Student entrepreneurs can succeed with smart strategies: seek mentors, build networks, validate ideas and manage time. Here are tips to launch your business venture.
1. Understand Your Strengths
As a student entrepreneur, it's important to have a solid understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. The most successful founders play to their strengths rather than simply trying to address their weaknesses.
Take an inventory of your existing skills, talents, and experiences. What do you do better than most people? What unique skills can you bring to your startup? Identify at least three key strengths or competencies, and make a plan to further develop them.
The most successful student founders assemble teams that complement their skills. Rather than struggling alone, partner with people whose abilities balance out your weaknesses.
2. Start Small
Rather than sinking huge amounts of time and money into an untested concept, launch a minimum viable product to validate there's a real market need. Release a basic prototype or pilot test your service with a small group of customers. See if people will actually pay for your offering before quitting your day job or seeking major funding. Gain evidence that your idea is viable before going all in.
You can rapidly incorporate customer feedback to improve your product or service before scaling. Master the basics first.
The early stage is all about testing and learning. Don't worry about explosive growth right away. Start small, get customer validation, and ensure your business model actually works before you scale.
Access to funding through loans or investors is also constrained for students.
Banks and other traditional lenders are generally reluctant to provide business loans to students due to perceived higher risks. And venture capital funding rarely flows to first-time student founders who have no track record to evaluate. Many promising student-run enterprises fail to get off the ground due to insufficient capital and cash flow.
3. Build Your Network
Networking is crucial for any entrepreneur. As a student entrepreneur, you have a unique opportunity to connect with professors, alumni, and local business leaders who can offer valuable advice, mentorship, and potential partnerships.
Attend university events to connect with local business leaders. Your career center likely hosts networking nights and entrepreneur panels. These are perfect opportunities to practice your elevator pitch and make connections. Request informational interviews to pick the brains of executives and investors. You may be able to partner with or even secure funding from local leaders who want to support student entrepreneurs.
4. Learn Constantly
If you are a student entrepreneur, it's crucial to adopt a mindset of constant learning in order to succeed. There are many ways you can continue to build your knowledge and skills while running a business:
- Read case studies of other successful student entrepreneurs. Look for examples of students who have built businesses while in college and learn from their journeys.
- Listen to podcasts about startups and entrepreneurship. Podcasts can give you a mindset shift and motivation to push forward as an entrepreneur while in school.
- Take classes relevant to entrepreneurship.** Even if your major isn't business-related, look for elective classes at your college on topics like marketing, finance, management, sales, etc. These will help strengthen your business acumen.
5. Stay Passionate
The journey of launching a startup is often filled with challenges, setbacks, and self-doubt. It's easy to lose motivation when things get tough. This is why it's crucial to absolutely love what you do.
Focus on finding purpose in your work beyond just making money. Enjoy the thrill of ideating, creating, learning, and improving. Don't let temporary failures or obstacles kill your enthusiasm.
View the process as the reward, not just the outcome. Keep in mind that as an entrepreneur you get to shape your own journey, pursue your curiosities, and bring your vision to life. Let passion be the compass that guides you through difficult storms. Discouragement may come, but your love for what you do will keep your flame lit. Stay hungry to solve problems, help people, and grow both personally and professionally.
Lawunmi A Nwaiwu is an Executive TV producer of the The Moment of Truth Nigeria Business Reality Show and Author.