I was recently asked to sit on the judging panel at the Macleay College Enterprise Exhibition Day – which is basically a ‘Shark Tank-style’ event where students get to pitch their business ideas to panel of established entrepreneurs.
With a recent influx in student entrepreneurs and young Australian startups gaining prominence, it got me thinking about everything I wish I would have known back then as a young aspiring entrepreneur.
So for all the students out there who dream of being a startup success, here are a few things I wish someone would have told me:
It’s no secret that the young do not like to be told ‘no’, especially when you have what you believe is a game-changing business idea. While this bulletproof mentality provides the great confidence and self-belief that you need, you really do have to let the criticisms in and learn from those who know best. Surround yourself with mentors that have your best interests at heart and be open to suggestions and advice. Don’t take the ‘my way or the high-way’ attitude so early on.
This is a term from my earlier days in business, meaning ‘be resourceful’. Relying on funding alone is not best practice when starting out. In the first year, many entrepreneurs are faced with unexpected challenges, therefore it’s so important to have a financial plan in place and not rely on funding alone. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, most investors will not back an idea unless they have seen it hit some initial milestones.
3. Document everything
I can’t express enough how important it is to keep on top of your paperwork. Document everything as you go. It will make life so much easier if any future issues arise months, or even years, down the line. Having your paperwork in order gives you the upper hand and saves a lot of time if confronted with a legal situation, for example. I see so many young entrepreneurs make this rookie mistake.
4. Location matters
While many successful businesses have grown out of a parent’s garage, to be on the front foot I believe that networking is key, and a good way to combine networking with your day-to-day grind is to set up in a co-working or collaborative space. Work hubs such as River City Labs, Fishburners or Regus are great starts, where you can find yourself surrounded and inspired by like-minded people, plus potential mentors, suppliers and customers, or even just supporters. This can have a huge impact on your business, from how fast you grow it, to the business model itself.
5. Be a student
So many student entrepreneurs are quick to tell me how they can’t wait to finish studying and get out into the ‘real world’. I think they’re looking at it wrong. If you’re studying, you’re naturally surrounded by people that can be your mentors; including your lecturers, guest speakers and older students. Not only do great people surround you, but also great opportunities. There are so many clubs, hackathons, events and competitions – such as the Macleay Enterprise Exhibition Day – that you’re actually already in the best place, so take advantage of it.
Ronan Healy is an entrepreneur and lecturer in entrepreneurship and business economics at Macleay College.