College is one of the best times in your life to get started in entrepreneurship.
Time, freedom, and free resources.
I spent my time in college as an entrepreneur falling face first, making mistakes time and time again. From creating a free food locator for students on campus, to a marketplace for popup stores, these experiences are still some of the most valuable to me today.
I utilized college in a nontraditional way compared to that of an average college student and I encourage you to do the same.
From my four years in undergrad at the University of Colorado Boulder, I look back on how I personally approached taking my first steps into entrepreneurship and break out a few lessons that will hopefully help you on your journey during this time.
Getting started as an entrepreneur in college is often about one or two things:
1. Capitalizing on your existing talents or knowledge to start a “side business” that you can start to generate revenue with. For example; If you are talented in photography, start charging for your work.
2. Attacking a problem that is readily accessible for you to solve, is quick to solve, that is a prevalent problem to those in your network (or an easily accessible network), and that can be monetized.
Through starting a simple “side business,” this will allow you to understand the core fundamentals of how a business works at the ground level and allow you to develop principles to work from when building more complicated ventures in the future.
Many schools will have an entrepreneur in residence who has personal entrepreneurial experience and can help be one of your first mentors. This could also be a professor, advisor, or other faculty who can be a source of guidance for your goals/desires.
One of the biggest things that my first entrepreneurial mentor in college helped me with was finding and getting me into classes that aligned with what I truly desired to learn.
Most of the time aligning what I truly desired to learn was more about finding the right professor instead of the right class.
As a principle for learning,
You will learn far more when your studies are aligned with your desires.
With that in mind, universities will often have projects based classes or some sort of independent study which will allow students to create a project that they dream up either solo or with a team. Sometimes, these classes will allow you to bring in a project that you have already been working on and you wish to develop further.
By bringing your already existing entrepreneurial project into a class you;
If you can afford it time, money, and resource wise, taking summer classes is a great way to reduce the number of credits you are taking during fall and spring semesters.
A reduced class load will give you more time outside of school to work on your business.
It took my full four years in undergrad to discover what is likely only half of the resources that my university offered from funding, to business accelerators, to libraries of useful and practical resources for startups. Universities often fail to promote all of the resources that they have available to students.
Make it your job to be curious about if your university offers ways to help you in your entrepreneurial journey. A great place to start discovering these resources is often your academic advisor or your mentor if you have found one within the university.
Yes, you must work much harder than your peers to be both an entrepreneur and a college student. But remember you will not get back the 4 years you spend in undergrad and this opportunity to experience it will not come again in your life so make sure to enjoy the “college” parts of college.
Shots from the boat ride deep into the Amazon Rainforest.
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