Five things you need to do if you wanna be an entrepreneur
In October this year, the Office of the Chief Scientist released a report on entrepreneurship in Australia, which said that the higher education system isn't doing enough to encourage entrepreneurial values within students. That being said, Chief Executive of BlueChilli, Seb Eckersley-Maslin, reckons that putting sole responsibility on education institutions is unfair. And Roy Wybrow, senior business and entrepreneurship lecturer at James Cook University (JCU) Cairns, agrees. He reckons “individuals need to step up as well”.
Indeed, as a student, one of your goals should be to master self-directed learning to ensure lifelong learning. Interested? Here are five things you need to do if you want to do entrepreneurship right.
Learn entrepreneurship philosophy first
While business is all about being practical, you’re probably better served if you learn some philosophical principles to guide your venture. As Alain De Botton and the School of Life show, it’s about turning the unhappiest moments into the best ideas. But Roy cautions that any solution must be meaningful and valued by the affected people.
“It’s finding a problem and being able to get the right solution for that problem that meets value for the people you’re going to sell it to,” he says. In other words, it’s no good finding a problem that nobody recognises needs solving.
Enrol in entrepreneurship subjects
Even if you’re not studying a business degree, it’s definitely worth enrolling in an entrepreneurship subject as an elective - it could prove crucial for when you launch your technological marvel later in life. Roy believes these subjects can provide you with a safe environment to practise, understand and build confidence in entrepreneurship.
“It’s about building a concept and then testing it with customers before pouring more resources into the product,” he says. “That way, the risks are minimised.”
Roy cites JCU’s Strategic Entrepreneurship subject as an example of students developing a concept and then pitching it to investors external to the university. “If your product fails, then it costs you nothing but pride,” he says.
Combine passion with social problems
While some of us know our passions (in other words, activities where we lose sense of time) before entering university, the rest of us learn much later - even if it means changing degrees. Once you’ve figured out your calling, then look for unhappiness in society. “They are the gaps that governments no longer cover,” Roy says.
Social problems allow you to bring what some take for granted to people who can’t access or afford it. When you combine your passions with needs borne out of unhappiness, these ideas are more likely to have greater resistance to all the trials and tribulations, because the first attempt is usually not right. “Even Elon Musk had issues before he actually got the Tesla out; it didn’t just all of sudden by night happen,” says Roy. “There were a lot of pivots involved.”
Maximise use of university networks and resources
Don’t just enrol in entrepreneurship subjects and stop there; extend beyond the lecture halls and network with others connected to your passion and the start-up industry. Recounting past semesters, Roy says a few students went on to achieve successful ventures from the people they met outside the classrooms because “universities can give you networks that you wouldn’t normally have”.
Universities also have partnerships with organisations you could link up with. JCU Cairns, for example, works with The Space. “I think innovation hubs are really good spaces to help springboard young people,” says Roy. “Even if they don’t have a concept, getting involved in this sort of environment could trigger an idea and they’ll walk away more confident from the process.”
Graduate, then never stop joining entrepreneurship communities
Once you leave the training grounds of university entrepreneurship, growing your networks and resources doesn’t have to stop. Indeed, you have a multitude of options with online start-up communities like FlyingSolo (which also has premium benefits), OurCommunity, and government resources. Never stop the learning process.
Toby is a Master of Arts (journalism) student at Charles Sturt University. He tweets at @tobyvue.