I started my business in 1999 while a student in college. There were pros and cons, but I’m largely thankful for the experience and would recommend it to other aspiring entrepreneurs. Here are seven reasons why.
1. Low risk, high reward
What have you got to lose? You don’t own anything, you have few commitments relative to later in life, and the worst case scenario is that you go back to doing what you’re doing now.
This isn’t to say you should take a casual approach to starting a business. Your years in college will be over before you know it, and suddenly the risks will be larger. You probably have time to start one serious business venture per year of college and within 12 months figure out if it’s going to work out or not. Maybe you’ll get it right the first time, maybe you’ll pivot, maybe you’ll quit and start something new. The sooner you can test your ideas, the better.
2. Campus resources.
Universities have access to the fastest internet connections, free consulting from professors who often love getting involved in student run startups, meeting rooms, and many other resources you would pay dearly for outside the campus. The truth is you are paying dearly for these campus resources, whether through tuition or taxes, so you might as well take advantage of them.
3. Real-world education.
You can only learn so much in the classroom. The startup world is a great bridge between material taught and applied concepts. “There is no better way to accelerate your growth than to build a company,” says student entrepreneur Jordan Gonen, a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis. “It is 100X harder than anything that happens in a classroom, but also 100X more valuable than any textbook lesson.”
4. Accessible customers.
Students are a valuable resource for testing out your ideas. They’re cheap, and they tell it like it is if they don’t like what you have to offer. If you can get students to pay for something it’s a good sign your product or service is viable. Students are also connectors. They have the power to manufacture virality.
When I was a student I could get access to anyone. All I had to do was contact a CEO’s assistant and say “I’m a student at BYU and I’m starting a company and I’m interested in getting some advice from so and so.” Successful entrepreneurs love to give advice to young entrepreneurs. They’ll make time that they wouldn’t make for anyone else, and they’ll speak more openly with you than anyone else because they don’t see you as a threat or someone with an ulterior motive.
It’s true that college students lack experience, but think about it this way--the successful entrepreneurs of tomorrow are in college today, and when are you going to have a better time to recruit them than today, when they don’t yet realize what they’re capable of? The next Zuckerberg may be the guy or gal sitting next to you in your finance class looking bored.
7. Career building.
Even if you start a business in college and it fails, it’s a huge plus on your resume. Starting a business shows that you’re proactive, creative, and driven--just the type of employee successful companies are looking for. Startup experience while in college can put you on the fast track to leadership opportunities at another company if you decide you’re not ready to be a full-time entrepreneur and want to get some work experience under your belt first.