Entrepreneur

5 tips for aspiring student entrepreneurs

This sponsored post is produced by Terry Koh, the marketing and communications manager at TiE Silicon Valley

It’s been made apparent, especially in the past decade, that “entrepreneurship” is no longer a term reserved for the tech elite and tenured business execs. Akin to hard work and perseverance, the term has become quite progressive, encompassing all aspects of social, cultural, and even political development. It has transcended beyond its traditional demographical makeup and is now a household topic among the next generation of budding entrepreneurs: our youth.

With the proliferation of entrepreneurship in the media, the steady adoption of this major in universities and the experience that comes with rising to startup superstardom, we have begun to see more students take the reins in solving some of the world’s greatest problems.

However, entrepreneurship is a relatively risky option, with historical data ominously showing 90 percent of tech startups eventually go on to fail. Clearly, becoming an entrepreneur is not the safest of career paths.

Yet you are not a statistic. Entrepreneurship is it — this is your calling. For those students who cannot see it any other way, here are several tips to help you minimize mistakes and maximize your potential for success. Just remember: Nobody said it was easy.

1. Follow your passion

With your laundry list of extracurriculars, course exams, and a semi-decent social life to maintain, how can you find time to focus on your startup idea? Simple: Do what you love. Pick a business idea that reflects your interests so well that you can’t believe some would call it “work.” Following your passion reduces the risk of burnout and helps you create something you can be proud of.

2. Set reasonable expectations

Although many strive to attain quick success, keep in mind you are still young and expected to make mistakes. Don’t feel like you have to be perfect. Companies are built from the ground up, so stay grounded and keep your ego in check. Expect to work hard, but don’t assume that you will hit a grand slam your rookie year — that takes some time.

3. Find a mentor

Mentorship is a key tool that university students often overlook. Many simply don’t know where to look. Wake up — potential mentors are all around you. Business professors, graduate students, or academic advisers: Mentors in every corner of your university. Don’t let “I can do it myself” stubbornness or plain-old fear keep you from the advice and guidance you need.

4. Build your network

“Your network is your net worth.” Is this cliché? Maybe. But is it true? Absolutely. Universities provide great avenues to kick-start your networking and business development skills. Participate in on-campus clubs and networking groups focused on your passions and begin creating lasting relationships among your peers and potential customers.

Expand beyond your university bubble and hone your networking chops off-campus, too. Countless organizations and networking events, like YoungBiz & TiEYouth, have one sole purpose: to help budding entrepreneurs. You’ll be surprised how much you can gain from meeting other passionate, like-minded students.

5. Participate in business competitions

Nothing rivals to the real-world experience drawn from business competitions. University-sponsored or not, these events develop proper company structures, validation techniques, teamwork best practices, and much more. Plus, these competitions throw you together with other motivated peers and mentors, and that energy is contagious. A sweet monetary prize may even be at the end. Any amount of seed money is good money in my book.

While it’s not every day that a small group of college students will go on to create a billion dollar company (I’m looking at you Speigel, Levie, and Zuckerberg!), these instances serve as a great reminder that the millennial generation, contrary to popular belief, is chock-full of inspired and dedicated minds fully capable of changing the world as we know it.

Only you can determine if entrepreneurship is the right path for you. But once you know, you know — and no statistic can tell you otherwise.


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