When is it “too early” to start your own business?
It’s often assumed that prior experience is a requirement for startup success, regardless of industry niche or skill set.
However, history shows that this is not always the case. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs of the past half-century were in their teens or twenties. Many, including Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), started their first businesses while still in college.
“For some young entrepreneurs, starting a business while still in college is the right call,” says Miami business owner George Otte, who started his first enterprise while enrolled full-time at a South Florida university. “An early launch has many advantages, but it’s important to consider the downsides as well.”
Let’s take a closer look at the upsides and downsides of starting your first business before you graduate from college.
Pros of Starting a Business in College
First, the upsides:
- You can leverage the resources and expertise available at your school. Universities have lots of counseling, mentorship and educational resources for entrepreneurs. It should not be hard to find a professor or graduate student willing to provide feedback on your business plan, for instance.
- You have more time to learn. Treat your enterprise as an educational experience. Even if you fail, you will have learned a lot about what it takes to start a business.
- You’re surrounded by potential collaborators. Your college has hundreds or thousands of potential collaborators—if you can inspire them to join you.
- You have a built-in advertising and customer network. Your college’s student body is an ideal market to test and refine your products. Its close-knit social networks facilitate word-of-mouth marketing as well
Cons of Starting a Business in College
Next, the downsides:
- Investors may not take you seriously. Older investors may be skeptical due to your lack of experience.
- You may bypass other opportunities. If you’re spending all your time on your business plan, you may miss out on internship or traditional job opportunities.
- Your resources are limited. Without outside help, you may lack the financial resources to get your business off the ground.
Follow Your Own Path
If you come to the conclusion that you’re too busy or simply not ready to start a business in college, that’s perfectly fine. Resist whatever pressure you feel to launch before you’re ready and bide your time until you are.
Keep in mind that not all business ideas require full-bore commitment. If you work in a creative industry or have a more traditional business idea that doesn’t require a lot of capital or your full attention every day, you can launch your enterprise without setting aside your other priorities or pursuits. Many freelance professionals manage to keep their business activities and studies in harmony.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to others in your position. There are dozens of local and national networks and organizations that cater specifically to young entrepreneurs. These resources may have the answers to your business-related questions.