My 10 College Entrepreneurship Tips
A common question I’ve been hearing from my peers recently is “How do you manage your time so effectively?” Juggling 21 units at USC’s Marshall School of Business, running electrIQ marketing, working as a consultant for ESI Logistics & Drinks.com, and taking care of a 10-month old puppy can seem a little daunting. And don’t get me wrong, there are days where it’s completely overwhelming. But it all comes down to 10 key tenets that I believe in and follow.
While some student entrepreneurs try to have it all, and I am guilty of this, if your business grows to a certain size it’s going to take over some of your school responsibilities. Since I see my business as a long-term career path after I graduate, I’ve had to become OK with putting electrIQ marketing before studying an extra 3 hours for my accounting midterm. In my case, I want to be a serial entrepreneur, so does it really matter if I get an A- or B+ instead of an A? No! I’m not trying to get into the Big 4 or one of the investment banks on Wall Street. I’ve prioritized my business over almost everything except my dog 🙂
Short & Long-Term Goals
Set both short and long-term goals that complement each other to get you to where you want to be. I like to think of short-term goals as anything under a 6 month time-frame. For college students, short-term goals would include a GPA you’re shooting for that semester, launching your new startup, or getting X amount of new clients. They don’t even have to be business-related. Do you want to start a new fitness program? Great, that’s a good short-term goal to strive for. On a side note – something I’ve found to be invaluable to my success is working out. It allows me to clear my head, reflect on the day, and think about my upcoming tasks.
You’re long-term goals will be anything longer than 6 months out, and should be complemented by your short-term goals. In my case, I want to build one of the most robust and tactical digital marketing agencies in the country. I’m not crazy! I realize this is years away, but my short-term goals and everything I do on a daily basis drive me to that long-term goal. Every day, whether I’m interviewing potential new clients, executing on SEO projects for current clients, or building my brand, I’m one step closer to my long-term goal. Even my short-term GPA goal is complementary, with the idea that all of the knowledge I’m able to learn and grasp in business school will leave me better informed and equipped to tackle my current and future entrepreneurial pursuits.
Choose the Right Courses
Make sure that the classes you are taking are actually helping you in your entrepreneurial pursuits. Obviously, this can’t always be the case, and sometimes you have to take a required class or two (I’ll never forget my sophomore year Poetry class). But you want the bulk of your education to help you pursue your goals. I’m currently taking two entrepreneurship classes, where the basis of one is taking your idea or product to market, and the other is learning how to run your own start up. Granted, I’m a little bit farther along the ideation process than most students (I’m already executing on my idea) but I’m still able to use my class time to work on electrIQ and to utilize my teachers as resources.
Schedule your Days
I never wake up not knowing what I am going to do that day. Obviously, throughout the course of the day some things can change, but when I wake up in the morning I know what I need to get accomplished that day, how I’m going to accomplish it, and when I’m going to accomplish it. How much time I’m going to spend on electrIQ, on schoolwork, on my dog, these are all things that are accounted for and budgeted into my daily schedule.
It’s super rewarding when you have this daily plan, almost like a checklist, and you start knocking off some of the tasks you have for that day. Every day is more experience, and in no time your work ethic becomes more and more effective. It’s a great feeling to gain momentum knocking out your responsibilities. On some days it’s only 11AM, and I’m almost done with everything I needed to accomplish for that day. So then I can get ahead on my other tasks!
WAKE UP EARLY
Building off scheduling your days, WAKE UP EARLY. I can’t stress this enough. I get my best work done in the mornings and you should to. If you’re up at 5 or 6AM, even 8AM, you are free from external distractions and pressures. You have a clear mind to immediately get to work with. Especially on the West Coast, if I’m waking up at 8AM, it’s already almost lunch time in New York for some of my clients. Who wants to work with a consultant who is only available for half of their work day? It’s just not a good value proposition. I’m always up by 7AM at the latest.
Weekends are Catchup Time
This is especially important for college entrepreneurs. You’re so busy with classes during the week that you aren’t able to get to all your business tasks. You need to utilize the weekend as an extra 2 days of work. This also applies for people with families, or really any significant responsibilities outside of work.
I prefer to do a lot of my time-intensive work on the weekend. Most are spent executing on client campaigns, whether it be SEO work or social growth. This past weekend, I executed 2 full-site SEO audits and implemented site-wide copy optimization changes.
Learn how to Say No
College is full of opportunities to go out and party. Frankly, you could do this every night. But this is where you need to learn to say no. Maybe you don’t need to go out on that Monday night because you have a business deadline or an upcoming test you need to execute or prepare for. This goes hand in hand with my first point, the ability to prioritize.
What’s more important to you? Being successful in school, business or whatever it may be or saying yes a few too many times to going out and overextending yourself? The same can be said for business projects and school work as well. Don’t take on 5 different part-time jobs if you can’t handle it. You will end up burning yourself out and, in the process, alienating those who trusted you to do well by them with the job opportunity.
Find a Mentor
Currently, I have 3 mentors who I can rely on for advice: both personal and career-related. One of them I’ve had since middle school. Choose someone who you admire and who you would like to emulate both in their professional and personal life. My main mentor is a serial entrepreneur with a tight-knit family. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
This is paramount to successfully developing both personally and professionally. Any sort of questions you have you can look to your mentor for advice. Why go at it alone when you have someone many years your elder with a wealth of knowledge and experience? Learn from their mistakes and replicate their success.
People want to help, and your mentor will care about you and want you to succeed. Develop this relationship and connection where you share a common goal: helping yourself achieve your goals.
Go for It.
If you’re on the fence about an idea you have or starting your own company, just go ahead and do it. Trial and error is way better than doing nothing. Even if your business fails, you’ve gained a wealth of knowledge and experience that is only possible because you went for it.
It can be scary the thought of failure, but almost every successful entrepreneur has had AT LEAST 1 failure, and usually more than a few.
I had no idea last year that I’d be able to create and sustain a real business where I have both clients and employees reliant on me. I set out just to make some money on the side, but I realized I was selling myself short. Why not just go for it?
I mitigated all my risk by taking payments upfront and compensating my team with revenue share deals. I had almost 0 fixed costs to doing business.
Use your age
My greatest concern was that I would be looked down upon by my peers and potential clients because of my age. “You’re only 21. How could you have any idea what you’re talking about?” In reality, I’ve gotten this question only once. People don’t care about age, they care about knowledge and results. As Gen-Zs, we are uniquely positioned to tackle disruptive industries. We’ve grown up with social media and technology and as a result, are at the forefront of technological innovation. We’re not outsiders looking in. We are the experts of this space. I’m a college entrepreneur, and I own that fact proudly.
If you’re 60 years old, there’s a very good chance you’re not going to be as in touch with the most up-to-date technology. And even if you are, there is an advantage in being at and around a college campus 24/7. We are in touch with what our age demographic likes and wants. Our current college students are the future.
Are you a College Entrepreneur?
So that’s just my 2 cents — feel free to take everything with a grain of salt. This has worked for me, but I’m sure there’s other ways to be a successful college entrepreneur as well. I just thought I’d share my experience and advice to try and help as many budding entrepreneurs as possible.
Feel free to email me at email@example.com with any questions or connect with me on any of my social accounts.