By Allison Caso
Over 4.4 million business were started in the United States last year, according to Oberlo, an online advice platform for people starting businesses.
According to 2018 data reported by The Harvard Business Review, 42 is the average age when entrepreneurs start their companies. But the report also said young people account for a significant portion of entrepreneurs with 15% of startups founded by people under 29.
Student entrepreneurship is a growing field with competitions such as Future Founders, e-Fest, TigerLaunch and others encouraging students to pitch their ideas to investors for startup money. However, starting a business is not easy, especially while being a full-time student. Below are tips for those willing to take the plunge.
Don Chambers, the associate director of the entrepreneurship program at The University of Georgia said, “you got to have passion for something that annoys you.” If a person is not passionate about what they are trying to create, Chambers stated, “it will never get done, because they’ll get bored.”
This statement holds true for Joey Watkins who started his furniture making company, Craftkins, because it was a hobby he enjoyed.
Watkins is a full-time mechanical engineering student at UGA and wakes up at 5 a.m. daily to “chase the dream.” He encouraged students looking to start a business to “find a passion project,” because despite having to work long hours to get his schoolwork and business work done, “it doesn’t feel like work.”
Researching is important to determine what products exist and what customers in the market want. The biggest problem Chambers sees when working with students is their “lack of empirical knowledge.” He explained students are often unaware of what is in the market and present ideas of products that already exist.
Watkins said research helped determine his customer base. He joined various Facebook groups until he found a solid market for his product, which allowed him to narrow down his customer pool.
Think outside the box
According to the most recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 45% of businesses fail in the first five years meaning entrepreneurs must be iterative and take risks to succeed. Chambers said students fall into the trap of thinking in small terms and forgetting the big picture.
Chambers encourages his students, “to think about something you can’t imagine being possible.” His favorite example is “flying cabs.” He likes this example because it shocks people as impossible, but he then explains how most of the technology needed is already there. Someone just needs to re-engineer it and flying cabs could be a reality. He defines his job as teaching students the skills to reconfigure “things that already exist.”
Students can use their professors’ expertise and past experiences to help flesh out their ideas. One of Watkins’ entrepreneurship professors encouraged him to take his hobby and create a full business. He said she encouraged him to find a market and focus his resources there. Following her advice Watkins grossed $25,000 in his first year.
Clubs dedicated to entrepreneurship such as the Society of Entrepreneurs at UGA also allow students to bounce ideas off each other and find potential business partners or people to test their products. Watkins credited SOE as “providing a great network of people.”
Allison Caso is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.