Lessons Learned From Starting a Business as a Sophomore in College.
I did things a bit backwards according to some people.
I started a graphic business as a sophomore in college. BEFORE I even took a web design class. Yet my business certainly offered web design. And according to most of the portfolio reviews I attended, my portfolio was fine for a sophomore but needed more work for entering the workforce.
But I really didn’t care. I felt like I had something worth sharing and I wanted to start a business so I did. With no capital, no experience, and a minimal amount of design skills. Now, before you think that I was a little entitled punk who just thought very highly of myself, I knew that this wasn’t ideal and so I had a game plan. If anyone came to me to hire me for work I couldn’t do (web design anyone?) I’d do 1 of 2 things. If there was a long enough timeline, I’d learn what I needed to in order to make the project successful. If there wasn’t enough time, I’d contract it out to someone who DID know how to do the project.
My real reason for starting a business before I graduated was so that I could work out the kinks and gain clients prior to graduating and going out on my own. Seemed like a great idea. And so I started my business in 2008. 6 years later, I’m still in business and I’ve learned some lessons from how I started.
DON’T ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD.
My professors didn’t agree with me that this was a great idea. In fact, only ONE of them (Thank you, Grayson) said that I could do it. (It being work for myself after graduating.) All of the other professors said that I needed to work for someone else for 3-5 years before going out on my own or I’d never make it. Grayson was realistic though. He sat me down and said, “Sure, you can do it but it’s not going to be easy.”
I didn’t expect it to be easy. But I also didn’t really think it would be all that hard. I had a good business mind and graphic designers were in constant need! While I’ll admit, the past 6 years hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be and I haven’t grown as fast as I would have expected, I’m still here. And I’m at the very least doubling (sometimes tripling!) my revenue every year. So no. Don’t always do what your told.
HAVE FAITH IN YOURSELF.
The reason I didn’t want to do what I was told (by everyone but Grayson) was because I had faith in myself. I KNEW I could do it. It might take me awhile, but I could achieve whatever I wanted to. There was literally no fear of failure at all. It wasn’t that I never thought about it. Failure just didn’t scare me. If I failed, I’d go do something else, it was as simple as that.
Bottom line, have faith in yourself. You’ll go much farther in life.
IF MORE THAN ONE PERSON SAYS SOMETHING, THERE’S LIKELY SOME TRUTH TO IT.
Remember all those professors besides Grayson who said that I couldn’t work for myself until I had worked for someone else 3-5 years first? Well, there was some truth to what they (all) were saying. However, it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it. It just that I wouldn’t reach their level of success quickly. That’s a big part that I “missed” as a sophomore. I thought for sure I’d be in high demand and making a decent living by the time I was 2 years out of college. Whomp. That wasn’t quite how it went. I was surviving. But not necessarily making a decent living. I’ll go more into this in lesson 5 that I learned from starting a business as a sophomore in college but for now, just know that if more than one person says something, there might be some small bit of truth in what they’re saying.
YOU KNOW YOURSELF BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE.
You know your personality, your risk factor, your ability to roll with the punches, etc. People always give advice based on THEIR perception of reality. But your perception might be different. My professors probably had no idea how much ambition and perseverance I had. But I did. I knew that if things got tough, I’d figure out a way through it. I knew that I would do whatever it took to succeed. Only YOU can make the best decision for you.
GET CREATIVE WITH SOLUTIONS.
Finally, I had to learn to get creative with solutions. Back in lesson 3, I mentioned that I wasn’t exactly making a decent living. Most people might have thrown in the towel, called the business a failure, and started polishing their resumes. Not me, I got creative. I babysat and petsat for years in order to supplement my income. I took odd jobs, I sold things, I lived with roommates, etc. Anything I could to save some money. I also put way more than I should on credit cards. Not that I’m saying that’s creative, BUT it allowed me to have more cash flow to put into my business. I also changed my business model to one that worked better from a cash flow perspective.
Basically, the point of this lesson is just because it’s usually done one way, doesn’t mean you have to do it that way. There’s no rules when starting a business. Other than be ethical and honest. That’s a damn good rule. But nothing else is sacrosanct. Do things differently. Do things the way they work for you. Think outside the box. You might be surprised with the results!
December 21st was our 6th year business anniversary. Logan Gattis doesn’t look anything like what it did 6 years ago when I started it. It was a rocky road (and not the great, ice cream kind of rocky road) in the beginning. But we’re here, we’re making it, and we’re wrapping up the best year (financially) we’ve ever had. You can absolutely do anything you put your mind to. Even when the odds are stacked against you.
How about you? What lessons have you learned from starting a business?