Going Back to School to Start a Business

Are you contemplating going back to school? Having completed my degree in Entrepreneurship and landing a job that I enjoy very much, this yahoo news article sparked a thought. According to the National Center for Education Statistics: students age 35 or older projected to grow 22 percent between 2008 and 2019 and as a result community colleges are targeting older students. The article goes on to quote Mary Sue Vickers, director of the Plus 50 Initiative, which sums up to the fact that many of these students are interested in updating their skills.

What I found interesting was that Vickers went onto add that many students returned because they lost their job, have realized they had to work longer to retire and thus need to update their skills, or their seeking to stay competitive in the work force. Quite frankly, this to me is missing the greatest opportunity of all:

Going back to school to practice entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship.

For those who have a great deal of working industry knowledge and experience, owning your own business is the ultimate reward. There are few people who enjoy as much job security as a business owner and as such as they also stand to make substantially more than working as an employee. On top of this, entrepreneurship grants a level of independence, community influence and freedom that maybe difficult to find within a company.

But what about if you do not have as much working industry knowledge and desire the stability and reliability of a job? Fret not, you might just be an intrapreneur. Though painfully under-glamorized compared to its more exciting sibling, intrapreneurship involves practicing the same assertiveness, innovation, and tolerance for risk except the idea is developed within an established company. The idea can be anything from a new product or service that is profitable for the company.

Whichever your chosen route, returning to college stands to add valuable and measurable value to your business success. Here's how.

1. College professors are excellent industry contacts and full of relevant knowledge.
A tenured professor is at minimum an individual with tremendous working experience and knowledge in an industry or job category. They are also likely to have at least a few former students who are established within that industry. Considering how closely masters students and post doctorate level students work with professors these contacts could become invaluable in various aspects of starting a business. By keeping a good relationship with professors, it's possible to get feedback on not only the idea but also on assumptions being made. It is also a good way of getting free advice from people who genuinely want to see you succeed.

2. Learning to juggle multiple tasks that have unique relationships to one another.
The great thing about college is that the curriculum is designed to be cumulative, with the subject matter of each class directly relating to another. This means, a graduate of marketing should also be able to read and interpret financial statements as well as have an understanding crafting strategy and how to be an effective manager. In a startup, the entrepreneurs usually have to wear many hats which is essentially the same as a college student juggling multiple classes.

3. Recruitment.
What better place to recruit the type of employees you'll need than at a college? Though investors and banks factor in the value of an idea, the final deciding factor is always the entrepreneur and the team itself. A student entrepreneur enjoys the rare opportunity to interact and work with the employees before they hire them. Keep in mind, it's also a way for your potential future employees to get to know you before they say yes to your job offer. If you have their confidence in a classroom it is likely to translate in a work environment as well.

4. Meeting other business owners
Certain schools offer entrepreneurship as a major as well as resources for entrepreneurs in school or through out the community (check out the Lyles Center for Innovation for example at Fresno State); There are also professional fraternities and clubs that on a constant basis bring in influential business leaders for their members. The clubs and fraternities are an excellent way of seeking and getting advice from those who are already in the industry.

5. Building your credit
A credit score is to your creditworthiness what GPA is to your academic performance. While you're working on one, take the time to work on the other.

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