From the June 2002 issue of Startups

With the economic downturn, students in all the major business schools have been dropping out of their entrepreneurship classes and transferring back to classes where they think they have a secure future. Students and professionals who were once planning to start businesses now have decided to go back to their cushy jobs. Everything is going back to normal. Or at least that is how it looks. Below are nine reasons why any student should start a business:

1. You gain experience. Owning and running your own business is an incredible way to gain experience and credentials regardless of whether you decide to stay in business once you graduate. Jaime Gonzalez of Oklahoma State University received the highest job offer in his entire graduating class. Now, there are two kickers: First, he was the founder of an IT consulting company, and second, he had a 2.4 GPA. Hmmm...I wonder if starting a business helps in getting a better job when you graduate?

2. You have nothing to lose. I think it's safe to say that most students dip into their parents' checkbook when it comes time to pay the bills. In general, students aren't paying child support, rent, utilities and many other expenses. The worst thing that could happen if your business fails is that you get a job, have an incredible credential on your resume, and have experience that will increase your chances of success in the future. The best thing that can happen is that you'll become the next Microsoft. I don't know about you, but I think that is better than choosing between no job and jobs that you're in just for the money.

3. Two-thirds of millionaires are entrepreneurs, according to Thomas Stanley and William Dank, authors of The Millionaire Mind. If it's the money you want, then consider entrepreneurship. You receive not only a salary, but also a lot of money if you're lucky enough to sell your company or take it public. Michael Furdyk, a successful young entrepreneur, was able to sell his business, MyDesktop.com, for $1 million when he was 16 years old!

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4. You develop networking skills. You've likely heard that your network increases your net worth. Consider the fact that by running a business and constantly being in a business community, you will develop excellent contacts. If you choose to get a job after you graduate, you will have a great pool of people who will be more than happy to hire you or send your resume to somebody who wants to.

5. You increase your value. Put simply, starting a business in college increases the value of "the brand called you" and gives you more options. For example, an entrepreneur with a large brand value can publish a book, star in a documentary movie (i.e., Startup.com), or go straight to the top of another company. I recently met one of the founders of Diversity Planet, a job site for minorities. He spent a year working very hard on the company and has since left to take a reporting job with Dateline NBC at the ripe age of 20! People don't often don't get an opportunity like that until they are much older.

6. Operating a profitable business in the long term is less risky than being an employee in the long term. For example, just look at the recent economic downturn. Tens of thousands of people have been laid off. I can guarantee the owners of profitable businesses are still with the business. They will be the last people to go down with a ship. Business owners can have multiple streams of incomes from different customers. If you're an employee, you only have one stream of income and therefore are bearing more risk.

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7. You will learn more about yourself and what they don't teach or prepare you for in school. Furthermore, entrepreneurship is the combination of all the disciplines of business. It includes knowledge of marketing, accounting, management and operations. Already having knowledge of these topics before you take classes on them allows you to see more clearly how everything applies. Also, you will be able to learn early-on what subjects you like so you can make better decisions on what to major in and what industries to target.

8. It is yours. You make the rules, create your own hours, work from wherever you want and choose who you want to work with. You can also pick what interests you the most in the world and then start a business that is related to that topic in some way. If you like art, you can start a design business. If you like marketing, you can create or choose a product and then market it. If you like writing, you can write a book and do your own public relations and marketing. If you like the Internet, you can start a Web development business.

9. You'll grow. I personally have grown a lot from owning a business. I used to be terrified to speak in front of others. Now I look forward to it. Before owning a business, I had probably read a total of five books outside of school, and I only read them because my mom made me. Since starting my business, I've probably read more than 100 books. The business has also allowed me to learn more about myself. I know that I will be an entrepreneur forever in some way, shape or form!


Michael Simmons, owner of Web development company Princeton WebSolutions, is a student at New York University. He can be reached via e-mail at michaeldsimmons@hotmail.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, type "subscribe" in the subject line.