How to Be a Financial Entrepreneur in Business School

By John Schmoll Jr, MBA - June 29, 2018
Reading Time: 5 minutes

You’re likely in business school because you want to start your own business or obtain a high-paying corporate business job after graduation. Why wait until graduation to flex your entrepreneurial muscles?

Practice these seven skills in between classes to hit the ground running upon graduation.

You’re Not the Only One Trying to Start a Business in Your Basement

Before we jump into how to be a financial entrepreneur in business school, let’s first consider how attainable of a goal this is.

You should know that you are not alone in your quest to start your own business while you’re still a student. Others have tried, and succeeded, before you.

You probably already know that Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his Harvard dorm room and that Larry Page and Sergey Brin gave birth to Google while they were PhD students at Stanford, but did you know that Michael Dell founded his multi-billion dollar computer company, Dell Computers, while he was a pre-med student at the University of Texas at Austin?

Or, that Frederick Smith outlined how an overnight delivery service could take off for an economics class he was taking at Yale University in 1962? The ideas he outlined in that paper formed the central idea and inspiration behind FedEx, the global courier giant he founded less than a decade later.

It’s worth noting that the kind of breakthrough success that these entrepreneurs achieved is rare; not everyone is going to start a multi-billion dollar business, but thankfully, you don’t have to be a billionaire to be successful. There are plenty of other, lesser-known yet just as happily successful entrepreneurs who got their start while they were students.

Susan Gregg Koger and her high school sweetheart Eric started their successful e-commerce fashion company, Modcloth, while they were still students at Carnegie Mellon. Last year, Koger sold her company to Walmart for less than $75 million.

Seth Berkowitz founded Insomnia Cookies, which is now a successful bakery chain, while he was a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Even Charles Schwab may have first flexed his entrepreneurial muscle while he was graduate student at Stanford University, he took a job with a local investment advisory firm. Just a few years later, he left his job as a VP with that firm to start his own business, which has now become a $10.2B company with his namesake.

Now that you’re convinced it’s possible for you to start a successful financial entrepreneurship while you’re attending business school, let’s talk about some of the habits that will help you get there.

Habits of Highly Successful Financial Entrepreneurs

If you’re a budding entrepreneur, you’ve probably already read about the general habits of successful entrepreneurs:

  • Entrepreneurs get up early
  • Entrepreneurs always eat breakfast
  • Entrepreneurs form and keep forming networks

Those are certainly things you can, and should, do while you are in business school. But there are seven other practices you can develop to help yourself succeed as a financial entrepreneur in business school.

#1 – Use School Assignments to Develop your Business Ideas

Remember that paper Frederick Smith wrote for his economics class? It ended up giving him a head start on outlining what would become the business model for FedEx. You can do the same thing. Look at every class assignment as an opportunity to develop your business idea.

Use research projects to identify audiences for your business idea. If you’re taking an econ class, use a paper assignment to conduct market research on your potential idea. Run a feasibility study as part of your business class assignments. Use term papers to develop and refine your business proposition.

You’re paying to get your business degree. Use your classes to gain the knowledge you need to succeed in now and in the future.

#2 – Record Your Ideas…All of Them

Get in the habit of writing all of your ideas down. Keep a notebook by your bed and another one in your bathroom and yet another in your kitchen. Make lists; identify your goals; journal your frustrations.

Research shows that writing engages both sides of your brain and helps in releasing stress and emotional tension, which can block you from being as productive as you could be.

Write, type or dictate; use whatever method works for you to catalog the ideas running through your visionary mind. Since a large part of being an entrepreneur is coming up with new ideas, you likely have a highly active imagination.

Keep imagining and don’t let your ideas slip away into the ether. You can’t evaluate what you don’t remember so write it all down.

#3 – Make the Most of Every Minute

If you think you’re too busy now to successfully start your company, just wait until you’ve graduated, settled down and have a family, a pet and a mortgage, as well as a full-time job to handle. There may never be a better time than right now to start your business.

While you’re making your in-classroom hours and homework assignments do double duty for you by furthering your business ideas, consider using your down time to make extra money.

Driving for a ride sharing service like Uber or Lyft is one great and easy way to monetize your downtime. Not only can you use the money you make to save up for future business expenses, you might gain some valuable insight on your target markets through the conversations you have with your passengers.

#4 – Use your Professors

Your professors are a goldmine of knowledge and a powerful resource for you as you formulate and refine your business idea. Ask for their opinions on not just your business proposition, but your strategies, analysis and valuation.

Share the results of your research with them and ask for their insight on what they would do with the data if they were you.

Your professors all have office hours. Use them.

#5 – Sign up for a Student Credit Card

This tip may sound counterintuitive, especially if you’ve seen someone ruin their life through credit card debt. We’re not advocating irresponsible credit card use, but rather, using credit to your advantage.

Look into a credit card designed for students that gives you access to a line of credit, which can be a very valuable asset as an entrepreneur, and with no annual fee.

That last part is important. You want to make your credit work for you and not the other way around. The right card can unlock doors for you financially if you use it to responsibly build a good credit score, which will also be important when you’re out of school starting, running and growing your business.

Remember to make your payments on time, don’t max out your card and make it your goal to pay it off in full each month. Don’t think of it as free money, but rather, as an essential tool in your financial belt.

#6 – Apply for Relevant Grants

Grant opportunities exist for business students and student entrepreneurs. Does your business idea involve renewable energy sources? Look for a research grant

that includes scientific funding for green projects that would support your business idea. If it works, you’re that much closer to achieving your goal of a successful startup.

#7 – Network with your Fellow Students and Alumni

Networking is a no-brainer for entrepreneurs, but that doesn’t have to begin after graduation. Network while you’re in business school as much as you can. Some of your classmates will go on to start successful businesses or work in companies that you may need further down your journey.

Get to know as many of them as you can by:

  • Joining student professional organizations on your campus
  • Attend events that you normally wouldn’t to meet people outside of your normal operating circles
  • Go to conferences, workshops, trade shows, and business events
  • Network at social events

The old adage that “it’s not what you know, but who you know” applies. The great thing about networking is that you can use it to do both. Always be ready to make connections and learn new things, whether it’s a perspective, idea or nugget of knowledge, mingle your way to business success while you’re still in school.

Business school is an excellent time to gain the knowledge, connections, and foundation you need to be successful. Don’t wait until you graduate to start cashing in on your education; use the resources at your disposal now to become a successful financial entrepreneur.

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John Schmoll Jr, MBA
John Schmoll Jr, MBA
Financial Services Editor
John Schmoll, MBA, is a former stockbroker, mutual fund administrator and veteran of the financial services industry. His interest in investing and passion for financial literacy led him to leave his career with a well-known brokerage house to grow an advertising business with his wife and start a personal finance site, Frugal Rules, in 2012. His work has been featured in Forbes, Fortune, U.S. News & World Report, Yahoo!Finance, CNBC, and more. Follow John on Twitter.

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