Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell. There may be some famous success stories of college dropouts running their own startups, but those are the exception rather than the rule. For most of us, the skills and knowledge gained while earning a degree can be an invaluable help to a career as an entrepreneur. Earning credits and managing a small business simultaneously is not an impossible dream. However, it’s going to be far from easy.
Whether it’s already up and running or you’re starting in the midst of school, your business and educational goals can be met if you’ve got the right mindset. Here are a few tips to meet the challenge and get the most out of your time in college.
This might seem obvious, but running a business is a full-time job. Adding in a college workload is a big task and not one that will allow you regular breaks. You don’t want to kill yourself with work, but always remember the path you’ve chosen is one that takes a massive commitment of time and energy. Don’t shy away from that fact, embrace it.
Don’t Stop Networking
You won’t be the only student on campus with an eye towards the future. Even if they’re not entrepreneurially minded like you, your classmates may have valuable skills that can help you and your company later on. You’re spending most of your days among a diverse group of minds from many walks of life. That’s something you should take advantage of.
Utilize the Programs
While your position is somewhat unique, there are government programs designed to help students like you. The Small Business Administration’s Student Startup Plan gives loan assistance to students who are earning money after or during college. They’ll limit your monthly payments based on how much money you’re bringing in. If you’re weighed down with student loans, this program can be a massive help.
Let Your School Help
The federal government isn’t the only one interested in helping students who run their own businesses. Many colleges are now offering courses and even majors in entrepreneurship. If you haven’t decided on a school yet, consider one that offers coursework in building your own business. Not only with you be learning from experienced professors, you’ll be surrounded by like-minded students.
Get Enough Rest
Lots of college students have problems with time management, and the hazards are even greater if you’re splitting time with your growing business. One, unfortunately, overlooked aspect of scheduling is making sure you’re getting enough sleep. Drinking mass amounts of coffee might seem like a nice short-term solution, but if you’re not in good health and resting normally, the quality of your work will suffer.
Put Your Best Face Forward
The fact that you’re both a student and a business owner will probably be impressive to most people on some level, but a number of those that you deal with (whether vendors, customers, or clients) might not be as thrilled with it. It’s unwise to try and hide the truth, so be upfront about it. If they choose not to work with you, consider it their loss. Don’t forget, you won’t be in college forever.
Keep Costs Low
This point is pretty intuitive since you’re almost certainly going to be on a fixed budget, but it’s crucial not to count on future earnings to make up for whatever spending you’re doing now. Even if you aren’t going to have student loan debt on your hands, it’ll be a bad position to exit college with business debt weighing you and your company down. Try to run as lean an operation as possible while you’re finishing your studies, and once you’ve earned that degree, you’ll be happy you did.
* I originally wrote this blog post on SCORE NYC.