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How to Become an Entrepreneur
April 12, 2021

How to Become an Entrepreneur: The Student's Guide to Starting a Business

Operating lemonade stands in the summer and heading up school initiatives are things that always came naturally to you. It’s why you know you’d be great at running your own business. But while you’re on the path to determining how to become an entrepreneur, you might find it helpful to learn about some concrete steps you can take to go from eager student to enterprising professional.

How to become an entrepreneur in 6 major steps

The entire process of going from where you are now to business owner will take both time and hard work. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree is a good place to start.

1. Acquire the education you need

Early research has shown there’s a link between successful ventures and higher educational attainment. Obtaining a business degree from a quality school can help set you on the right path. But Joyce Heames, dean of the Campbell School of Business at Berry College, points out that not all undergraduate business programs are created equal. Some, like the one at Berry, maintain accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) to ensure that students receive the best possible education.

“Less than 5 percent of business schools in the world have AACSB accreditation,” she explains. “It is quite a process to go through and maintain.”

If you’re looking to become an entrepreneur, it’s also essential that you receive a well-rounded education. While having a deep understanding of a particular subject can be useful, you’ll want to gain a firm grasp of all core business areas. Keep in mind that liberal arts schools take an interdisciplinary approach to education that can be beneficial for budding entrepreneurs

“Entrepreneurs need to know how to market their company, how to put a business plan together, how to approach a bank about a loan and how to get investors,” Dr. Heames reminds.

2. Start gaining practical experience

It’s never too early to start gaining practical experience as a beginning entrepreneur. But some colleges offer more opportunities than others. At Berry College, for instance, you have the opportunity to work at one of the student-operated enterprises on campus. 

“These are small businesses that have been established,” Dr. Heames explains. “They include everything from our Angus Beef enterprise — where students raise the beef, send it off to be processed and then sell steaks — to Lavender Mountain Dreams — where students gather herbs and make the most phenomenal hand creams and facial scrubs.”

You’ll want to continue gaining experience throughout your education and beyond. That can include internships as well as some entry-level jobs. Depending on your plans, you may want to spend a few years working before venturing out on your own.

3. Begin building your professional network

Making professional connections, even informal ones, is incredibly important if you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur. And you don’t have to wait until after graduation to start. You can begin building relationships at your on-campus job.

“We want students to understand that even working in the Welcome Center is developmental,” Dr. Heames offers. These are all networking opportunities that also help you build your interpersonal skills, which are invaluable for entrepreneurs.

4. Fine-tune your vision

Being passionate, smart and hardworking alone won’t ensure your success. You also need to have a great, fully developed idea. According to Entrepreneur, the best ideas often come from:

  • Identifying a common problem you can solve
  • Focusing on emerging trends that interest you
  • Listening to business professionals talk about the difficulties they face

Conducting plenty of market research is also essential for recognizing how original your idea is and whether you can compete with other companies. You’ll want to begin testing as well. Some start-ups choose to build out a landing page, then direct traffic to it through digital ads to gauge interest. Actual testing with prototypes or services is another good option.

5. Set the foundation

Perhaps the most critical part of launching a new venture is securing the capital you need. You can leverage your own savings, seek funding from investors, consider crowdfunding or take out small business loans. Students at Berry have an additional option.

“We launched a pitch competition where we give away $27,000,” Dr. Heames says. “We have that endowed, so we will continue to do that.”

Other items you’ll need to address include:

  • Choosing a business structure
  • Creating a business plan
  • Registering your business
  • Obtaining state and federal tax IDs
  • Acquiring necessary licenses and permits
  • Filing for relevant intellectual property protection
  • Hiring team members

6. Open for business

It’s exciting when you’re finally ready to open your doors. Let yourself celebrate the accomplishment, but don’t allow your momentum to stall. Effectively marketing your business and demonstrating great customer service are critical — especially in the early months and years.

Begin your business journey

There’s a lot that goes into starting a business. It’s wise to spend some time deepening your knowledge of how to become an entrepreneur. Once you have an idea of how to proceed, you’ll want to start thinking about taking action.

You can probably see that building a solid educational foundation is essential. Attending a quality undergraduate program can help you learn about all the fundamental business topics and even start building your professional network.

Find out how you can select the right school for you by reading our article, “6 Things the Best Undergraduate Business Programs Have in Common.”

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