Apparently, Australia ranks eighth out of 38 countries that are part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) when it comes to starting new businesses (McLeod, 2017). Likewise, one survey of over 12 000 millennials conducted in 2017 found 68% of respondents believed they had the opportunity to become an entrepreneur (The Foundation of Young Australians, 2017).
But dreaming of leaving your day job behind to pursue a life as an entrepreneur and actually calling it quits and forging your own path as a business owner are two completely different things. You might be held back by questions like, ‘Is starting a business a financially viable idea right now?’, and ‘Where would I even start?’
In this article, you’ll find the answers to these questions as well as a lot of other information that will come in handy if you want to start your own business. To bring you the best tips and advice, we’ve consulted with USQ’s Dr Paul Newbury and two USQ community members who currently run their own businesses.
Some of the most common reasons why people decide to start a business include:
Do any of these ring a bell?
There are other benefits of starting your own business as well. For example, if you become successful, your business can bring in an independent source of income. From a career perspective, the entrepreneurial skills you’ll develop in the process of starting your own business (including problem solving, creativity, communications, teamwork, financial literacy, digital literacy, critical thinking and presentation skills) can improve your readiness for future opportunities. Enterprise skills are easily transferable and are required in many jobs across each industry. For example, The Foundation of Young Australians claims enterprise skills are more than 50% of the skills currently requested by employers in most industries, and that jobs of the future are going to demand enterprise skills 70% more than jobs of the past (2017). The Foundation of Young Australians’ research has also found that wages are higher for job seekers with these enterprise skills (2017).
Starting your own business while you’re at university can put you on the path to pursuing your future goals and increase your chances of success, whether your start-up continues or fails. However, like with any major, life-altering decision, there are going to be pros and cons to consider. If you want to start a business while you’re still studying, it will obviously be challenging to establish a healthy work-life balance, because both ventures require so much attention. Getting a business off the ground is likely to become all-consuming and it will be difficult to switch off and enjoy down time, which is essential for managing stress levels and maintaining your overall mental and physical wellbeing.
That being said, starting to think about your future business while you’re at university can have its benefits. Developing your business concept and plans at uni allows you the opportunity to start small and test the waters while you’re still in a supportive learning environment and have access to students, staff and community members who can help you on your journey.
Dr Paul Newbury has recently overseen the development of USQ’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation website, which launched mid-2018. He says it’s important to encourage all USQ students to develop the entrepreneurial mindset, not just those enrolled in business courses. Paul is passionate about creating an environment at university that allows all students to nurture and evolve their ideas. He believes that as students begin to learn more about their course materials, they also begin to develop their critical thinking skills, and are likely to identify opportunities for innovation and product or process development.
‘Our aim at USQ is to build the entrepreneurial mindset in all students. My best advice is to go to the Entrepreneurship and Innovation website, which is a one-stop shop for students who have an interest in pursuing a business venture. It’s not about getting students to sign up to long-term courses. That might be one of the options, but we understand that students have got a lot of commitments, and we want to offer something for everybody.’
Did you know that almost 97% of start-ups in Australia either exit or fail to grow within the first two years (McLeod, 2017)? There is a lot more to starting your own business than having a great idea, and there are no guarantees that you’ll succeed. That’s why it’s important to be realistic when considering whether starting your own business is really something you want to do, to do your research, and to find the support you’ll need to help you along the way.
When asked how she started her local creative business, USQ PhD graduate Tarn said, ‘I researched the market to find industry support and picked up the phone and made contacts. I kept a note of everyone I spoke to and ten years later I continue to network within and beyond these initial connections’.
5 things to keep in mind when starting a start-up
It’s important that you’re realistic about how much you can achieve in your timeframes and what you want to invest in the process of starting your own business, because the reality is that it is likely to be expensive and take time before you see any profit.
When it comes to funding your start-up, there are many factors to consider. For example, how will you raise the initial capital you’ll need to launch your business and how long can you wait until you need to see a profit? Will you need to hire staff, and how will you know when to scale your business? Different businesses will be eligible for different kinds of funding such as grants and scholarships, but if you’re planning on starting a not-for-profit business, you may not be eligible to seek investment.
Tarn shares her experience. ‘I instantly had a market that purchased my product and they continue to purchase from me today. Financially, I have continued to reinvest back into the company as a way for it to grow. This process was slow (a six-year period), as I continued to focus primarily on my postgraduate studies and then achieve a PhD. I am now at the stage where I am able to work full-time on the business. I currently have less focus on horizontal spending/expansion and am now concentrating on gaining profit margins (as opposed to mark-ups) through vertical gains.’
You might have heard of the entrepreneurial mindset … but what does the term actually mean, and what does it really take to be an entrepreneur? The entrepreneurial mindset is what many people refer to as the specific skills and qualities a person needs if they want to be successful as an entrepreneur.
These skills and qualities include:
While these skills and qualities may help you find success as an entrepreneur, Dr Paul Newbury suggests entrepreneurs come in all shapes and kinds. Rather than entrepreneurship being something someone is innately good at, anyone can learn how to become proficient in entrepreneurial skills, just like anyone can learn to be good at public speaking, even if it’s something they don’t like to do. Likewise, you don’t need to be good at everything to be successful as a start-up creator. What you need is a good idea and someone who shares your vision and has the skills you lack yourself in order to carry your idea to fruition.
Still not sure whether starting a business while at university is the best option for you? Entrepreneurs Tawfique and Tarn share their final words of advice to encourage the next generation of business owners.
Tawfique’s advice is to ‘Carry a notebook with you always, and key in all your great thoughts daily. Always make plans for tomorrow and think 10 steps ahead. Have seven to eight hours of sleep and wake up early. The rest will fall into place if you put your heart into it’.
Tarn says that,
‘There is no clear path to follow. Know that most overnight successes take at least 10 years to “succeed”. Continue to seek education and knowledge daily. You will meet entrepreneurs who will tell you that they didn’t need a university education to succeed, but I am so grateful I have my degrees as I have a truly balanced understanding of what I want and where I’m going. There is no doubt you are going to learn from the outside world and “school of hard knocks” but my confidence was made fertile through the ongoing support of my lecturers, and the gaining of historical and technical knowledge that is so embedded in the university system.’
McLeod, C. (2017). Why are Australian start-ups failing? Pursuit. The University of Melbourne. Retrieved from https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/why-are-australian-start-ups-failin
The Foundation of Young Australians. (2017). The New Work Order: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for the jobs of the future, not the past. New work order report series. AlphaBeta, Sydney.