An increasing number of college students are starting careers as entrepreneurs years before they graduate into the “real world.” In fact, an average of 65 percent of students participating in the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship certification program (rated the top undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the nation by Princeton Review) started a business while in school or soon after graduation. These forward thinkers are making their own opportunities, and in many cases, are giving back along the way. What's the secret to their success? Mostly good old-fashioned hard work and off-the-charts ingenuity. However, there are plenty of things to learn from each of these successful collegepreneurs.
Jack McDermott, founder and CEO of Balbus Speech
What he did: While a sophomore at Tufts University, McDermott was inspired to start his company because of his struggle with stuttering. Speech4Good and Fluently are the company's speech therapy apps, which have been downloaded approximately 10,000 times.
Make it work for you: McDermott took a problem and created a solution — a classic entrepreneurial move. He also chose to create that solution in the form of an app. Having an app is a fantastic way to share and publicize your business. Don't know how to make an app? There are several easy and free app-makers available. Forbes suggests Tiggzi or Conduit.
Jeremy Young, one of five co-founders of HillFresh Laundry
What he did: With the help of his partners and the entrepreneurship club at his school, Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., Young started the first for-profit, student-run business to operate on campus: a laundry service. Students pay per semester to have their laundry picked up, cleaned, and then returned folded the very next day. Young credits the entrepreneurship club for the business management and finance knowledge he gained, a critical component of HillFresh Laundry's success.
Make it work for you: Taking business or entrepreneurship courses is extremely helpful. However, it can be difficult to fit more classes into an already packed schedule. If this is the case for you, consider online classes, either from your own school or one of the hundreds of online schools at www.CollegeOnline.org. Online classes generally have the advantage of a social media component, an excellent tool for networking.
Josh Weingart, founder of WaterDrop Shop
What he did: Inspired by his travels to Kenya, Weingart founded a business with a purpose. Weingart has partnered with manufacturers in Kenya to produce and sell sandals, the proceeds of which will go toward helping locals dig wells for clean drinking water.
Make it work for you: Weingart tapped into the power of partnership to make his business and his philanthropy possible. A partnership might be exactly what your business needs to get started. BizJournals.com suggests creating a partnership charter to outline exactly what each partner will be responsible for, and what each will bring to the table. “The Partnership Charter: How to Start Out Right with Your New Business Partnership,” by David Gage, offers comprehensive advice on the subject.
Eric Wahl and Matt Lowe, co-founders of Quiyk
What they did: While at Emerson College, Wahl and Lowe took their love of the fictional sport of Quidditch (from the “Harry Potter” series of books) and parlayed it into a successful line of athletic apparel, legitimizing the sport along the way.
Make it work for you: Attitude really is everything. With the entrepreneurial attitude of, “Why not?,” Wahl and Lowe turned their passion into a thriving business. The right technology, knowledge and partnerships will take you a long way, but it's your love for your business that will see it through to success.
Guest author Norm Springs is an entrepreneur who has started three successful start-ups in the last decade. He loves nothing more than the thrill of launching a new business.