Starting a small-business in college may seem impossible. But the reasons for doing it are innumerable. The economy is lousy. Unemployment is hovering around 9% and might climb. Many businesses are restructuring in order to need fewer employees. And on the positive side, building a small-business builds character and proves future employers that you won’t be dead weight. But instead of sermonizing on why you should be an entrepreneur, the following post relays some tips and lessons I’ve learned on the subject.
Background check: my brother and I have started a small (tiny) business called “Tapity.” We make iPhone apps (theoretically). What we’ve learned goes as follows:
1. Choose your market wisely.
Before investing your blood, sweat, tears, and treasure in a business adventure, be sure you’re in the right market. Choose a market that you understand or that you can easily conduct research in. Choose a market that you have some direct connection to (this makes marketing much easier). And choose a market that is a “blue ocean,” avoiding the “red waters of competition.”
2. Go digital.
I don’t judge you if you want to start a bakery. May the force be with you. But the digital universe is where the money is in this day and age. As a history-major, I’ve come to see that at any given time our economy has a “cutting-edge” where money almost seems to fall from the sky. In 1880 it was in industry. In 1960 it was in the service sector. And today the digital universe is where money grows on trees. It behooves you to pick Benjamins where the picking is good.
3. Network, network, network.
The race is not to the strong, but to he who has the best connections. Fortunately, these days you can build connections via Twitter, Facebook, or events in your industry.
4. Execution is more important than ideas.
Many entrepreneur-types say, “I have a great idea that is worth millions.” No. Even the greatest idea means nothing if you do not have the genius or wherewithal to execute it. Thomas Edison said that “Vision without execution is hallucination.” So you have to ask, “Can I execute this idea?” And if the answer is yes, you then need to ask yourself how you will execute it.
5. Don’t dream: do.
Don’t fantasize about becoming a multinational conglomerate. Don’t imagine becoming the next Bill Gates. Don’t envision yourself exiting the bat-wing doors of your Lamborghini to cheering crowds. Instead, think of how you can build your business. Being a successful entrepreneur demands all the mental energy you can devote to it. Dreamers and fantasizers don’t succeed: those who exercise ruthless mental self-discipline do. You have to spend every spare second strategizing and scheming on how to do what you’re doing better. The Bill Gates’ and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world are this sort of person.
6. Learn from those who have succeeded—and those who’ve failed.
Study super-successful companies like Starbucks, Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Figure out why they succeeded and distill the principles of success that you can apply to your small business. On this point I highly recommend the books and blog of 37signals, a perfect example of a smash-hit small business.
Josh goes to school at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte works at Tapity.
(photo credit: timsanoff)