There are numerous highly visible examples of extraordinarily successful entrepreneurs who started their first ventures in college. A university campus is a great place to meet people and bounce new ideas, many of which may seem to have great business potential. Should you wait till you graduate, get a job and ensure a steady (salaried) income before plunging into the often risky domain of entrepreneurship?
Would it not be better to capitalize on a great idea right away, before someone else does? This article aims to help you answer these questions for yourself.
Excelling at college takes up most of the students’ time. In addition to your sizable academic workload you are likely to spend a great deal of time familiarizing yourself with industry requirements and making sure that you are fully prepared with answers to every unexpected question in a job interview. Pursuing an entrepreneurial venture is invariably a huge demand on your time. For this reason many campus entrepreneurs end up not graduating. In the event of failure this leaves them unprepared and unqualified to be employed at par with their (successfully graduated) peers. Research shows that more than half of all startups do not make it into their fifth year. In case your college startup doesn’t take off (and the vast majority of them don’t), you can end up in a sticky situation.
Hatching an enterprise is not without its costs. You can creatively minimize your overheads and operating costs. However some initial investment and advertising expenses may be unavoidable. Scaling your startup usually requires more substantial funds. College can be a significant financial burden by itself. It is common to pay off student debts over several years of employment after graduation. More debt financing, especially for a risky proposition such as entrepreneurship, may not be easily forthcoming from banks and other sources. You must carefully consider your funding options before you wire money into your business startup while on campus.
College is doubtless a place to develop your business skills. Through academics and internships you get to know a lot about how businesses are built and run. Depending on your interests, with additional research and reading and by interacting with people in the know, you can educate yourself about the inner workings of businesses well beyond what your academic curriculum demands. College is also a great time for networking. You get opportunities to meet active and retired experts, business owners, recruiters, industry analysts, and visiting faculty with an expertise on various areas that may interest you. Additionally you also have a vast student body comprised of talented individuals who bring with them a wide spectrum of cultures, ideas and contacts. These factors come together to create what seems to be an ideal environment for fostering the entrepreneurial spirit.
At the same time you must honestly introspect and make an accurate assessment of your entrepreneurial aptitude. If you are great with people, enjoy taking initiative, have a track record of bringing creative ideas to fruition and aren’t easily disappointed by failures, you may have the makings of a business starter. However, even with these qualities, you require a thorough understanding of the business environment you want to operate in. Instincts may get you so far, but there is no substitute for knowledge.
Businesses take time and effort to build. Success in business is usually an iterative process. You may need to tweak your business model over several cycles to assure continuous revenues. This highlights the necessity of another important quality of entrepreneurs – perseverance. A phrase from self development author Chiku Malunga’s 2012 book Power and Influence summarizes this aptly.
Ideas are like babies, easy to conceive and difficult to deliver.
Despite the best intentions and qualifications no entrepreneurial venture can be successfully launched without a well thought-out revenue model. You must have a sound strategy behind the design of your products and services. You also need proof (of concept) that your intended consumers will be willing and able to pay for your services at the price points you want. No entrepreneurship is warranted without a good business idea. In extension to that, if a great business idea exists, no delay is justified in putting it into practice.