Common Mistakes Made by Student Entrepreneurs

My college experience was filled with mistakes. From financial miscues to trying to double major in two subjects I had no interest in, my eight-year college tour was a long and expensive journey. While I don’t have any regrets, if I had to do it over, I would change a lot of my decisions, especially those made during my multiple failed startup attempts.

Failure as a young entrepreneur is part of the journey, but you can give yourself a better chance of success and improve your overall experience by avoiding these common mistakes.

Failing to Match Ideas with Goals

If you’re pursuing a degree in entrepreneurship, coming up with unique business ideas is probably the least of your problems. I came up with a new business idea or two every single day, but I often got caught up in the excitement and failed to realize that the idea wasn’t a good one for me to pursue. I would get excited at what I thought was a huge opportunity, only to realize I knew nothing about the industry or market, and really wasn’t passionate about solving the problem the product or service would fix.

Having no fear and being naïve to the challenges of starting a new business can be an advantage to going where no one else has, but it can also lead you astray. Take a few minutes to write out your goals as an entrepreneur and what you hope to accomplish in life. If your brand new business idea doesn’t match either of those goals, consider passing it up or give the idea to someone else. Being an entrepreneur takes heart, hard work, and passion. If you don’t have passion for what you’re working on, even a huge opportunity might not be enough to motivate you to go through years of development.

Lack of Focus

As stated above, you’re probably not having trouble coming up with new ideas, but you most likely are having trouble concentrating on just one idea. Not being able to focus on one of your ideas is cheating yourself out of potential success, and making sure that you don’t get very far on any of your ventures.

To avoid this problem, stick to ideas that align with your goals (as mentioned above), and those that you are passionate about. One question to ask yourself is; “If this is not going to be a big business, would I still love to work on it every day for the foreseeable future?” If not, you’ll have trouble staying focused and will soon move on to a new idea or opportunity.

Failing to Market and Sell Early in the Process

Why do we as young entrepreneurs avoid selling and marketing like the plague early in the process? We seem to have this misunderstanding that we need to build a product or website before we can share it with the world and start to sell it. Instead, ALWAYS try to get potential customers excited about your product before it’s been built. This will help you gain support, work out early problems, and make initial sales if you decide to take preorders. Building something without working with your future customers is a great way to make sure that you don’t have any customers when it’s time to launch.

Settling for Grades

Why are you going to school? If it’s to get a piece of paper on the wall, then settling for the grades you get after completing a course might be adequate enough for you. If you’re going to improve yourself, set yourself up for a promising career, or to learn how to start a business, you need to work just as hard if not harder outside of the classroom as you do inside it.

I wasted so many opportunities by only thinking about getting an A in class instead of using what I was learning to improve my business or get actual experience. Don’t be an A-hole, get real value out of your classes by getting involved in activities and utilizing resources.

Under-utilizing School Resources

A lot of the value that schools provide to their students comes from resources. Student organizations, alumni, local business partners, research tools, competitions with cash prizes, top academics, and a student body that can serve as an easily accessible customer base for your new venture all serve as valuable assets.

Want to be an entrepreneurial star on campus? Start by taking advantage of everything your school has to offer. I got my start by joining my school’s entrepreneurship club, and later competed in a school-wide business plan competition. Although neither resulted in me building a multi-million dollar business, I created relationships I still have today, and both of those experiences led to many additional opportunities.

Additional Read: The 9 Most Common Mistakes of First-Time Entrepreneurs

What is your advice for student entrepreneurs?


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Michael Luchies is the Founder of TrepRep, Director of Content Programming for Pursuit, Interview Editor for Under30CEO, Entrepreneurship Lecturer at Illinois State University, TEW 2 contributor, and writer of all things entrepreneurship. Connect with Michael on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Originally published at on February 10, 2015.

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