Starting a Startup in College

School is a runway for the amazing life you're about to have, so you've got to make it count. Founding my own business in high school and college was the most rewarding way to spend my school years. I've always had a desire to make the most impact that I can, and I'm driven by my curiosity and fascination of the world around me. When I was a freshman in high school, I felt that the scope of activities in school were too limiting and low-impact - I wanted to contribute to something that was beyond campus borders. Thus, I founded a nonprofit for human rights  and worked with activists around the world. We got a few awards and a Do Something grant to promote art therapy for former victims of human trafficking. I went to a public high school with a lot of first generation students, and noticed that their ambitions were mostly confined to less riskier career paths. Although I didn't know enough about entrepreneurship at that time to see it as a viable career option, I reasoned that starting a company while in school was at worst a learning experience and at best a great story to tell. Working on my own company really reminds me of how little I know, which drives me towards self-improvement. I was about 15 years old at that time, and this side project allowed me to think creatively and learn about the importance of creating and maintaining relationships. These lessons carried on to college, when I founded an e-commerce business right after I graduated from high school and later on, a social enterprise that took lab inventions to developing communities abroad. Below are some of my key insights that I thought were most valuable. Founding a company in college is a great way to build your network and stay motivated if you're an ambitious person. Forget frat parties, soulless internships, and other distractions. Start early, think big, and keep your ego in check by failing often. Seek out impactful, purposeful areas where you can disrupt the industry. Here are my most rewarding takeaways from starting a startup as a student.

1. It's the best career preparation ever.

Forget interview workshops and boring resume sessions. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly pitching, presenting, and getting immediate criticism. In my first interview with a national publication, I was so nervous I felt like fainting and could barely speak properly. I had to meticulously prepare for every interview after that experience. However, you really will improve over time with the more practice and support that you get. Your confidence, weaknesses, strengths, charm, and intellect are challenged when you're showing someone your passion. You're open and vulnerable, and it will teach you an incredible amount about yourself. Communicating your ideas require clarity and the ability to connect topics. There isn't a more self-revealing experience.

2. It reminds you of infinity.

CALVIN: If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.

HOBBES: How so?

CALVIN: Well, when you look into infinity, you realize that there are more important things than what people do all day.

College can feel like a suffocating bubble with little resemblance to the real world. Projects give you purpose, and nothing gives you more enthusiasm for the future ahead than the potential of your company and how you will lead it to achieve something bigger than yourself. As a college student with an overload of classes, I felt like it was very easy to burn out, especially when I was studying 80 hours a week. However, working on a passion project that may turn into a company was my favorite pastime in college, and gave me the drive to work harder. 

3. It gives you a global perspective.

No startup can grow in seclusion. An entrepreneur thrives in the company of others, and as a founder, you will have access to a global network of ambitious young people. Brilliance begets brilliance. This is my favorite quote from Seth Godin: "Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with. And the collisions and the dreams lead to your changes. And the changes are what you become. Change the outcome by changing your circle." Surround yourself with well-traveled, cultured, experienced, ambitious, tenacious young people. With the rising culture of conference-hopping among young people and many entrepreneurial networks, there are countless opportunities to network and get involved. I've met some of my closest friends at conferences and built long-lasting relationships from these seemingly trivial connections.