First Person: The Pros and Cons of Running My Own Business While in College

by on August 9th, 2010
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All over the country, we’re seeing more and more students start their own businesses. While I think this is a great testament to my generation’s industrial, free-thinking, and entrepreneurial spirit, college students should not look at starting a business as a quick way to get rich. Entrepreneurship is a serious and difficult undertaking that should not be taken lightly.

I started my first company about a year ago. After working three internships with large corporations, I decided that the traditional nine to five was not for me. I wanted to create something new, take risks, and own my future. Several months later, I can say it was the right decision, but I also found that it was much more difficult than I could have imagined. Here are some pros and cons to consider before starting out as an entrepreneur.

Pros:

You Make Your Own Hours – This can be difficult for some people, but if you like to work late at night or on weekends, you can do it. Keep in mind that depending on your business, you may have to be available to chat with customers when you’re in class or napping. It’s best to keep your 9am to 6pm time slot as open as possible.

You Learn to do (Almost) Everything – In school, they teach you to specialize in one or two concentrations within your major. Don’t expect the same as an entrepreneur. Even if you start your own business with a partner, you will end up doing a little of everything: sales, marketing, financial planning, accounting, and scheduling. It’s great to learn these skills, but you may not be naturally good at them.

Networking is a Must – The first thing I learned when I started my business was that I had to meet new people. Your business will never succeed without customers, partners, and supporters. The good thing is that even if you fail at running a business, these connections will still be there. You never know which one may offer you a job because of your previous relationship.

Cons:

You Won’t Get Funded – Even if you have a rich uncle or manage to win some competitions, it’s better to run your first business without any need for external funding. Ask yourself, “how can I start making money right now?” It may be consulting, freelancing, or affiliate sales, but if you self-fund your business, you will learn the ever-important skill of bootstrapping.

You Will Work More and Get Paid Less – No matter how great you think your business idea is, you’ll end up working obsessively long hours for much less money than minimum wage. Starting a successful business means under promising and over delivering. Swallow your pride and deal with it; remember, you’re getting all the rewards if you succeed.

You Will Make Sacrifices – Besides making less money, you will have to tell your friends, “no,” more often. You will probably delay serious relationships. Your grades will slip. You may lose (or gain) weight. Try to keep yourself as balanced as possible, and make sure you sleep occasionally. When I first started out, my website crashed the day before it was supposed to launch. I spent the next five sleepless days fixing it. Could I have delayed the launch further? Yes, but this was my baby! There was no way I wanted to disappoint my users already.

College students have more opportunities to start their own businesses than ever before. Many universities sponsor entrepreneurship competitions, and thanks to social media, it’s faster to build connections and market than it was the past.


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