionally, etc.) that we failed.
The bottom line: Even if you think your idea (or an idea you are working on) isn’t the “greatest” thing in the world, or if you think you’re not experienced enough to be successful, why not try anyway? Use the experience to learn so you can do better next time there is more on the line.
2. Some universities have amazing resources available for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Many universities–such as my university, Arizona State University–place a huge emphasis on student entrepreneurship. For example, ASU:
a.) Has an entire office complex devoted to student start-ups (SkySong), where start-ups get free office space and mentors.
b.) Has yet another center devoted to mentoring student entrepreneurs in the school’s main building (ChangeMaker Central).
Why pass up the change for all of this help?
3. Easy access to mentors.
Imagine life after college: you’re working 40 or 50 hours per week; you have a slew of other responsibilities; you’re swamped. And, it’s tough to meet new people, since you’re at work all of the time.
What’s your current situation? Not only do you not have the above problems, you are surrounded by people who want to help you.
I’ve spoken with professors–even the dean of my college–about my entrepreneurial ventures. In general, they’re happy to help, and are quite interested in what you’re doing.
But if you wait until later, it will be a lot harder to get this advantage.
Why not get it now?
Start mastering entrepreneurship now! Don’t wait until after college. If your goal is entrepreneurship, why allow yourself to be distracted?
I cover the broader issues associated with entrepreneurship (and success in general)–such as confidence, time management, handling failure, etc.–extensively in this blog. I recommend reading these:
-The Main Idea (in general, the way that successful and motivated people approach things).
-Understanding Failure (if you really think failing at your college venture is bad–and if you’re holding yourself back because of this fear–read this article).
-Building Personal Credibility (if you think your “lack of experience” makes you ineligible to be an entrepreneur).