7 Crucial Lessons That I Have Learned As A College Entrepreneur
As a current senior studying Entrepreneurship at Miami University, I have had my fair share of experience with being an entrepreneur. Between the rigorous curriculum, growing up in a house with two fantastic entrepreneurs, and my own ventures I have been exposed to the ever undulating entrepreneurial world. I have learned thousands of things in my time at Miami but here are 7 Crucial Lessons That I Have Learned As A College Entrepreneur.
1. Ideas are free, success is in the execution
One of my favorite entrepreneurship professors told us on the first day of class, “It is not enough to just have an idea, ideas are free”, and that has stuck with me ever since. Having seen so many fellow students try to start a venture and experiencing this firsthand, I can attest that execution is exponentially more important than the idea. Granted, you need a solid idea as the foundation of your business, but a foundation only does so much.
A poorly built structure on solid ground will still fall.
So often, I see budding entrepreneurs come up with their “million-dollar idea” and start running with it without knowledge on how to execute on it and fail. A well thought out business model, sound financials, and proper management may not be sexy but is crucial to a venture’s success.
2. Don’t ignore the power of word of mouth marketing
If you are in the lean startup stage, the last thing that you have is extra monetary OR human capital to run marketing and communication campaigns. Word of mouth marketing is incredibly powerful and is 100% free. Word of mouth is the original social media platform which allows you to tap into new publics and it is the form of marketing that is most trusted by consumers. Why? Because it is people that they already know and trust advising them to use your product or service! Especially in a densely populated area like a college campus, promoting current customers to tell their network, friends, family about your venture can yield high returns.
3. Market validation, market validation, market validation
What is market validation? In a basic definition, it is validating that there is a market for what you are providing and that market is interesting in your product or service. Just because your venture addresses a problem or pain point YOU experience does not mean that it does for ANYBODY ELSE. The only way to know if it does or not is to communicate with your target market. Empathize with them and understand how their views and pain points may be similar or different from yours.
4. There will be setbacks
In my time at college, I have worked on and with many different ventures. One of the more successful ventures that I work with almost had legal action taken for royalty-free content. Although it is not fair, we are college students and do not have a legal team. Because of this, we had to make a lot of adjustments and scale back on some of our plans. However, we did not let this discourage us and we continued to generate revenue and found a workaround. The road of being a small business owner is one of the bumpiest out there, it is up to the entrepreneur to keep going on the road for what lies ahead.
5. It takes more effort than you think
Most entrepreneurs start their venture as a “side hustle”, which is 100% fine. What many do not understand when they go into it is that it is not a hobby. Starting a business is not extracurricular, it is another job and needs to be treated as such.
There will be long days and even longer nights, but that is what it takes to be a creator.
This is by no means saying that you need to be working until 3 AM everyday to succeed, but understand that it is a major commitment that you must be ready to accept when you work towards starting a business.
6. Seek feedback and embrace it
Feedback is debatable the most valuable thing that others can provide for you and your business. Listening to and applying feedback requires humility and decision-making skills. Understand that some feedback will constructive, it is easy to put your guard up and deflect anything about your business that isn’t positive, however, you must listen to all feedback and truly understand it. This does not mean that you must implement all the feedback you receive, a smart entrepreneur knows when feedback is valuable and when it isn’t, this will come over time. Through receiving volumes of feedback, you can refine your venture over time and create a better product or services. You can receive feedback from customers, mentors, people within your network, or anybody else that has been exposed to what you are doing. Through cycles of feedback, refining and reiterating, your venture will evolve over time.
7. Chill OUT!
Rome was not built in a day; your business will not instantly become profitable overnight. Roadblocks will appear, there will be setbacks, things will sometimes not go your way. You are not a robot, your business is not a machine. Being an entrepreneur is not easy, it requires mental toughness and agility. Don’t compare yourself to others who you think have “succeeded”, focus on yourself and how you know that you can do big things.
By no means am I an “entrepreneurial guru” or all-knowing. These are all simply lessons that have been taught to me through my experiences that I want to pass on. I still have much to learn, as we all do. Part of being an entrepreneur is always learning, always improving and always being the best that you can be.
What lessons have you learned through your work experiences?