Facebook started in a Harvard University dorm room.
Google is the brainchild of two Stanford Ph.D. candidates.
Innumerable other billion-dollar operations can claim humble beginnings from a student entrepreneur’s spark. Yours could be next.
But, for every success story, there are hundreds of endeavors that never see the light of day. How can you ensure you belong to the former category?
1. Pick a passion project
What doesn’t excite you can’t interest anyone else, especially since you’re going to be devoting many hours of the day to it and expecting it to be profitable.
However, you must not succumb to the pressure of fathoming something revolutionary. You need not dive into it head-first. Test the waters to figure out whether your vision plays out as expected in the real world.
If you’re an Ivy League-attending prodigy, run a YouTube channel documenting your journey from cracking entrance interviews, all the way to graduation. If you enjoy DIYs and crafting, set up shop on Etsy. If you’re enthusiastic about making classes accessible, create a tool to facilitate teaching that you can eventually sell to your university.
2. Proactively prioritize
Maximizing your time boils down to picking purposefully.
Pursue courses that will add the most value to your venture. Surround yourself with like-minded friends. Pen in work, study sessions, and downtime on your calendar.
Sticking to the plan is easier said than done. When it gets tough:
- Visualize the week ahead, rather than organizing things on the fly.
- Establish a routine to familiarize yourself.
- Tackle mind-consuming activities during the day, and leave menial stuff for the evening.
- Break down big tasks into smaller chunks.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique to reduce work time into manageable 25-minute segments interspaced with five-minute breaks.
Besides your hours, also put your business plan to paper. For the sake of your investments and funds that might come out of others’ pockets, you need to have complete clarity and concrete actionable items to make your aspirations a reality.
3. Fortify your fundamentals
An idea that can’t be marketed never works. Being an entrepreneur demands that you don multiple hats.
You’ve got to know the basics of HTML and CSS to code your website, and you have to think like a designer to make that website appealing and user-friendly.
You need to step into the shoes of a salesperson to convince others that your concept is a winner. When others come onboard, you become a team player and employer. Last but not least, you must have a taste for numbers in order to keep everything from deliverables to financials in check.
When you’re getting your enterprise off the ground, you’re going to have to do the brunt of the work. To be effective in all of these roles, it’s vital that your understanding is rooted in learning and practice. Besides your degree, online courses and work experience via internships and freelancing can get you there.
4. Embrace curiosity as your best friend
Don’t stop at sharpening your technical and managerial skills.
Your entrepreneurial spirit is probably fueled by your desire to bridge a gap or solve an apparent issue. Translate that into other aspects of your life.
Always question why things are or aren’t the way they are. Commit to exploring the unexplored. Roll with the punches.
Curiosity has empowered countless great minds to realize their potential, from Albert Einstein to the founder of Hypergiant.
5. Let predecessors light your path
Speaking of world-altering geniuses, you needn’t burden yourself with discovering how to be an entrepreneur. You can stand on the shoulders of thousands of giants.
With the limitless resources of the 21st century, extract the wisdom of tycoons by:
- Diving into biographies, autobiographies, and articles.
- Listening to podcasts and audiobooks.
- Subscribing to newsletters and blogs.
- Using social networks productively to follow their work.
- Researching and trying their offerings, so you can emulate the experience.
Granted, you’re going to make mistakes. But you can easily save yourself from repeating the mistakes of others.
6. Consider every failure a lesson
Sustaining the determination of a student entrepreneur is not for the fainthearted. There are going to be as many hardships as there are breakthroughs.
Hurdles are a given, but how you conquer them changes the game. When you approach each one as a learning opportunity, it becomes a stepping stone to progress. Perseverance marks the difference between failure and success.
It’s no secret that this attitude enabled Thomas Alva Edison to say “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
How are downfalls invaluable life lessons, you ask? They’ll help:
- Hone self-confidence
- Heighten tenacity
- Sharpen your ability to judge and trust others
- Harness agility, creativity, and problem-solving skills
- Pit you in healthy competition against yourself
7. Widen your horizons
The quote “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” never rang truer than in the case of student entrepreneurship.
Sharing enhances knowledge and growth. Networking and connecting with fellow entrepreneurs not only motivates similar mindsets, but also allows one another to fill in for shortcomings.
What better place to get socializing than at a university? You will always find icebreaker events, mixers, presentations, conferences, sorority and fraternity parties, and student club meetings to attend.
Universities are also perfect for finding a coach or mentor to guide your efforts.
Most professors and teaching assistants are happy to take you under their wing if you seek support. Nearly every institution features a dedicated careers department consisting of counselors, advisors, and professionals with a wealth of industry expertise.
Plus, it won’t hurt to:
- Frequent coworking spaces
- Research apprenticeship or entrepreneurial programs
- Form communities digitally and meet up in-person after
- Volunteer at local organizations (brownie points for social engagement)
8. Never be scared to share
Think that sharing your ideas gives room for someone to steal them?
We hate to break it to you, but you’re not the first or last person to have that “eureka” moment. The only pursuit you should be on is making your version the best.
Be that student who raises their hand to express a thought or ask a question. Use your peers and friend circles as a sounding board or voice of reason. All the same, be an attentive listener when needed.
9. Go the extra mile
Any entrepreneur worth their salt knows that a thriving business delivers not what it wants, but what the consumer needs.
Are you more likely to remember your purchase wrapped in sustainable packaging, or a generic plastic bag? Wouldn’t you welcome a personal email from the instructor of your online course checking in on your progress and solving queries? Will you turn down a 30% discount for being one among 300 inaugural shoppers?
Your consumer is in the same shoes. Adding that personal touch can put you ahead of the game. Needless to say, it’s not scalable, but it’ll make a world of difference at the get-go. In implementing these tips, you’re bound to pick up more along the way. Consolidating and putting them to good use will build a rock-solid foundation for your entrepreneurial stint as a student in the USA and beyond.
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