Imagine the future. You get your college degree, say goodbye to your boss, and walk into your office at your own company. Those years of working for others helped you learn so much, and in the process you thought of new ways of doing things. Now it’s time for your great ideas to fly. Going to college was just the springboard. In college you excelled in your studies, joined club organizations, chose your mentor for life, and crammed as many classes in as you can so that you could graduate within your timeframe. Now it’s the end and it’s time for your dreams to fly.
According to the Chamber of Commerce, approximately 30.2 million small businesses were operating in the U.S. in 2018. Between 2009 and 2016, about 400,000 businesses started each year. It’s not uncommon for many businesses to fail within their first year, and for other businesses to struggle within the first three years. How great would it be to start a business with some sort of safety net to catch you (and I’m not necessarily talking about money)?
For many nontraditional students, college is the time to get that degree in order to move up in their careers. It’s also the time to find a new passion, gain a voice (or louder voice), and make connections with people you never would have before. But you know what else is a great thing to do while earning that degree? It’s great to turn that passion and that voice and that new knowledge into your own career by . . . starting a business! Now I know what you might be thinking.
I have a full-time job, a family, and other obligations. Who in world has time to start a business?
However, many businesses started in college (and they still are). Here are just a few:
Yes, except for Time Magazine, they’re all technology based. While they are all big name companies, there are also smaller companies and non-technology based companies that began with an idea by a student. Coffee companies, moving and hauling companies, charter schools, nonprofits, you name it, someone thought of it while taking classes. But here’s the thing: those students didn’t wait until they had a degree to start the business. They started when the idea hit. As a nontraditional student, this is also a perfect time because you get to test out your idea for your own business, revise strategies, gain clients, and launch it before you graduate. It’s the perfect safety net if you were ever scared to go out on your own. So how do you begin your business while getting a degree? Start with your school of course!
There are so many resources at students’ disposal when it comes to planning for and starting a business:
Access to mentors: Your professors serve as your mentors. They can introduce you to potential investors, advisers, and partners. Utilize their wealth of knowledge and their connections to get you started.
Course assignments: Taking a course in finance? Use what you learn to better understand how your business can function? Taking a seminar course where you have to solve a problem? Let your business be the way you solve the problem and apply the knowledge you gain to build your business. Use a business course to create your business plan properly. Course assignments provide the perfect avenue to test out theories and see if they work.
Utilize school resources: Libraries, copiers, student body to sample products and services, Wi-fi services, career services for internship offerings, and many more resources are available for you to use. When you graduate and you’re back to being on your own, you’ll have to pay for these yourself (and you’ll have to search for testers).
Entrepreneurship funding: Look for opportunities for your school to fund your business. University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has funding available to student entrepreneurs. Some colleges have Small Business Centers where the public, but also students, can utilize business coaches, apply for scholarships, and participate in business launch challenges/contests.
Classmates: It’s often said that two heads are better than one. Are there any classmates that you work with really well? Do you have the same types of passion and drive? If so, you might have found your business partner. Link up and see if the two (or more) of you can make the business happen faster and better.
Earning your degree should be your top priority, but not your only priority. Colleges provide a wealth of access to internal and external stakeholders, networking opportunities, and chances to learn about new challenges in the world. From this, you can be a part of the solution, not just by earning a degree, but by creating that business that will provide a new way of helping others and bettering the world. If you have a great idea, don’t let it sit in the back of your mind. Create a plan, get input, and launch it so that it will soar after you complete your degree.
Keep moving forward!