I am here today to give you a bit of guidance, to share some insights and ideas on how you can get started on becoming an entrepreneur - while you are still at uni. Most importantly, I will be giving you simple tips and practical advice that you can go out and implement straight away, and will also share some case studies and real life examples.
I believe that you’ll greatly benefit from this post if you are someone thinking about starting a business after uni, even during uni or down the road, or maybe you are somebody interested in knowing more about the world of entrepreneurs?
I believe that university should be about showing us options, set us up with tools, and ultimately giving us the CHOICE to become whoever we want to be! So number my tip number 1 goes...
1. CONSIDER THE OPTION OF STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS
There has never been a better time in history to start a business, especially for women, and it has never been easier.
Startups and companies with women – and diversity – on their teams perform better, it is a trend, women are the largest unleveraged market, there is no room to grow anywhere else, but leveraging the talent of more women
Barrier of entry is low, no cost or low cost marketing via internet and social media makes it possible for businesses to be seen. Social media is free and many research is showing that it is driven by women. Small businesses are flexible, while big companies can not change/react as easily to a quickly changing world and technology, it is a big advantage at time of adversity, like now with the pandemic!
Women bring new ideas into business, and a new way of doing business through collaboration and joint ventures, rather than competition. I suggest you find role models and follow them, read about them, follow their updates, learn from them.
2. GET CLEAR ON YOUR VALUES, PASSION AND STRENGTH
You may not have an exact idea on what business you will run, but you may have an idea on what you are passionate about, what excites you and what you are good at, right? There is one thing all (women) entrepreneurs, who are successful in today’s world have in common: they all LOVE what they do. You know why? Because no one else will ever be as good as you in what you do, if you LOVE it and you are truly passionate about it. Work will not seem like work, and you’ll subconsciously put a lot more time/energy/effort into something that you believe in with everything you’ve got. This will be your comparative advantage. Entrepreneurs are innovators, and you may have competitors who get into business because they see the business opportunity that you attract, but unless they share the same passion, and you keep doing what you do best, they won’t get even near your success.
3. START BUILDING YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK
This may come as a shock to you now, but not everybody around you will support you in your entrepreneurial journey, and not everybody around you will be able to give you the right advice you need. Truth is: rich and successful people hang out and learn from other rich and successful people. Successful entrepreneurs do the same.
It is a human basic behavior, that we always justify our own decisions. If we work or have worked 20 years in a 9 to 5 job, making money for someone else, we want others to do the same, especially the people nearest to us, because this gives us validation.
It is crucial to find like-minded people on your level, and above your level, who you can bounce ideas off and learn from. Building a solid network takes years, so the sooner you start, the more you do for yourself. Where to start? Join entrepreneurial societies at uni – people on your level - , or networks such as MakeSheHappen – meet people you can learn from.
4. START BUILDING YOUR PROFILE
Again, the sooner you start this, the better. First of all, be mindful that everything there is about you online, will stay there forever. Let me repeat that: everything out there about you online, will stay there forever! Keep this in mind at all times.
You can start building your profile in many ways: have a professional profile on LinkedIn and make connections, or join specific group based on your interest on LinkedIn or Meetup.com, on other business sites and communities such as MakeSheHappen and comment on articles. Make sure you have a profile with a photo on google, so when you comment it appears along with your name. You can also start a blog, and sign up for forums, great way to share your knowledge and get into a productive discussion with others interested in the same industry!
5. LEARN BASIC LEADERSHIP/ENTREPRENEURIAL SKILLS
Being and entrepreneur and running a business is fundamentally different from everything you have ever had to do. You will need specific skills you may not necessary get at uni education. Remember, all entrepreneurs are innovators and leaders, so you need to embrace some leadership skill.
Tips: to acquire leadership skills you can join a uni society as an organizer, or volunteer for a non for profit or other organization. I also highly recommend to attend startup weekends. Read business books, watch videos, tutorials, webinars and learn, learn, learn (good resources: TEDX)
In order to learn what other entrepreneurs do, there is nothing better than interning for one! Entrepreneurs are busy people who do many people’s job at once, therefore are very happy to get extra hands! Make sure you agree how exactly the experience will benefit you, put everything into writing and make sure it is benefiting you the way it is stated in the contract! There’s heaps you can learn there, and with the right entrepreneur the job can be very diverse and the experience priceless.
6. MAKE A HABIT OF GETTING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Extraordinary things are carried out by extraordinary people. In order to do something extraordinary, you have to get out of your comfort zone
Examples of what you can do: give a presentation, speak in front of a crowd. Challenge yourself by getting involved in sports of charity fundraising activities. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable – think outside the box, but be sensible! Don’t jump off a building or bet with your friends on how much alcohol you can drink…this is not what I mean...
You already have a business or just started one?
7. BECOME THE EXPERT/KPI
The real secret of succeeding in business today is to become our business, be visible as the person behind the business and position ourselves as the expert in our industry nieche.
LEARN – allocate 1 hour each week for your education, so you really become an expert. There is a belief that you need to spend at least 10,000 hours on a specific topic to become an expert on it. If you spend 1 hour a week, for 5 years, you are already 1,000 hour closer to becoming an expert. You would need to invest 5 years full time…
Share everything that you know – there is not such thing as “secrets” anymore, everything is out there! The most valuable thing you can give to people is TIME. That’s right. We are all equal in this: we all have 24 hours in a day, and we only have limited time on earth. If you save time for people, they will love you, became your raving fans and will buy from you. Ironically, the more you share from what you know and learnt, the more likely others will think of you as the expert, and will profile you on their blogs and in the media, invite you to speak at events, pay for your services – because they trust you.
Good ways of becoming the expert/Key Person of Influence: speaking, writing a book, guest blogging, starting a blog where you share (almost) everything you know.
8. GIVE BACK
Giving back is a highly rewarding thing you can do. There is always someone who can benefit from your experiences. Start mentoring others, share your knowledge, write a book. Integrate giving back into your every day life and business life.
9. APPLY ‘START LOCAL, THINK GLOBAL’ PRINCIPAL
This is a very important one. Start local – before you invest money into an idea, test your idea. Be creative in how you can test your idea locally – do a survey with your friends, or on the street. THINK BIG from the very beginning! When you start a business, chances are that your business will scale, so be prepared for it.
Tips: get all domains, chose a name that allows you to scale, systematize your processes. Before you make decisions, think about “What would a successful business owner do?” Think about outsourcing or future outsourcing – what will you do if you need to take on help? How would you approach this? Crowd-source, hire someone on the team, getting an intern?
10. FINISH UNI!
Most importantly, at least but not last, please do yourself a great favor, and finish your degree. You’ll thank yourself – and me – later! Please don’t believe anyone, or any other entrepreneurial groups that advocate dropping out of uni. As we mentioned already today, everyone wants to justify their decisions and one people who encourage you to leave uni, are probably the ones who could never finish uni. So don’t be fooled.
Your degree will not only give you tools and knowledge that you’ll need, but will also give you an exclusive passport, and exclusive invitation to an exclusive group of people, network called ALUMNI.