Owning a company sounds glamourous. The press features. The recognition. The financial independence. The passion for the job. The scheduling freedom.
When you're a student entrepreneur, people often treat you as if you were an anomaly. After all, you are double-timing class with being a CEO. From the outside, that looks pretty cool. And from the perspective of a student entrepreneur, it can be. I love my job at Spire & Co., a resource to help young woman live their smartest, most confident lives. I love my business. I love the people I get to work with on that business. And I love doing it while being a student.
However, behind the Instagram highlight reel and the recognition is a whole other, much more mundane world. Becoming a student entrepreneur is not an easy road. In the last few years, I’ve been asked by other students how they can take their business idea from ideation to reality. Before embarking on any business idea while as a student, I always say it’s important to take into consideration these behind-the-scenes situations that you will no doubt encounter. And if you are willing to sign up for these challenges, you no doubt have a true passion for your business.
1. You are always in battle
There is never a time when you are not at odds with your two worlds: student and CEO. Whether it’s missing out on the homecoming game to speak at a conference or declining a cool opportunity because you have a midterm, you are always missing out on one to do the other. The good news is that you can use it as a means for determining your true priorities.
2. You have to be obsessed with your schedule
There are 24 hours in the day. You have classes that need to be attended. An inbox that needs to be answered. Decisions that need to be made. From the moment you wake up until the second your head hits the pillow, you have to be focused on optimizing your time, sticking to your schedule, and still remaining present in the given moment. The benefit to this is time management isn’t your weakness; it’s your best friend.
3. But no one else cares about your schedule
When someone is purchasing your product or service, they don’t care that you are a student. They just want their order fulfilled. When you are a part of a group project, your teammates don’t care that you are a business owner and have to fulfill that sale. Luckily, you are a champion scheduler, so once you have this down, you can make both happen. Also, if you tell your professors early in the semester that you own a business, they usually try to support you as much as they can.
4. It can be lonely
Unless you are attending a school where entrepreneurship is a focal point, chances are you’ll find very few student business owners. That means it can get tricky to find people who are in the entrepreneurial trenches and on a similar path. While that can be very lonely, it allows you the opportunity to look outside of the normal circles of friends and meet people you never would have otherwise.
5. Your midterms will fall during tax season
Take it from me: Do your taxes early and track your expenses religiously. Otherwise, you’ll be double-timing combing through your accounting books while you cram with your textbooks.
6. Your weekends and breaks aren’t time to chill
Of course, we all need time to recharge. As a student entrepreneur, you just can’t do that for long stretches of time. The good news is, you actually don’t want to, because you want to work on your business. You actually look forward to breaks because you get to work on your business more.
7. A lot of people will tell you to drop out
Every friend of mine who has owned a business while in school has said people told them to drop out, typically “because Mark Zuckerberg did it!” And that’s totally fine if you do. But if that isn’t in the cards, or you simply prefer not to, own that and get used to people telling you to do otherwise. I have found that my college supports student entrepreneurs so that they don’t have to drop out, whether that was providing night classes or helping me secure interns, and most schools will be happy to help you make both your business and your education possible.
8. You will bring a different skill set to your schoolwork
While you may struggle to get the readings done, you will compensate in experiential lessons you can add to class discussions. In addition, your study habits may be slightly different because you will be able to identify topics with personal experiences you've had running your company, likely understanding the material at a faster rate.
9. There will be classes that feel like a waste of time
When you are trying to make the most out of your time, classes that in no way pertain to your business will be difficult to get through. You may start checking emails or working on your next big initiative for your company. Often, though, I have found that the classes I had the least amount of interest in had the biggest impact on my company.
10. You can reach a breaking point
You’re trying to make 48 hours out of 24. When things start piling up, you can get stressed out to a point where you just need a night off or a nice, long nap. Sometimes you have the time to do that, and other times, you have to power through. It’s in these moments, though, that you can understand your limits.
11. It will be insanely rewarding
Being a student entrepreneur is hard, no doubt. But the perks definitely outweigh the cons. You have so many moments where you think, “Is this real life?” You get so many incredible opportunities and you get to meet some remarkable people. And in the process, you get to know yourself in ways you would otherwise never be able to. If you've found something that you are fiercely passionate about, none of these behind-the-scene terrors seems all that bad. And that’s how you know if you are in fact as in love with your idea as you think.
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