College Connect Fall 2018: The Art of Balancing School and Entrepreneurship

By Rachel Grace

For Yasmin Rahimi, working for someone else has never been an option.

Rahimi started her first business at 15-years-old—a nonprofit organization called Couture for Charity—and launched her second one just a few weeks ago. However, Rahimi found that her entrepreneurial spirit often clashes with her responsibilities as a student.

“My parents always tell me that school comes first, but sometimes it’s hard to put that into practice,” said Rahimi, who is a senior majoring in fashion merchandising at the University of Georgia. “All I want to do is create graphics, design new products and look at Pinterest boards. It takes a lot of self-control to put all that aside and open up a textbook.”

Rahimi runs both businesses by herself and said it is hard for her to relinquish control and receive outside help. David Sutherland, a partner at Launch Institute and a senior lecturer of entrepreneurship and business innovation at the Terry College of Business, encouraged her to think otherwise.

“I think it is very important for young entrepreneurs to get plugged into the startup ecosystems in their community,” said Sutherland. “Once you get plugged in, you can start a strong network of mentors and peers that can help you understand the complexities of starting or running a business as a student.”

Sutherland said there is a wealth of resources at universities to help students balance entrepreneurship with school work.  He also suggested students look beyond their campus.

“Bigger cities, like Atlanta, have tons of unique events and resources perfect for young entrepreneurs,” said Sutherland. “It might be a little uncomfortable at first, but those are the moments where you learn and grow the most. And the more diverse group of people you have in your network, the better.”

Outside of networking, starting a business also involves careful financial planning, something that can be even more challenging when on a student budget.

“Couture for Charity is based near Atlanta, well over an hour drive from Athens,” said Rahimi. “Not only does it take a lot time to drive back and forth from school, it also takes a lot of money to be constantly filling up my gas tank.”

Rahimi explained her busy schedule results in other unessential costs, such as going out to eat because it’s more convenient, even though it may be cheaper to buy groceries and cook at home. She also pays for many of her business costs upfront, such as importing handmade beads from Turkey for her new business, a jewelry company called It’s Especially Lucky.

Sutherland suggested taking university courses specifically about managing finances as an entrepreneur. Rahimi is working on an entrepreneurship certificate and said the classes have been essential to developing her businesses.

“I’ve had a number of classes where I’ll be like ‘Oh my god, that’s actually so helpful,’ and then I get to see it in action in my own businesses later,” said Rahimi. “It’s a wonderful feeling to have real life application for stuff you learn in school.”

Sutherland’s final piece of advice for student entrepreneurs: Be prepared to thrive.

“Always consider the possibility that your company might grow dramatically,” said Sutherland. “Look at Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg’s stories! Be realistic about how your company can scale from both the negative and positive side—be prepared for anything and everything.”

Rachel Grace is a journalism student at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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