According to a 1997 Gallup study, 7 out of 10 high school students say they want to start their own business. And why not? Starting and running your own business while still in school is a great opportunity to grow, learn, network, and accumulate wealth. However, only a tiny proportion of students actually start a business.
Because of a lack of direct experience with entrepreneurship, students develop unfounded beliefs about it that can stop them from starting a company. In this article, I will address the "The 7 Myths of Student Entrepreneurship":
- I don’t have enough money – Many of America’s largest corporations started on a shoestring budget out of somebody’s garage. A successful Web development company a friend and I started in high school cost only $80 to set up. To compensate for a low budget, you have to be creative, resourceful and make realistic plans. To get in the right frame of mind, you may want to read Seth Godin’s e-booklet, The Bootstrapper’s Bible, available on Amazon.com.
- I don’t have enough time – Many of America’s largest corporations were started in people’s spare time. Perfect examples are Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Dell, all of which were started on part-time schedules. All of us have 24 hours in a day. If the business is important to you, you will prioritize it over less important activities and create a business model that fits your schedule. For example, one student at California State University started a business teaching financial skills to high school students during summers. With the money he earned from starting the business, he is putting himself and his brother through school in addition to paying off all of his other expenses.
- I’m not smart enough – Says who? SATs and grades have very little correlation to people’s potential to be successful entrepreneurs. In fact, "50% of millionaire entrepreneurs never graduated college and 75% of U.S. presidents were in the lower-half club in high school," according to Mathew Lesko in his book, Free Money to Change Your Life. Some examples of businesses started by individuals while still in school are Microsoft, Dell, Napster, Netscape, Fedex, Apple, Tripod, and TheGlobe.com.
- I’m not creative so I can’t come up with good ideas – There are many books in the library or book store with low-cost business ideas. One specific book of ideas for student entrepreneurs is Generation Inc.: The 100 Best Businesses for Young Entrepreneurs. Or you can find young entrepreneurs at your school or in the media and ask them how they came up with their business idea. Networking with other youth entrepreneurs will also adjust your own mindset to be open to ideas for a business. Also, there are a lot of business ideas already out there that work, that you could replicate or modify slightly.
- I can’t because the economy is bad – Many of the most successful corporations were started during recessions. During recessions talent is easier and cheaper to find, rent is lower, and there is less competition. All of this adds up to recessions being one of the most opportune times to start a business.
- I don’t have enough experience – Microsoft, Dell, Kinkos, and Yahoo are just a few of the many successful companies started by people with no business experience. Your experience can certainly affect the success of your company, but you have to start somewhere. If your first business fails financially, then youstill will have gained the unique experience, learning, network and growth from running the business that will give you an edge over your peers. I’ve heard many people say they’d rather employ somebody with a failed business than somebody with no experience at all. Companies would rather you fail and learn on your dime than on their dime.
- I can’t because I’m afraid of failing – According to most statistics, the majority of businesses fail financially after the first few years. In fact, the most successful people in the long-term often have the most failures in their life. So, it is OK to fail. The key is whether you fall forward. You can fall forward in front of your other classmates with the network, experience, and personal growth you got from starting your business. According to Napoleon Hill, a bestselling author who researched the habits of extremely successful people such as Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford, "Every failure has within it the seeds for equal or greater success." It is your decision whether you plant these seeds.
Now that you are more aware of unfounded beliefs that you or others may have, you are more prepared to make the decision of whether or not student entrepreneurship is right for you. Below are resources to take advantage of as you begin your journey:
- Youth Venture
- Students in Free Enterprise
- Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization
- Service Corps of Retired Executives
- The Student Success Manifesto
- Professors, mentor networks, or entrepreneurship centers at your school
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