According to the 2016 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, the biggest category of new entrepreneurs in the United States are those with college degrees. Those who graduate with a degree also have the highest opportunity share, which increases with education level.
Despite this encouraging news, college entrepreneurs dreaming of creating the next big business from their dorm rooms are the same ones worried about many “What if?” scenarios.
We debunk the biggest myths that come with being a college entrepreneur and why there’s no better time to run a startup than when you’re a student.
1. Student loan debt makes it impossible to seek funding for a small business
In a recent piece in The New York Times, several post-graduate students were profiled on how student loan debt had snuffed out the ability to become entrepreneurs. There were the expenses of the business versus their monthly loan payments, and since they were unable to afford both, the loan came first.
Your loan shouldn’t deter you from getting your small business up and running. As a college student, this is your time to bootstrap, not immediately give up. Even if you owe thousands of dollars in undergrad debt, here’s what you can do to start moving ahead with your startup.
- Save, save, save. Don’t spend money anywhere that isn’t necessary. Your dorm room is your office, your trusty old laptop will continue to help you get by, and anywhere you can find free coffee is your Starbucks.
- Become a one-person operation. Do as much as you can solo to avoid outsourcing expenses.
- Prep to pay off debt. Keep any credit cards paid off in full and take on a few part-time jobs to save up more money so that you’re ready to start making post-grad student loan payments.
- Incorporate your business! A formal business structure lets you protect your personal assets from those of your business and save on taxes.
2. There’s not enough time in a day to run a business and go to school
How can you work on a business when you’re enrolled in back-to-back classes, working on campus, doing homework, and joining extracurricular activities? The beauty of being in college is that each semester offers a different, largely flexible, schedule. You also get something else that disappears forever as a post-graduate: summers off.
Learn to crunch your time and make the most of every second. Skip longer naps in between classes for quick catnaps followed by a strategy session. Wake up an hour earlier than usual, and do your reading for class while spinning at the gym, followed by breakfast spent working on your business plan.
You have 24 hours in each day, just like every other entrepreneur. Time management, once mastered, is a skill set that will serve you well for the rest of your life.
3. College students don’t have enough experience
Everyone has to start somewhere, and college is actually the best place to start if you have an entrepreneurial spirit. You’re set loose on a campus with endless classes to enroll in, professors to consult with questions, resources like libraries and computer labs, and like-minded individuals to network and brainstorm with.
College is the blueprint for building up your experience, so there’s no reason to be chagrined if you don’t know it all. You already have the tools for success within you—a hunger for learning, passion for the topic, and a willingness to make a leap of faith.
4. There’s nowhere on campus to find a mentor
Myth busted! A college campus is a network loaded with people who could be your mentors or direct you to someone who would be the best fit. Your mentor could be your professor, your campus job boss, someone you met at a networking event, or even a referral from someone else.
5. You shouldn’t start a business because of the high failure rate
Ah yes, the old “I can’t do the thing because I might fail at the thing, and then everyone will know I didn’t succeed at doing the thing” excuse to not starting a business. But, as Mark Zuckerberg once said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”
Know yourself and your idea inside and out. Are you ready to put in the time and effort? Have you thoroughly researched your idea for your target market, and can it make a profit? Do you know who your competition is and what they’re doing? If you know all of this, jump now.
From here on out, the biggest risk—no risk at all—is behind you. Now it’s time to put all hands on deck!
Keep evaluating your business plan, seeking help where you can, bootstrapping, managing your time, and going to class and keeping your GPA in check until the day you graduate. You’ll be exiting the campus with more than a degree. You’ll have a business you built that you can run for life. [Fundera]