Are you a recent university graduate tossing up whether to start your own business or get a job? Or a current student balancing your studies with a fierce appetite for getting something started right now?
While it can seem like there is an expectation to enter the corporate world before going out on your own, there are many young founders shaking this trajectory up. Balancing study with business has its complexities but being a student and being a startup founder don’t need to be mutually exclusive. In fact, pairing the two has a whole lot of advantages.
The University of Melbourne’s Young Entrepreneurs Collective held a great event covering the topic directly with students entrepreneurs. We covered the 3 key insights.
1. Universities, startup communities and corporates are calling out for young entrepreneurs
While there is certainly merit in applying the technical skills you’ve learned in a degree within a corporate setting, there are more and more opportunities opening up for young Australians when it comes to starting your own thing.
A large number of universities actively encourage students to start now through their own accelerator and incubator programs – UniMelb StartUp Pitch Competition is just one example. Many government grants, accelerator programs, incubators and other funding options are actively targeting 20-30 year-olds, and there are more and more corporate companies that are finding ways for employees to spend time on their own projects while on the clock.
Starting any kind of personal project is great for job applications and interviews too. It says a lot about who you are when you’re willing to get stuck in and give something new a try. Have you shown commitment in other areas of your life, or have you just been going through the motions? Your project might just be the edge you need if you decide to pursue corporate life down the track.
2. Leverage your uni networks and double up on skills
Students looking to start a business while at university have some of the most important assets of any company at their fingertips: people.
Group projects can teach you a lot about how you work and who you like to work with. You’ll learn fellow students’ values, interests and working styles in a way that a CV, reference or job application could never fully capture. You might have the makings of an epic startup team within your cohort!
However, separate your studies and startup idea may seem, there are always lessons that overlap. With a startup, you’ll need to be able to figure out stuff on your own a lot of the time. You’ll need to make quick decisions and get comfortable with being thrown into the deep end, all of which are great skills to have when you’re working with new concepts and on new projects at uni.
And as for your studies, those class presentations will be great practise for when it comes time to pitch your startup to judging panels and potential investors. Learning to manage time and teams effectively are also crucial skills which uni and startup life both help to grow.
3. But how am I supposed to pay for it on a student budget?
Consider reaching out to family and friends to help raise funds. Asking can be hard, but doing your research and having proof your idea is viable will help you convince people yours is an idea worth supporting. If they can’t give money, perhaps they can give you contacts. There’s no harm in asking – you never know who might give you the break you need.
Sometimes money isn’t everything; time is the major resource that you’ll invest. Many startups will only secure funding if you can demonstrate business traction first, like building a large online following or a good story around your brand. Think about ways you can get the ball rolling and even make some sales without spending a lot upfront. Take things one step at a time.
If you’ve got a problem in mind, a passion to solve it, and the willingness to do so, anything is possible. So good luck, and get started!
Wade Institute of Entrepreneurship is a leading centre for entrepreneurial education. We deliver programs to accelerate learning, creation and connection.