Editor’s note: This is the second in a five-part series on starting a business at various stages of life.
Q: Should I consider starting a business as a college student?
A: Never before have the tools and resources to launch a business been so readily available, requiring relatively few resources and experience. We live in a great era for college students to launch and succeed with a new venture.
Many successful businesses were started by University of St. Thomas students while students, including: The Social Lights (Emily Pritchard and Martha McCarthy), AutoMotion (Ben Anderson), Simply Street Bikes (Brian Cox), House of Talents (Kate Herzog), Minnesota Ice Sculptures (Robbie Harrell), Love Your Melon (Zach Quinn and Brian Keller), and JuiceBot (Kamal Mohamed and LJ Stead).
Every one of them would tell you what I’m going to tell you. While your risk of failure is high, your cost of failure is low. A list of challenges facing you include: competition for your time, distraction of classes and other activities, lack of capital, setting priorities, minimal work/industry experience and the burden of student loans. But that is remarkably similar to a 40- year-old career professional. Most midlife entrepreneurs start a business while working their full-time job, raising a family and paying off a mortgage and car loan. They have little capital left over for a vacation, let alone starting a new venture. The cost of failure is higher while the risk of failure has come down only a little.
Nothing much about the total risk changes over time — it just shifts a bit — and hence, it is as good a time as any to start a business. And if we consider the advantages, it may be better than waiting. As a student, you are surrounded by professors who are happy to serve as advisers and can connect you with other professionals who serve as knowledge resources. Your classmates are willing helpers, partners and employees. Classes provide an opportunity to develop and test concepts. Competitions, like the Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge and Fowler Business Concept Challenge, provide opportunities to hone your concept and potentially raise money. Your time in college is as good a time as any to launch a business.
Alec Johnson is an associate professor in the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.