Can Entrepreneurship Equal Opportunity for Recent Graduates?

Can Entrepreneurship Equal Opportunity for Recent Graduates?

Recessions and unemployment can get to anyone. For some recent grads, there will be fear, resentment and distrust in the system. But others will see opportunity.

For many college graduates facing a very difficult job market, the idea of controlling their own destiny, setting their own schedule and possibly seeing a big payoff by starting their own business is very appealing. Dramatic success stories like Microsoft, Netscape, FedEx and Apple -- all founded by college students -- fuel their entrepreneurial juices.

Indeed, the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization reports that 50 percent to 70 percent of students had started a business while in school or hoped to start one in the future.

If you’re hoping to start your own business, what should you consider?

First, assess whether you truly possess the traits of an entrepreneur. Are you a self-starter, confident and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish your goals? Also think about:

  • The lifestyle implications of building a business.
  • The potential bias you might face from clients, suppliers, vendors and financial backers.
  • How you will gain the necessary business experience.

Living the Entrepreneurial Life

The financial aspects of starting a business can take many out of the game before they even begin. On a business level, securing financing in a tight credit market can be especially challenging. On a personal level, budding entrepreneurs must be willing to live frugally while getting their businesses off the ground.

Being able to live with uncertainty is also critical, says Richard Bottner, president of Intern Bridge, a company he founded while a student in 2005 to connect the needs of college interns with employers. “You never know what revenues will look like next month, let alone next year, and college graduates don’t always have a financial cushion to fall back on,” he says. Bottner used his contacts at college to help launch the business.

Many entrepreneurs who work alone experience a sense of isolation or loneliness. Recent graduates may be even more sensitive to this since they are accustomed to being around people in the college environment. “It’s hard for me to work on my own as I am an outgoing guy,” Bottner says. “I always make sure I schedule at least one conference call per day.”

Age Issue Can Cut Both Ways

Being an entrepreneur at any age can be challenging, yet being one at a young age can have a significant advantage: Young professionals typically don’t have family or financial obligations to distract them from pursuing their goals.

The disadvantage is that some people may not trust a young person. To overcome this bias, young entrepreneurs need to become an authority on their industry and product/service and be able to communicate their knowledge with energy and enthusiasm. “Communicate with confidence and be respectful,” Bottner says. “The best road to credibility is to do what you say you will do and to consistently provide the best service possible.”

Looking the part with professional dress and professional materials will also help overcome the age factor, he adds.

Broaden Your Business Knowledge

While young entrepreneurs may be well-versed in their product or service, they typically have limited work and business experience. “You really have to learn all aspects of the business,” says Neil Bathon, owner of FUSE Research Network, a Boston market research firm and his second startup. He suggests young entrepreneurs find a mentor or “someone you trust to help you learn the other parts of running a business and making good decisions.” A good mentor can provide guidance in obtaining financing as well.

Advice and Resources

What advice do these entrepreneurs have for recent graduates thinking about starting their own businesses?

Bathon, who started his first company -- reselling football tickets -- 25 years ago when he was two years out of college, advises new grads to watch their finances. “It takes twice as long as you anticipate to turn a profit, and it costs twice as much to start the business as you think,” he says.

Never take no for an answer, says Bottner, who started his first business as a disc jockey at 14. “Don’t be stubborn, but do your best to learn from others and build your network,” he says. “Run your ideas by everyone but then make your own decisions.”

If you want to learn more about starting and managing your own business, check out these resources:

  • SCORE: This site provides advice on how to write a business plan, how to obtain financing and other tips young entrepreneurs can use to get a business up and running.
  • Young Money: This site features a library of articles targeted to young entrepreneurs as well as success stories.

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