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Students can thrive as entrepreneurs

By Patrick Barry 

Apple. Facebook. Microsoft. What do these iconic businesses have in common? They were all started by founders who had dropped out of college, according to Entrepreneur.com.

However, the site, which reports on the start-up economy, said those business are exceptions and contribute to the “myth” of the successful entrepreneur who didn’t finish college, citing data that more than 80% of the country’s richest people finished their degrees.

At the University of Georgia, a student like Halle Bynum can develop a business while earning a certificate in entrepreneurship as part of her college education.

Bynum, a pre-dental student, started her business, H&L Marketing, while still in high school. Bynum and her brother entered a business competition hosted by their school with an idea to streamline fundraising efforts for community events. Their pitch advanced them through the competition to the finals, eventually placing them second overall and laying the groundwork for their business.

It wasn’t until attending UGA, however, that Bynum began taking advantage of the resources in place for students with her ambitions.

Bynum is a board member of Kickstart, a UGA student-run venture capital group that provides funds for student entrepreneurs. She also participated in a 12-week entrepreneurship program, which consisted of three separate 4-week courses: idea accelerator, build test and summer launch.

“The idea accelerator and build tests are both building blocks to find out what your business really is and who your customers are,” Bynum said. “And then summer launch was like, ‘Alright, let’s take this thing and scale it.’”

The first thing Bynum recommends that prospective entrepreneurs do is test their idea.

“Do consumers actually want my product?,” said Bynum. “You need to find out, ‘is this really, really worth it? Is this worth my time?’ But if you can prove that consumers will actually pay for your product, it provides you value and customer value. Then, you should go on to find yourself resources.”

According to Bynum, resources could be capital, the funds to get your idea off the ground. They could be a mentor, someone with a deep knowledge of the inner workings of the business world. They could simply be someone with connections, she said.

Small Business Development Centers, or SBDCs, provide all those resources at one physical location, often provided free of charge, said Allison Clower, program director of the Athens, Georgia, branch of the UGA SBDC.

There are nearly 1,000 SBDCs nationwide, including 18 affiliated with UGA.

“We offer low-cost continuing education and no-cost business consulting,” Clower said.

“We don’t write a business plan for (entrepreneurs), but we will assist with it. Our business consultants have relationships with local lenders, where they can work together on making sure that these packets are put together properly to be sent to the banks,” she said.

In the last five years, the UGA SBDC has helped start 1,968 new businesses, creating 13,123 jobs, according to data published on its website.

“I don’t think that an entrepreneur should ever say they’re constrained by money,” Bynum said. “If they’re on campus, there are plenty of ways to gain money and continuously get access to resources. There’s plenty of knowledgeable people on campus whose job is to help you.”

 

Patrick Barry is a journalism student at the University of Georgia

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