By Reagan Wiles
Typically, when you think of a college student, there are some common descriptors that come to mind, “poor,” “hungover,” “ramen noodles,” (that is not a descriptor – but it should be.) What a lot of students do not realize while counting down the minutes until their next paycheck from their part-time job, is that they are in one of the best times in their life to start a business from the ground up.
I came up with the idea for the in-development, mobile application, Twiyo, an acronym for the common phrase, “the world is your oyster,” during my sophomore year of high school while bored as I sat in a Krispy Kreme parking lot. I could picture it clearly: me, a filthy-rich 16-year-old on the precipice of technological innovation, Ivy Leagues knocking on my door, and my name on Forbes 20 under 20 list, (that list does not exist – but they would create it specially for me — as Forbes does.)
The dream was crushed quickly and abruptly with one quick Google search of, “how much does it cost to start an app.” Unfortunately, I did not have $50,000 lying around from my part-time hostess job. The dream left my mind for a few years.
Fast forward to sophomore year of college at the University of Missouri. A good friend of mine and fellow student, Michelle Gershkovich, founder of the start-up Allter, began posting about a mentorship program geared towards women who wanted to start their own business. I applied with my Krispy-Kreme-parking-lot-idea and was accepted. From there, my eyes were opened to all the opportunities my university could give me in starting my own company.
If you still need some convincing, here are a few reasons why you should start a business as a college student:
1. Free access to industry knowledge, experience, and advisement. I have yet to speak with a professor or fellow student who did not want to assist me in accomplishing my dream. There have been multiple times where I have hit roadblocks and I turn to the online faculty directory for answers – I flush out the problem then find who teaches the class that solves the problem. There is no need to enroll, either usually you can book a 10-minute Zoom appointment and get your questions answered. This also adds to your network.
2. Free money from pitch competitions, grants, and hackathons. Mizzou has many monetary resources for college student business owners through grants and pitch competitions. If you go to a smaller university, however, there might not be similar financial opportunities. There are still various national collegiate-centered pitch competitions and hackathons that you can apply to and participate in, no matter what college you attend. Our yearly pitch competition, Entrepreneurship Quest, has a prize pool of $30,000 and many other national competitions are comparable. These can be found through a simple Google search.
3. A network of students who want to be involved. My business partner, Jules Maslak-Hopper, a computer science major at Mizzou, reached out to me when he heard I was trying to start a company. I needed someone who knew how to code, and he needed an example of his coding to put into his portfolio. We found out we worked well with each other and are attempting to start multiple business ventures together. Typically, you can find students who will want to work with you and fill in gaps where you lack expertise. It is a win for all parties involved.
4. Hiring managers love to see it. Let’s be realistic. A lot of start-ups struggle out of the gate. If your business is not an overnight success that has you rolling in money and – gasp–you must start applying for full-time positions post-college, your resume looks great with the experience of attempting to start a business. It shows hiring managers work ethic, leadership, tenacity, and grit, among other attributes. You will get props for using all the resources that came with your education to try and create something.
5. Personal growth. I have learned a lot about myself throughout the process of trying to attend college classes, work a part-time job, and start my own business simultaneously. There are days where you feel on top of the world, and days where you think, “I am literally the most incapable person alive.” The view from the peak is better when there are valleys. One of the difficult parts of this process has been naysayers – there are times where you are talking about something that you are passionate about and you can practically hear the judgmental thoughts of other people, (are they there or are you imagining it?)
Being able to have confidence to pursue your passions despite what others think of you, or your business idea, has been a gift that this experience has given me that I will cherish and utilize for the rest of my life. Name a better time to adopt strong self-confidence than your early 20s, (okay, maybe the eighth grade, let’s be real…)
Overall, college can give you so much more than just an education. And get this – I am a journalism major. You do not have to major in business to start a business. If you needed permission to take action to start the idea that you have been mulling over for the past few years, take this as a sign! The world is your oyster and there is no time like the present.
Reagan Wiles is a senior at the Missouri School of Journalism