“Being your own boss” may seem like an attractive prospect for students thinking about their futures. But on top of studies, work, social endeavors and other obligations, starting your own business cannot possibly be viable, can it?
These entrepreneurs and campus resources say that the best time to start your business is now.
Former student entrepreneurs who are still growing their companies, as well as people who work as resources for students through on-campus organizations such as the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE), can attest to the success of starting a business while attending the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
In addition to the opportunity to be creative through your chosen profession, these business owners say that thinking like an entrepreneur can help you in multiple aspects of your life.
“The outside world seems to be very set in their ways. Everything seems to have a mold that we are supposed to fit into. Luckily, growing a business taught me that there isn’t such thing as a mold,” said Lauren Michaels, Founder, Co-Owner and Lead Wedding Coordinator of Aloha Bridal Connections.
Through exploring entrepreneurship, students learn to use thinking strategies involved with starting a business and can apply those same lessons and thought processes to other areas of their lives.
Susan Yamada, the Executive director of PACE, believes that every student at UH Mānoa should “take at least one entrepreneurial thinking class.” As justification, Yamada cited the rapid change in the way technology is impacting the future of all types of employment, and how thinking like an entrepreneur will give you an edge after graduation.
“If we don’t address these changes and prepare for change, we risk being left behind. Prior to graduating, students need to become adept at thinking creatively,” Yamada said.
However, entrepreneurial thinking can even benefit you before you have earned that diploma. Attributes of entrepreneurship can begin to give you an advantage while studying at UH Mānoa, according to Evan Young, student entrepreneur and UH Mānoa student.
“The difficult part (of entrepreneurship) is finding that one thing you can do better than everyone else and focusing all your time on being the best in that one thing. These attributes have influenced my studies and the majority of my life. I tend to focus my time on the classes that I believe I will benefit the most from,” Young said.
“You will never have more resources at your disposal than when you’re a student,” said Yamada. “Many student businesses don’t succeed, but the experience gained is invaluable. Investors would rather work with an entrepreneur who failed and learned from their experiences, than one who has never started a business before.”
Both Young and Michaels can attest to the wealth of resources available in college that help students to test ideas and capitalize on opportunities. They also prove that Yamada’s advice can hold true for students willing to execute their big ideas.
“College is a great time to start your own company. You have access to a lot of resources that you won’t have access to outside of college,” Young said. “I started doing PACE programs during my freshmen year at UH Manoa. PACE encouraged me that I was not too young or too inexperienced to do advanced programs like the business plan competition. The Executive Director Susan Yamada pushed me to just start something and not be afraid to fail.”
Michaels also credits Yamada and the PACE program with providing her access to resources and networking.
“Susan Yamada was the first to tell me that I should get started on building the company while I still had access to all these resources as a student. I took her advice and ran with it. I used the micro-loan program, free resources, professionals-in-residence, countless workshops and I soaked every piece of advice they could give me,” Michaels said.
How to start, where to go and what to do
Finding that big idea for a business does not have to involve a solo search for an essential product or service.
“Get addicted to something or get pissed off at something,” Monica Umeda, UHM graduate and former PACE entrepreneur, said. “You have a general idea of what market or area you’d like to go into, find others who share your beliefs.”
Young urges students to jump into their ideas and capitalize on their time in college.
“Entrepreneurship is about doing, creating and learning. Ideas often change a lot from the original idea and that is a good thing. The sooner you start the faster you can start learning and making changes to improve the idea,” Young said.
There are many opportunities that will be presented to you while in college. Be sure to embrace your ambition and capitalize on what is available to you as a student. Resources like PACE and XLR8UH, a startup investment program for students and faculty, are all around you.
Take it from these success stories. As Michaels said, be the one to “break the rules that society has set for you.” An uncompromising drive to succeed and the chances that Mānoa offers can launch you forward while you abandon the “norm.” Screw the status quo. Start your business now.
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