I got an email the other day a week or more ago from a subscriber of the blog and a college student. He has been working on starting up an organization for student entrepreneurs at his school. He’s started laying the foundation for it but was looking for some more advice to help him with it.
So I wanted to touch on a few different key points about running a student entrepreneur club in a blog post rather than by just emailing him directly. I figured this would be a little more helpful to everyone.
Here are a few things that I would consider looking at when beginning a club on campus.
Faculty involvement – I’m sure your school requires that you have some sort of staff or faculty member sponsor your club when starting. So when you pick you sponsor, make sure that you look for someone who has an interest in entrepreneurship and business, as well as helping students. If you can get your faculty members involved and excited about the club and what your working on then they will easily be an advocate for the club and spread the word. Faculty involvements also opens doors to other resources or opportunities that you may not know about. Faculty are always having meetings with committees, departments, and councils. Having an ‘in’ to these can be a huge help when you get to the point where you need to have something signed off, given a blessing, or are looking for money to support a trip.
Focus on Student Growth – I think this is one that a lot of organizations miss out on. They get in a rut doing things a certain way and it never changes. This has happened to me when I was running our own Collegiate Entrepreneurs club at Radford. We got set on doing a few things – recruitment, fundraising, and more recruitment, that we never really did much teaching or learning. If a student is interested in starting a business, the organization should want to help foster that growth and learning. This can be accomplished by having guest speakers, holding start-up business focused workshops, taking field trips, traveling to conferences, and also going to different classes. Some things we have done: held workshops on knowing if your idea was a good idea or not, participated in a workshop about writing an effective business plan, brought faculty and other business people in to speak about their entrepreneurial experiences, and hosted events such as the Entrepreneurial Summit. Bottom line – don’t just be another club, help your members grow and learn.
Actually Start A Club Business – Now, the way you go about doing this is going to depend on the rules that your school has as well as your local laws and regulations. However, as an entrepreneur club, you should have plenty of ideas floating around between your members. Brainstorm to come up with the most viable one for college students to start and run, and start it. Begin with the planning process, develop a mini-business plan, get feedback, and continue to grow the idea into a business. As a club business, any money made from it should go back to the club and also “pay” the members that worked on the business. This is a great model because if your group is big enough, you could have a few different businesses being started at the same time and everyone could be working on something different. Use the business you are starting as a chance to continue educating your members through topic specific workshops (i.e. bring in a professor to talk about putting together a marketing plan, and then have your members actually work on writing one.
Network, Network, Network – One of the best things I could have done while at school was get to know the Dean of the College of Business, a director of Alumni Relations, and also a director of the schools Foundation. This gave me the opportunity to meet all kinds of people, be invited to all kinds of events, dinners, speakers, and meetings where I was the only student present, and also to network with a lot of local business people, alumni, and big name Vice Presidents (as in from Google and Yahoo). Through the connections that I was making, I was then able to connect my friends and other members of the organizations that I was in. This lead to great opportunities for many people.
I hope these few tips will help you in putting together your organizations, help you to be successful, but most of all learn new things and help educate others!
If you’re apart of a student entrepreneurship organization or are a leader of one, I’d love to hear your comments. And I’m sure the other readers would as well!
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