Editor's Note: College Treps is an Entrepreneur.com column that puts the spotlight on college and graduate school-based entrepreneurs, as they tackle the tough task of starting up and going to school. Follow their daily struggles and this column on Twitter with the hashtag #CollegeTreps.
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As a student at the University of San Diego, I have been learning about the fundamentals of business in class. While useful, it wasn't until I started going door-to-door selling mobile apps for my real estate tech startup Rivolix that I learned the real meaning of the word entrepreneurship. Synonyms for the word should be schlep, bottom feeder and hustler, because that is exactly what you are until you make it.
Yet, going around hawking my goods helped me gain valuable experience. I was able to gain a deep understanding of the problems my customers were facing, which led me to create mobile solutions that better addressed their needs. This insight can't be gained in school or through a business plan: The validity of your idea lies in the execution.
Think you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Here are three tips on getting started:
1. Get out there and sell door-to-door. Yes, I did just use the word door-to-door. While people are able to hide behind their computer screen and emails, meeting face-to-face with potential customers can help make you a stronger businessperson. It separates the haves and have nots, because when you get down to it, going door-to-door is an awful experience.
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People don’t want to talk to you, and sometimes, they can be rude. Yet, if you persevere and don’t get discouraged, you will quickly learn what customers want.
Plus, going door-to-door also teaches you to be creative in gaining people’s attention. Call it bootcamp for your elevator pitch, because if you can get a customer to buy off a walk-in there is a good chance your product is fulfilling an unmet and in-demand need.
2. Start hustling. Entrepreneurship is a hustle, especially for those starting out. You are broke, you have done nothing and people don't take you seriously. You kind of have to hustle in order to survive and succeed.
It also teaches you how to leave your ego at the door. People will be turned off from buying your products if you have a massive ego on all the time. There is a time and a place for that, but when meeting with potential customers be humble and work hard. People will respond positively to it.
What has helped me succeed in the hustle is creating a story around my business. People are more receptive to storytelling and engagement than a boring product brochure.
3. Do not rely on one stream of income. While you may want to dive into your new venture and go full force, I don't recommend it. Relying solely on income from your startup, can cause your company to die before it even gets off the ground. When you first launch, you are making almost no money and the little amount of revenue you are generating should be invested back into the startup, not put in your pocket.
Also, if you think an investor is going to save you, think again. Most startups are bootstrapped, and you will go crazy spending all your time looking for these magical investors.
As an aspiring entrepreneur, I believe you need about five different ways of making money. Sounds crazy but going down this route can help you hedge the risk of going completely broke. If one of the ventures takes off, even better.
Plus, it allows you to focus your attention on your passions rather than a boring day job. Developing a diverse skillset makes you that much more valuable to your company. For example, I was forced to learn Photoshop to save my startup money, and now that skillset is invaluable.
Another perk of not relying on one income channel is your network connections are much broader. You get to meet people of different backgrounds, which in the end, it all comes down to who you know anyway.
Will Caldwell is currently a senior majoring in accounting at the University of San Diego. He's the founder of Rivolix, a mobile real-estate tech company focused on property management, MLS/IDX integration and residential realtors.