BY DANIEL SCOTT MITCHELL, STAFF WRITER
When you think of a business owner, a young college student is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind. I haven’t founded a giant internet company, sent my car hurtling into space via rocket or appeared on Shark Tank (though I have talked to Mr. Wonderful). Regardless, I am a proud student entrepreneur.
Though I am not a tech mogul or prolific serial inventor, I’ve had my share of entrepreneurial experience. I have owned and operated a lawn maintenance company for almost 6 years. I have also worked as the COO of a mobile car services startup. Currently, I am an engineer at a robotics startup. I have been involved in these businesses all while being a full-time student.
Though my story is definitely not ordinary, it is attainable and realistic for nearly every student I know. Being an entrepreneur while also being in school has provided rewarding opportunities and given me innumerable benefits, both tangible and intangible. I am a firm believer that there is no better time to start a business than as a student. In other words, every student can––and should––start their own business. Here are just a few of the most compelling reasons why.
No time like the present: For the most part, students have more time at their disposal than they will for the rest of their lives, so they should not wait to start a business. It is a well-known management strategy to fail “early and often” to achieve long-term success. Thus, the earlier an entrepreneur can start their business, the better. If there is ever a good time for a student to spend time pursuing a business, it is now.
Explore passions: School is a pivotal time in life when students get to choose a major, investigate career options and ultimately set a trajectory for the rest of their lives. Why should a student skip on the chance to venture into a business built around their passion and learn the lay of the land? Entrepreneurship is a sensible and effective way for students to ascertain what path they may pursue professionally before they finish their degree.
Develop necessary skills: Starting, developing and operating a business provides the opportunity to become proficient in areas that school cannot teach alone. Such areas include time-management, risk mitigation, iterative design, project management and interpersonal skills. Also, no matter what type of business they enter, student entrepreneurs are forced to learn to effectively communicate their ideas––which can be used as a powerful as a weapon for students to pack in their arsenal.
Use of available resources: Students have an overwhelming number of resources at their disposal that help them get a leg up when pursuing an entrepreneurial venture. Mason, for example, encourages entrepreneurship with programs such as the Mason Innovation Exchange, the Entrepreneurship Club and grants and summer incubators, among others. These resources are luxuries that many entrepreneurs do not have when starting their first business, so students should take advantage of them.
Make more money: If for no other reason, students should start a business because it is a viable opportunity to make more money. Over the last few years, my entrepreneurial ventures have provided me over 10 times more capital than my other jobs have combined. Starting a company should give most students the chance to make significantly more money than any employer is willing to offer them when they have little-to-no experience. After all, what college kid wouldn’t want to pursue the prospect of adding another zero onto the end of their paycheck?
Be their own boss: If my story shows anything, I hope it is that entrepreneurship, school and internships are not mutually exclusive. Starting a business allows students to be their own boss and schedule their work so that they can still pursue other priorities in life. Additionally, if the company grows, being in charge allows students to bring on employees and gain leadership and management experience, which are advantageous both in and out of the workplace.
Last, but certainly not least, the entrepreneurial mindset: Though 90 percent of startups fail, student entrepreneurs can still walk away with 100 percent of their experiences and mindset. I believe that the most valuable asset of being an entrepreneur is the outlook that comes along with it. Opening a business provides students with a propensity to recover quickly from failure, hunger for innovation and ambition to strive for lofty goals. These qualities are indispensable in this world and will make student entrepreneurs a valuable asset to their future employers and the world around them.