Operating a business and ensuring that its profitability metrics are improving each quarter is already a big undertaking. If you’re also juggling academics at the same time, it brings the challenge to a whole new level.
But challenging certainly does not mean impossible, and many notable founders who have built successful businesses did so while they were still in school. Fredrick W. Smith founded FedEx while he was still an undergraduate at Yale. Jerry Yang and David Filo were graduate students at Stanford when they co-created Yahoo. Larry Page and Sergey Bin co-founded Google while the two were Ph.D. students at Stanford.
So, if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur pursuing a degree, one endeavor does not have to interfere with the other. In this article, we’ve compiled six tips for striking a balance and simultaneously achieving both:
1. Choose the Right Classes
If you’re a student who wants to start your own business, don’t think of school as a roadblock, use it to your advantage. Pick a major that you know will benefit your business acumen and the specific area you’re most interested in. Design your course load so that your classes are helping you on your entrepreneurial journey.
Relevant classes will help equip you with knowledge needed to get your business off the ground and may also provide opportunities to meet experts in the field and like minded individuals. If you can apply what you learn in school to your business, then the two pursuits become mutually beneficial. This will help to ease the burden of each and keep you motivated on both ends.
2. Create a Schedule
When you’re juggling your school work and business-related activities all at once, time management is going to be key. You should create a weekly schedule for yourself that dictates which days you are prioritizing school and which days you’re focusing on business development. Start with school. What does your class schedule look like? Devise a business schedule that works around it. Allocate the days where you have a light class load or no classes at all to focus on your business.
This will also help you to keep track of upcoming school deadlines – tests, due dates for papers or projects, presentations, etc. – as well as any business-related opportunities like pitch contests, speaking panels, or meetings.
On a more micro level, it also helps create a to-do list every day to outline your daily goals and track what gets accomplished and what still needs to get done.
3. Talk about your business to other students
If you’re still in school, we’re guessing you don’t have a big marketing budget. Word of mouth, though it may seem old fashioned these days, is an effective strategy that won’t cost you a dime. If you’re studying at a university, you have instant access to all different kinds of people so take advantage of it. Talk to classmates and teachers about your idea and see what they think. If you already have a working service or product, ask them if they try it and get their feedback. If people on campus have a positive experience with your company, chances are they will recommend it to their friends. Tapping into the school’s market could be a great first step for your business.
4. Take advantage of university resources
Being a university student, you’ll have access to once-in-a-lifetime resources that you can use to strengthen your business. For example, expert faculty members and professors are a great source for business advice and may help you expand your network through targeted introductions.
Other students who have experiences in starting businesses can be a great resource too, asking them products or services they can recommend for instance a small business credit card that can help fund your business and expand your capital can be a great opportunity to tap into.
Moreover, the university has organizations on campus dedicated to business development and entrepreneurship. Look into these groups and see if they provide opportunities to connect with alumni who may be able to help mentor you or introduce you to others in your aspired field.
University events can also be a great way to obtain funding for your business. Many schools will host pitch competitions where students can pitch their business plan to seasoned professionals. If your business plan wins, you get a cash prize plus a chance to connect with potential investors. Even if you don’t win, if you have a good pitch, it’s great exposure for your business.
5. Use failures to your advantage
Don’t let the fear of failure stand in your way. Especially if you’re still an undergraduate, this is the time to experiment and try things. If one endeavor fails, learn from it, pick yourself back up and use that experience to fuel the next endeavor.
Being an entrepreneur is all about trial and error, so it’s best to get in the mindset of seeing failures and setbacks as learning opportunities because you will be navigating through them your entire career. Use the resources at your disposal. A library full of informative books, teachers, business organizations on campus – all these things are there to help you turn missteps into steps forward.
6. Discipline is key
Running a business and studying to earn a degree at the same time requires a great amount of discipline. None of these tips we’ve provided will work if you don’t commit to making them work. Use this time in your life to create strong habits. When you create a school/work schedule, commit to sticking with it. When you set goals for yourself, fight to accomplish them. And if you fail, learn from that failure and try again.
Choosing to run a business while you’re in school will require sacrifices that aren’t always fun. You may have to work while all your friends are out at a party. Learning how to strike the balance between your work and your personal life will be another facet you’ll have to navigate. Identify your priorities and allocate your time accordingly.
Starting a Business While in College: Is It a Good Idea?
Starting a business is a leap of faith, and there may never be a perfect time to take it. The beauty of taking this leap when you’re a student, however, is that you’re surrounded by useful resources, and you’re young.
You have the luxury of time to fail, learn from those failures and find what you’re passionate about. Sure it will be time-consuming and challenging, but running a business will always be those things – no matter what stage of life you’re in. If you are going to take the leap, it’s important that you commit to it wholeheartedly. See it through. You just may end up graduating with a degree and a business.