For those of us who are graduated, gone are the days of spending our parent’s money on top shelf booze and other drugs, 4am dorm parties, and going to class only when we had to turn something in. Many of us ‘graduated’ to become entrepreneurs, but for those who find themselves still balancing class and nurturing a startup, we have some advice for you from the other side. Here are ten things that every college entrepreneur should know to get the best start out of the gate.
1. FINISH school damnit!
Even if you are on the verge of making millions, don’t ever think about dropping out of school. Getting a degree and entering the workforce after school should always be in the plan, even as a backup. Don’t end up being a dropout owner of a startup that didn’t catch buried in student loans; according to an article in The Atlantic, college dropouts are 71% more likely to be unemployed and four times as likely to default on their loans. Believe us, growing a startup is ten times harder than college so finishing and getting a degree is only logical.
We aren’t talking anything like Passion of the Christ, but your business won’t take off on stony antics or sick beer-pong skills. Trying to grow a startup in college should take a lot of you time if you are doing it right. Really consider cutting out long nights of partying, day drinking and blazing so you can stay sharp, live on a schedule, and be as productive as possible. I mean, what’s worth more to you, a bag of weed or a potential multi-million dollar startup?
3. Keep a Schedule
Back in our day, we used nothing but sticky notes and hazy memories, but today’s college entrepreneur needs to be on top of their schedule game. When 100% percent of your time goes to your startup, you’ll realize that you need a planner to keep track of meeting times, reminders to email people, deadlines to keep for your project, and maybe even open times you can rest and nap. And don’t forget you are still in college and have homework, papers and exams to get to. If you don’t keep an organized schedule, you’ll be all over the place, productivity will decrease, and your life will quickly become a mess.
4. Extend Your Network
Being at a university, you might sometimes find it hard to break out beyond your college’s social bubble. You’ll meet a lot of cool college students and some awesome professors, but when growing a startup, it’s the business professionals you want to associate with. In an article by Entrepreneur, college entrepreneurs are urged to break out of isolation and follow business blogs, entrepreneurs on twitter, and keep your business social media updated. Networking beyond your college campus will put you in good hands for after you graduate.
5. Programming, anyone?
In today’s digital age, knowing how to program is one of the greatest strengths a creative mind can have. Take a class for some credits or teach yourself the basics in your spare time. Especially if you are going into mobile app development or online social media, knowing a little about coding will expand your mind and help you understand and communicate better with real programmers when you need them.
6. Plan for an F
You are still a kid and you don’t know everything- do yourself a favor and expect failure, but be prepared to learn from your mistake and push on better than ever. The best part of it all is that you are still in college and you don’t have to worry about bills and responsibilities; college is the ‘cheapest’ place to experiment with building a startup. By the time you are graduated, you will already have invaluable business experience with growing a company.
7. Make Business Relationships More Personal
With the majority of our daily communication today being digital, sometimes we forget to add that personal touch to our business relationships. We are always constantly on our gadgets and the art of conversation seems all but lost. Communicating with people in person is still the best way to grow a business relationship. Show your peers that you appreciate them with a good conversation and remember that it’s better to be interested than be interesting.
8. Dress Like an Entrepreneur, Not a Hobo
We’ve all had those DGAF days in college where we roll out of bed and go straight to class in sweats. If you are trying to be an entrepreneur though, your untidy ways will tell others you are unprofessional and/or a pothead. According to an article by Entrepreneur, the industry standard for how companies expect you to dress is always either business or smart casual, so whether you are meeting with investors or other student entrepreneurs, show them you mean business by looking like it.
9. Put Down Your Phone
Being a Gen-Yer, it’s almost amazing we didn’t come out of the womb with cell phones attached to us. Constantly being on your devices actually keeps you disconnected. Learn to turn your phone off in class and put Facebook on hold, the same as you would in any business meeting. Pay attention to what is being said, share your thoughts, and you just might come out sounding pretty sharp.
10. Look for Criticism
We all need feedback on our ideas to make sure they are interesting or at least not bat-shit crazy. Sometimes it’s hard not to take criticism personally though. Remember that every business has an assessment procedure to receive feedback, find the weak links, and improve upon them. Why not give the same treatment to your startup? Be receptive to tips from people you trust, but at the same time, don’t give away your idea especially if you are sitting on the next Snapchat.