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In my six months of being the founder of nonprofit MADE Microfinance, a program focused on providing financial services for people that don't qualify for bank loans, I have begun to realize the true value of a network. Especially, being a young college entrepreneur and not having a lot of experience under my belt, these connections are critical to getting my startup off the ground. Everything from hiring to being introduced to mentors was done through the power of networking. And the stronger your network, the greater the resources.
Being in college is a perfect time to understand and begin to effectively meet people and stay connected.
If you need a little help getting started, here are a few tips:
Link in to leadership centers on campus. To have a successful business, your employees need to be high-functioning -- especially the first few hires. Yet, it can be difficult to find the right people to build your team. A good place to begin? Other student leaders. These go-getters have already taken initiative to run a program, a club or other activity, making them ideal for a startup environment. That said, there is a caveat.
The same traits that makes them attractive hires are also their downfall. Because they are so involved, they may lack the time to commit to your business. If you finding yourself chasing after them, possibly consider scaling their responsibilities back. For example, you could have them focus on being your brand ambassador and getting the word out to other students.
Find clubs that align with your company's mission. Collegiate clubs can be a hackneyed model: Logistical meetings with the bait of free pizza can only work on hungry kids for so long. However, members and executive boards are always looking for new ways to promote the club's mission. Take advantage of this. Partnering with a club that aligns with your company's mission can be an effective use of energy and resources. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, because it can help grow both organizations through joint promotion.
Gain institutional support. Some say college is the best time to start a business, due to the readily available resources (and having less responsibilities). Depending on which college you attend, there may already be entrepreneurship center to help students with their startups. Utilize it.
If not, find a professor or department who can connect you within your industry. People recognize the clout universities possess with employers, but the same pull can be applicable in promoting entrepreneurs. Having university support for your business can be extremely effective marketing and put you in contact with people who may be able to help you grow your business. This outlet is also a great place to find a mentor who has industry experience.