What College Students Need to Know Before Starting a Business

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Transcript of Jan’s TEDx Discuss: Several years ago, I visited the immigration museum at Ellis Island, NY. I saw a quote there on the wall that stuck with me until today. And it goes something like this. As soon as I got here, I found three things out. The roads weren’t paved with gold. The roads were not paved at all. And third, I had been expected to pave them.”

The reason why that quote resonates with me so much is because it reminds me of how hard a life can be when you move into a foreign country without speaking the language, having any friends or understanding the culture.

When I was 17 years old, I finish school, had an enormous dream of moving to the USA and start a business. As I’ve been running my business for about a year I now am happy to state that I finally fulfilled my dream of starting a business. I now employ 15 people and we’ve only hit $1.5 million in revenue.

I’m not the most seasoned entrepreneur out there but I do wish to share three essential pieces of advice that have helped me succeed as a college entrepreneur. The main thing to starting any business is always to discover an issue. It may sound easier than it’s but finding a problem is a key factor to starting any business.

Well, start with yourself. Focus on your hobbies along with the things you like to do. Do you prefer traveling? Does one like sports? Do you want video games? Either among the exact things, there are a couple of challenges that surround that particular hobby that might be waiting for your own organization idea.

When you do come up along with a solution, you want to talk to the city and your friends and see whether they might use it, if they would like that company and how much they would pay for it. As soon as you get to that stage, you’ve got something. I had been fortunate. When I used to be a sophomore in school, I had been approached by means of a pal of mine who has asked me to purchase an Under Armour T-shirt for him here in the US and ship it.

I didn’t really comprehend why he’s asking me to try this so I began doing some research. It turns out there’s a lot of businesses in the States that don’t ship products worldwide or don’t accept foreign payments. On the other hand, I understood there are millions of people that don’t have use of the same products. And so I started a company.

I paid $100 to create a very basic website for me that would essentially describe to people the way to purchase from the US to a buddy of mine and I might send them it abroad. I ran that business for several months where I’ve discovered of the FAU Business Plan Competition and the $250,000 and it wasn’t until four months prize pool that you can win. At that point, I knew I’m in. The issue was I ‘d no clue how you can write a small business plan or how exactly to present in front of a sizable audience so I knew I needed to get help.

So I started attending these seminars and that’s where I came across a really odd term to me at the time that ’s called “mentorship”. The reason why I say it’s unusual is that mentorship is a theory of seasoned business people that have been there, that have done it. They have successfully started, found, left businesses. And now, they want to simply help individuals, young folks like myself to get their business to the next grade for free.

That ’s the largest catch. That’s the thing that I couldn’t comprehend. I couldn’t understand how somebody would volunteer their time for free and never want anything. The reason I don’t comprehend it or that I didn’t comprehend it was because coming from a post-communist country, you get nothing. And when you do, there’s usually a catch.

Well, there wasn’t this time to a catch. I met with my first mentor, Bob Nelson. A gray-haired, 70-year-old dude, who has been there, he’s done it, he’s sold and departed his company and he was there for me.

The FAU approached me to represent them at the statewide collegiate competition up in Orlando before I knew it. Before I understood it, I was standing up on stage and right next to every individual important university in the State of Florida competing for the state championship. I told them a friend of mine has approached me with a problem. I came up using a solution and I had a current business that could solve this difficulty and an existing problem.

They adored it so much which they thought that FAU and I should win the first place in the collegiate contest that was statewide. And that was a fantastic feeling. That was one of my finest accomplishments so far. And at that stage, I understood there was no going back.

I joined the FAU Tech Runway Accelerated Plan that is made to aid young companies and young people like me to succeed in their business. And that’s exactly what they’ve done for me personally. They have provided capital, space plus a lot of other gray-haired mentors to help me get my business to the next level to me.

And that brings me to my third bit of advice which is to bootstrap. Bootstrapping essentially means don’t spend money on things you don’t necessarily need. It’s truly simple to spend money but it’s a lot harder to make them.

You’re in the learning period when you’re in school. And also you really ought to make the most of all the resources that can be found for you, on the Web, on YouTube, or any place else that you can envision. You are able to learn the fundamentals of essentially any business online by yourself and you don’t need to spend a lot of money doing it.

When you’re starting a company, it’s incredibly crucial that you don’t spend money you don’t want and you can do yourself. When you really get to the point at which you validate the business, you validate your theory, and you realize that you’re going to move forward, at that stage, you can start spending just as much money as you would like. But you might have an intelligent conversation with those folks because you’ll understand the essential Photoshop, basic bookkeeping, basic sales, and marketing. You’ll understand all those.

The last thing I want one to remember is if it doesn’t work out the very first time don’t be afraid. Thomas Edison was once asked if he was OK with all the proven fact that he has failed a thousand times before he’s developed a light bulb. He simply grinned and said, “I didn’t fail a thousand times. It merely happened to be a thousand-step procedure.” And that’s just how you ought to look at it.

On you succeeding, your mindset has to be set. When you give it everything you have when you’ve to place your heart for countless hours, it will eventually happen for you personally, so don’t give up. You might have to pave the trail to arrive at the gold. But you get there and when you do, it’s undoubtedly worthwhile.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx