I’m coming to the end of the second year of studying for my undergraduate degree, and for almost those entire two years I’ve been co-running a company ‘on the side’. Whenever I tell someone about what I do, “Where do you find the time?” takes the top spot for the most frequent response. Other close contenders include “But you’re so young!” “Make sure you’re not working too hard,” and “Do you even have time for fun?” Being a entrepreneur is challenging at any stage in life, not least when exam season comes around, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. And as for how I find the time? Like with lots of things, it’s all about balance.
Doing something you enjoy
The driving force behind both of our companies is connecting people. For Tyfy, this means matching students with a peer mentor who has studied their modules and can help when they’re struggling. For LadderTech, this means connecting young start-ups with mentors in professional services who can help them with the ‘real life’ aspects of running a business. The key behind both of these is wanting to ensure that no one is isolated from support, and connecting our members with someone else who can help them realise their own potential. As a company ethos, this is something that’s really close to my heart, and it definitely helps me stay focussed on my goals.
Skipping the graduate career void – and actually enjoying your degree
For me, one of the best things about running Tyfy and LadderTech is that I know exactly what I want to do post-graduation. So many of my friends have no idea what they want to do – or even what they can do – with their degrees. Such is the fear of graduating and stepping directly into a void of unemployment, that most of them opt for the grad scheme route simply because its the one that seems most accessible. And if that works for you, great. But me? I had no idea. If I had a pound for every time someone made a joke about my English degree being useless for anything but teaching, I’d be a very rich woman by now. And whilst its obviously not true. But if I didn’t have my career as an entrepreneur mapped out, I’d be totally clueless – and frankly quite scared – about what the future held. On a similar note, now that I have a separate career plan, I can focus on actually enjoying reading Shakespeare and Keats without panicking about how I’m going to make a living out of it.
Working on a start-up has also provided me with a wealth of experience in everything from marketing (my official role) to planning a financial forecast. Before I joined Tyfy, I was the stereotypical student who had absolutely zero experience that wasn’t somehow related to their coursework, all nighters in the library or the Student Union. Honestly, it was a lifeline.
Making the most of University business support
I genuinely can’t express how lucky I am to study at a University with such an active business community – and one that is so supportive of its student entrepreneurs. Around a year ago, I attended a small networking event where I had a quick chat with several members of the University’s business team. Fast forward one year and I’m working from an office in the same building as them. This, plus an internship, a research project, countless networking opportunities and even just some good advice has put both myself and the company years ahead of where we would have been on our own.
In this respect, student entrepreneurs are incredibly lucky, in that being part of a University allows you to access all the support it offers.
I’m also incredibly lucky that, as a student entrepreneur, I still live with my parents. This means that I can afford to invest time into a start-up without worrying about how I’m going to pay the bills or put food on the table. Arguably, there will never be a better time to take the leap.
But genuinely, where do you find the time?
Granted, all the support and benefits in the world won’t add an extra hour onto the day. There’s no getting round the fact that it really is just a case of working hard (luckily for me, I’m a major busy body so it suits me just fine). You have to be prepared to make allowances for the sake of balance. For example, my co-director knows that when I have deadlines coming up, I all but disappear at work – and there’s been more than one occasion when I’ve skipped on a weekday night out because I need to catch up with emails. But I’m definitely not complaining – its probably not that different a set-up to someone who’s trying to start their own business whilst still working a 9-5 to pay the bills. At the end of the day balancing priorities as a student entrepreneur comes down to managing your time productively, knowing what you want – and genuinely enjoying the process enough to make it happen.
You can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about what we do, or about how you can get involved!