With college students stressing about exams, scrapping pennies to buy their weekly supply of ramen noodles and pulling all-nighters at the library, (while also trying to squeeze in a social life), starting a company may be the last thing on their minds. But it shouldn't be.
When I started my business Headbands of Hope in college, there were always reasons why I shouldn’t launch a company at that moment: I need to focus on school or I don’t have enough experience. But I soon realized ever there will always be reason in life to say, “It’s not the right time.” In fact, I’d argue that your college years are as close to “the right time” as you’re going to get.
For students on the fence about whether to take the dive or not, here are a few reasons your college years are the perfect time to start a company.
You have resource galore. When I got the idea for Headbands of Hope, I didn't have a business degree or know anything about manufacturing a product. Then I made a wonderful realization: I'm surrounded by experts. When you're on a college campus, professors are filled with knowledge and experience to help you. The free consulting I got from professors answered all the questions I had about starting a business and taking my first steps.
Once you are out of college these experts are known as consultants and will charge you an arm and leg for advice. So make sure you take advantage of the professors and mentors you have at your fingertips.
The built-in network and support. When you're a college student, peers of your same “university breed” surround you. If you've ever been to a college football game or any kind of large school event, you'll witness a sea of students uniting behind one thing, which is pretty amazing. It doesn't matter if you know each other or not, students wants people at his or her university to succeed and do great things.
My first big market was the student body at my university. Then those students told their friends and family, and then my mission started having a ripple effect across the nation. Plus, college students are more likely to use social media for anything they find interesting, so it builds a great social-media foundation from the start.
Being selfish is acceptable. In college, you do have responsibilities. However, these obligations will probably pale in comparison to the ones you will have after you graduate and are in the "real world." Often as a college student, the only responsibility you have is yourself. You have the ability to be selfish.
Invest heart, soul and your finances into something that you believe in. When there's less responsibility for you to worry about, it's easier to take these kinds of risks.
You have a reputation to dispel. We all know some of the blaring stereotypes of the millennial generation. We are lazy, social-media obsessed, twerking twenty-something who don't know hard work. These negative stereotypes can actually be advantageous to an entrepreneur. When a millennial does something awesome, it's a big deal.
So much of the press and attention I got when I founded my company was because I was so young. Use young age to your advantage and be proud to be a millennial.
It's okay to fail. I like to think of our college years as life's greatest do-over period. It's okay to make mistakes. In fact, failing at anything means you're trying.
If I'm ever too comfortable and I'm not getting rejections, it means I'm not stretching myself far enough. If you mess up at something while you're in college, there's still so much room to bounce back. The last thought you want after college is regret of not going after a dream.
When things don't go as planned (which is very frequent) it's called an experience. Experiences are carried with you the rest of your life, giving you more insight to the world around you.
These ideas aren’t just about starting a company in college. They’re about using your resources available to you in those four (or five….or six) years and making experiences.