On Launching a Student Startup for Student CEO’s
Entrepreneur: (n.) In French, this means: someone who is a bearer of risks.
If there’s one thing that makes people roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, right – and I’m a rock star” is this idea that someone is an “entrepreneur.” Society hasn’t always had the kindest thoughts and words for someone who calls himself or herself “entrepreneur.” What does this title even mean? It’s not as well defined as a marketer or sales executive, for instance. Does it mean you’re the next Steve Jobs? And to be a student-entrepreneur, well that’s just a phrase that throws almost everyone off. Not a lot of people have adopted the idea that students can effectively and efficiently run a business. And, if we’re being completely honest, it makes us student-entrepreneurs a bit bitter. It’s shows like Shark Tank that have modernized the term to some degree.
Instead of defining the term “student-entrepreneur” though, I wanted to provide some practical tools for those who have thought about or are developing their ventures. I know there are other “bitter students” out there, who are making a difference in the world this summer using their businesses – and we can all learn a lesson or two from one another. In fact, the idea for The Bitter Student actually happened last summer. Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few months, and I hope they can help you in your own business plan!
As a student-entrepreneur, feeling like a phony haunts you. No, really. It does. Imposter syndrome tells you that you are not qualified to do the impossible, much less talented enough to create something spectacular. Have the bias and courage to invest in yourself, though. It may seem egoistical at first, but there is a happy medium.
Following the competition.
In business, we are taught to watch the competition so closely that I have this theory that sometimes we become apt to follow their lead. Here’s my advice: don’t. Pave the way. Do things differently. You can look to others to garner and generate your own ideas, but don’t copy. Plus, the best compliment you can get is when someone copies you, and who actually wants to flatter the competition?
Separate business from personal life.
More than likely, you will begin by recruiting your friends. If not, you’ll develop friendships with your teammates. Drawing a line in the sand between being their coworker and friend is crucial to success. There will always be times when it is necessary to talk business, as well as there will be times to talk friendship. It takes a great deal of emotional intelligence to identify the appropriate times to launch business-mode or friendship-mode.
Leaders listen. It’s one of the most fundamental concepts of leadership. Before you lead or advise, listen. Listen carefully, always – to your own leadership, your team, your affiliated partners, and competition. Capture it all, digest it, and ultimately articulate it.
To have a great business, you must have great people.
Don’t just find the people who look good on paper. Find people who fit the culture you are building. Find those who disagree with you, who challenge you, who are different than you, and who have a roll-up-the-sleeves kind of attitude.
Trust your gut.
Sometimes, you won’t be able to articulate an idea or craft language to accurately explain what you are feeling. Sometimes, you won’t have all of the risks calculated, the pros and cons laid out in front of you, and a clear black and white picture of what’s waiting for you at the end of the tunnel. You’ll have to rely on your gut. Most of the time though, your gut reaction is something you need to trust because it will likely be right in the end.
Nothing is the end of the world.
Anchor yourself in this truth. Through all aspects of life, we sweat the small stuff. For instance, something doesn’t go as we calculate or a crisis happens – we often become disheartened and flustered. In those moments, it becomes difficult to forge ahead. This is where most leaders think short-term. We must look to the big picture when something goes wrong, focus on the positive, and know there will always be hurdles that will knock us down. We must remind ourselves that getting knocked down won’t keep us there in the long run, unless we let it. When getting wrapped up in the logistics and the small details: take a step back, breath, and focus on the purpose of your work.
Don’t give up.
Before you start something, whether a business, project, goal, what have you – tell yourself you won’t give up, and stick to that mindset. I have seen so many students lose heart. I have been disheartened myself. This is when you need to remember why you persist. Is it to make a difference? Is it about being apart of something that’s larger than yourself? If so, recall your “why,” and use that as energy to keep going.
Dreams don’t work unless you do.
As spectators, we have seen a whole host of people and companies become so successful. I think we believe it happens with luck and the perfect product. In reality though, it’s because there are a lot of people working behind the scenes pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into that dream. An idea will never be successful without love and, most importantly, labor.
This post is a part of the #BSSummerSeries.
This summer, we have asked other college students to share summer moments and memories with us using the hashtag #BSSummer on social media for a chance to be featured. On our site, we are also starting a BS Summer Series composed of content using that same idea. Read other pieces in the series here.