How to Start a Business After College
The job search after graduation can get frustrating. In a market where 44% of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed (according to a June report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York), finding any work can be hard, let alone that perfect job you dreamed of as you were handed your diploma.
This has led some recent graduates to leave the job search entirely, and create not only their own job, but their own company too. Perhaps inspired by Mark Zuckerburg’s billion-dollar dorm room project, the millennial startup revolution is happening, and for some, the payoff is great. For others, the entrepreneurial road leads to disappointment. But before you set out to be your own boss, you have to know what you’re getting yourself into, so here are some things you need to consider if you’re thinking about forging your own path.
1. Think before you act.
The absolute first thing you should do is weigh your options, and take a good look at your motivations and working style. Assess your commitment, your passion, your desires and your means. If you have a mountain of student debt and little capital, perhaps the safer option is more stable employment until you have sufficient funding.
You also need to look at your motivation and drive. If you’re starting a business just to get rich, or so you don’t have to answer to a boss, you might want to rethink your plan. But if you have an idea that you’re passionate about, willing to work night and day to make it a reality, then maybe it’s time you give yourself a chance.
2. Prepare yourself for hard work.
If you have that passion and drive, be sure that you’re readying yourself for some of the hardest, loneliest work of your career. Not only will you be working some of the longest days you ever have, but it’s all self-motivated and solitary. You also have to be willing to do every last detail to make your business work, from brainstorming to advertising to handling finances to taking out the trash. And all that work sees payoffs late—the startup world is one of delayed gratification, if any at all. You need to always believe strongly in your vision and work every minute to make it a reality.
3. Youth is innovation.
That being said, if you can handle the hard work and you have the passion for your idea, being young provides great advantages in starting a business. You haven’t been jaded by the corporate world, and you’re not yet trading in a nice weekly paycheck for uncertainty.
Young, fresh perspectives are also integral to innovation. Discovering how things work with new eyes enables you to see how systems can improve. Young people tend to have more creativity and energy in their pursuits, so use this to your advantage when you’re trying to reinvent the way things work. Plus, the added benefits of having few commitments (no mortgage or children) make young people the ideal demographic to throw their time and energy into making a new business work.
4. Take control of your freedom.
While it’s hard work, a huge perk to starting a business is the freedom that comes along with it. Yes, you’ll be working most hours of the day (and even night) but you can choose when, where, and how you get things done. Executive decisions are yours alone, but so is the satisfaction and pride of doing things your way. You have to be decisive when you call the shots, so start-up personalities should have a bit of dynamism in their bloodstream.
5. Be your own strongest advocate.
No one is going to want to see your business succeed more than you. You have to be your chief advocate, and in the entrepreneurial world, networking is everything. Spreading the word and advertising what you’re doing is the only way to gain traction. If you have a great idea and are working hard to make it happen, people will want to know what you’re doing, so don’t be afraid to speak up.
6. Be aware of the risks.
According to Carol Roth, a Chicago-based business strategist, nine out of every ten new businesses fail in the first five years. Though this doesn’t bode well for new startups, without risk, there’s no reward. Keep in mind that if you want a sure thing, it may be best to start your business part-time, and keep your day job (for now). But don’t be timid — even if your business doesn’t take off like you wanted it to, many employers find down the road that startup personalities have important skills they want on their team, too.
7. Gather resources.
Because starting a business right after graduation is so risky, you should hedge your bets and arm yourself with as many resources as possible. If you have student loans, look into the Small Business Administration’s Student Start Up Plan for Income Based Repayment, or for nonprofits, look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The Youth Entrepreneurship Council is a great network and resource to better prepare you for the journey ahead, and don’t hesitate to seek out mentors, investors, and advisors (maybe even offering equity in your company in exchange for their assistance).
There’s no rulebook for your business (yet), so you get to draw the business model. It’s high risk, but can definitely turn out to be high reward.