Starting Your Business

Tips on Starting a Business in College

Written by Chukwuma Asala for Gaebler Ventures

It is rare, but there are some young buckaroos who get the entrepreneurial itch early in their college career and decide they want to join the few who are looking to control their own destinies. Here are some tips for how to succeed as a young entrepreneur still in college.

Many college graduates when asked about their attitude about working in the future do not respond with enthusiasm.

The reality is that more people in college really are not looking forward to the forty year jail sentence in the cubicle of a high-rise building. It may have been the top choice for the baby boomer generation, but these young bucks are looking to get into business for themselves and they are doing so even while in college.

There are a couple of things to be aware of if you're thinking of getting into business or already are in business while still in college. It is not the easiest thing you will ever do in your lifetime but it has the potential to be the most rewarding. Here are some tips, pitfalls and things to look out for when becoming an entrepreneur in college.

Time management

The first rule about managing your time is this: you can't manage your time. The only way to effectively run a business and at the same time do everything you have to do as a college student is to manage your priorities. You may have a huge workload, play a varsity sport and also be the president of your fraternity, so time management just logically will not work.

The best way to fit a business into a college lifestyle is to figure out where it is on your list of priorities. It definitely should not take the place of your academic work but it should perhaps come second or third depending on how serious you are about your business. The best way to look at it is imagine a bucket with all your commitments in it, shove your business into the bucket and see what falls out. Trying to build your business around your college schedule is like adding an extra hobby to your list of distractions. Make it a priority and it will reward you like a priority should.

Don't expect support from your classmates

Just the mere fact that you want to own your own business already separates you from the rest of your peers. The sad truth is that not too many people are that ambitious and certainly not too many college students are that ambitious. So on hearing that you are endeavoring to go into business will attract naysayers amongst your friends who will not understand why you have to be an overachiever.

Think back to the kids who get all the good grades in class. If you're an A student yourself you probably have a respect for them. If you're a C student you probably despise them simply because their success highlights your laziness. The same goes for you getting into business. They choose to go through the drudgery of obtaining a college degree that they know will put them at the same level as everyone else after college and are reminded by your example that they can choose to do something different. So when you hear them criticizing your enterprise do not be alarmed. It just comes with the territory.

Forget support from your professors

Stay away from your professors. I repeat: stay away from your professors! It is no that they do not mean well. They in reality have the best intentions when they will try and discourage you from pursuing your business venture and focusing on your college degree. You must understand where the advice is coming from.

First of all the fact that they are teaching tells you that they have a different motive for what they're doing and it definitely is not to make money, so why take their advice. Secondly, most professors are professor because of their academic ability. Academics usually are the only thing they were ever good at and as a result they knew they had to become teachers. Chances are if you are entrepreneurial you find academics relatively boring.

They will never understand why you don't see the logic in working hard and getting a good job and working for the rest of your life. Financial freedom is not something they even think is possible for anyone let alone you. I repeat: stay away from your professors!

Be wary of concern from your parents

Sometimes it is the people closest to you that can affect you the most. Remember that though your parents may be well-intentioned they may not be well informed. They will plead with you to focus on your studies and continue to work hard to get good grades in school so you can get a good job and hopefully get benefits and a 401k plan and be stressed out for the rest of your life like they have been.

Remind them that when you told them you were quitting the varsity soccer team they were disappointed because it "helped you manage your time better". But now you want to start a business for yourself while in college it is "too much of a distraction". The bottom line with the parents guilt trap is this: they mean well, and naturally will worry that you are getting involved with something that not everyone is doing and so cannot be guaranteed success. Here's a tip: if you want to be successful, observe the masses and do the opposite. Sorry parents.

Surround yourself with positive people

It is so important to protect your environment. Business itself is not easy, but business while in school is no joke. The only way you can consistently multi-task business and school is if you have positive people around you that provide temporary motivation when you need it. A few good friends who share your dream of independence or who are achievers in their own right are always a plus.

You may be lucky enough to find a professor that doesn't have their head stuck in the clouds and can seek out their advice on matters concerning your business. Just remember to protect what goes into your head because a college campus is more or less a vacation with a little homework. No one is going to make it easy for you so you must protect yourself from invasion from the mediocre minds who are more excited about getting wasted than they are doing something for their financial future.

So good luck with your enterprise, and remember, maturity at a young age is a burden carried by only a few. But they live a life very different from most of their peers later on in life because they chose to be different in a time when everyone chose to do what everyone else was doing. If you will live like no one else, you must live like no one else. Remember that as you start your business.

Chukwuma Asala is an international student from Nigeria who is studying to earn an MBA from the State University of New York in Albany. He has analyzed more than 20 industry case studies throughout his education thus far, and hopes to bring some of his business knowledge to

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What's your perspective on starting a business in college? We welcome all comments, questions and suggestions.

  • Greg Rendek posted on 8/22/2010
    Greg Rendek
    I'm a young entrepreneur with 2 years left in college. The business I want to start needs to be started next summer so that I am the first one in my market and so that I get the brand recognition. Between the whole startup routine and classes on my first week back, I can see that this is not going to be an easy venture, but I'm committed to my business idea, and I'm going to make it happen. I've been stressed, but this is just the motivation that I needed. Thank you.
  • Roberto Rodriguez posted on 3/21/2011
    Roberto Rodriguez
    Too right. Too many college students lack any kind of ambition. Starting a business changed my life more than studying in college.

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