Too often, college kids and recent graduates (like me) get sold the same pale of career and investing advice: save up your money, make wise stock investments, dump some cash into your 401(k), and dear God, take absolutely no risk…take joy in sitting in your cubicle crunching numbers all day!
I’m not going to say this advice is bad, or that it doesn’t work for some people.
But is that really all there is to making money and being successful in life? Chipping away at a job that you “sorta” like (on good days) and saving up a small heap of heavily-taxed income on the side? I think a lot of us want more than that.
What can we do better? Really, the answer’s rather simple.
Are you investing in the most important thing–
Are you actively looking for new ways to make money?
Are you investing your money into creating side businesses that generate essentially-passive income?
Are you investing your time in freelancing or starting a business that picks up a nice heap of cash on the side?
Or, are you trying to optimize your latte expenses or get your effective tax rate down to 27.2% from 27.7%?
We want better for ourselves, but it’s hard to believe we can do it…
Most young professionals I talk to at big corporations say that they want to be an entrepreneur…”someday”.
I used to find that really strange…why would these people who say they want to start their own business let the days pass “wishing” that they could start a business, when there’s already so many amazing resources and piles of information available that they could use to get started today?
I can point to several prominent examples of people I’ve read about (and some I know personally)—all who are about our age when they started (except for one!)– who have started successful businesses from side ventures to full-time startups:
- These then-college kids who started a bus company that takes college kids to concerts. They simply acted as the middleman and did advertising, and used the profits from this to fund another venture.
- Some kids from Arizona State who started a fruit basket company that was profitable a few months after launch.
- Founders who made a robot for your iPhone, and got backed by TechStars and raised millions in funding after applying on a whim.
- This guy who started a $500k/year business by selling courses on how to play bass guitar.
- Steve of MyWifeQuitHerJob.com; he and his wife started a business selling wedding linens (so random!), and currently make bank while putting minimal time in the business (unsurprisingly, the guy w/the wife was the one a bit older than us!).
…but once we know what’s possible, it’s hard to look back.
I’m not trying to paint an overly-rosy picture and say “everyone’s gonna go out there and make it big as an entrepreneur, if only they tried!”
My own experience shows me just how tough this is…I’ve been working on my ventures for 8 months, and even though things are going great (I’m working with programmers / engineers on all of my projects, and one of my projects is due here on Kickstarter in the next month or two), there’s still a long way to go until I can really call them “successful”.
But in 2 years when I’m 25…when I’m 30…and when I’m older, I’ll be looking back, glad that I took this time in my early 20’s to learn how to start businesses and make money doing something I liked, and was good at.
And that’s why I encourage you: not because there’s a quick buck to be made, but because there’s so much potential, given the time and dedication. And examples like the fine folks above prove just what can happen, given the time and effort.
What you can do RIGHT NOW to start investing in yourself and embracing entrepreneurship:
People tell me they don’t know how to get started. Here’s how I did:
- See what resources your university offers for entrepreneurs. For example, my alma mater Arizona State offers lots of great resources such as the Edson program and Skysong. It becomes almost painfully easy to find mentors and resources necessary for entrepreneurship if you look for them (something I didn’t believe until I went out and started looking). Or you can look at these schools that offer hedge funds for their students to run.
- Attend a Startup Weekend…or if it’s not going on anytime soon, read The Lean Startup (actually, do this anyway!). Startup Weekend is a national movement that hosts local events where people come together and pitch startup ideas, and try to validate and start a company within 1 weekend (talk about crash course learning…I attended one and loved it). The book talks about how startups are designed without blowing lots of money on products people don’t want (in other words, teaching how to really validate ideas before launch, which saves money and reduces risk).
- Set goals, and have a long-term perspective. Too many would-be entrepreneurs get too frazzled with all the hoops needed to start a company, and as such, never actually try. Just like with investing, you want to map out things like “how much time/money will I invest, where do I want to be in a year”…but more importantly, you’ll map out what you don’t know, and how to learn more about it.
Bottom Line: Invest in Yourself
Once you invest in yourself, you can look for a way to start a business that works with your goals and your resources.
In the comments below, write about your experience with startups and entrepreneurship. Have you tried to start a business before? Do you want to, but are having trouble figuring out how?
This article was written by R.C. Thornton, who is an entrepreneur and writer at Decoding Startups, where he teaches college students and young professionals how to embrace and execute entrepreneurship.
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