Ask the Experts

Building a Business

I want to start my own business when I graduate. I think I have the skills and background to do it, and I think my idea is a good one. But, of course, I’m always looking for great advice! That’s why I’m asking the experts what sort of advice the pros give to people who are thinking about starting a company. Specifically, I’d love to know what people think I can or should do while I’m still in school–I have a couple of years left before I graduate, which I think makes my situation kind of unique relative to a lot of other people who are planning to start businesses in the near future. Thanks in advance for all of your help!

So you’re hoping to start a business–good for you! Striking out on one’s own is as American as it gets, and great businesses built by smart and talented individuals are always in demand. Of course, it won’t be easy: more than half of all businesses fail in their first year. So how can you prepare and make sure that yours isn’t one of them?

You asked what to do while still in college, specifically, so let’s start with the obvious: classes. Plenty of business owners and experts have sung the praises of specific classes over the years, and a few come up repeatedly. Taking good survey courses in marketing and economics is never a bad idea for a future business owner, and some finance and accounting courses are a good idea, too.

Of course, you won’t be good at everything–and that’s okay, say analysts at Acendia, a company that offers digital marketing tips for nonprofits. Having some experience in a marketing course can help you choose the right marketing team to outsource too, so it’s still a good idea to have a basic grasp of everything your company will need–even if some of it is stuff you’ll outsource for later!

In fact, taking classes in different disciplines may help you find the talent you need within your company, too. Now is a great time to network! Actually, anytime is a great time to network, say developers at Solver Teams, a company that connects professionals and innovators across various fields with people who would be unable to accomplish their goals without the proper guidance. But college offers you a unique opportunity to meet others in different disciplines–people it might be helpful to know later on!

Above all, of course, you should take this time to enjoy yourself and learn about the things you’re passionate about. You may find that the things you study in college re-shape your vision of what your company should look like. Or you may find that you’re more passionate than ever after a semester or two–in which case, you may just end up being one of the many successful companies that are founded on undergraduate campuses. Hey, it worked for Facebook!

“As an entrepreneur, you tend to see the opportunities where others see none.” — Naveen Jain

Dennis Cook is a Software Engineer and Data Science Instructor at General Assembly.