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Starting Your Own Business Is Tough, But Not Impossible

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The last thing anyone would expect you as a college student to do is start your own business. We students have enough on our plates as it is: difficult classes, homework every night, multiple exams on the same day, jobs, sports, extracurricular activities and more. Our free time needs to be used doing something we enjoy just so that we can maintain our sanity. However, for some of us, the challenge of starting a business and the subsequent stress is worth it.

At the end of my freshman year, I started a mobile app development company called Jump Space Apps. My goal in founding this company was to create mobile applications for small to medium-size companies with several of my colleagues. We have been around for three years now and have worked with more than a dozen companies. At times this experience has been difficult, but at others it’s been incredibly fun.

I’ve always been the type of person who learns from failure and experience. I’d be lying if I said that Jump Space Apps has always been perfect; however, the challenges I’ve faced with Jump Space have given me critical insight to problem solving in the business world. Hopefully, I can pass this insight on to my fellow students, especially in my ENTP 3320 Startup Launch I course, and see them start their own business when they may not have started otherwise. My experiences can be summed up in three main pieces of advice: Understand your strengths and weaknesses; ask for help; and think of yourself in the same way you want your customers to think of you.

No one person has every skill necessary to run a successful business. Some of us are very good at the technical side but lack marketing skills. Some of us are very good salesmen but don’t actually know how to create a tangible product. This is OK. When starting your own business, it is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every member of your team. If you know that you are lacking in the marketing area, try to find someone that is good at it. By finding someone else to either join your team or mentor you in a particular area, you can allow yourself to keep doing what you do best. Your business will benefit much more from having multiple people in specialized roles rather than trying to take everyone and have them do something that they are not good at. Additionally, by putting yourself around other people who have the skills you are missing, you will acquire those skills too.

Learning skills from other people is one of the most important parts of starting your own business. The best way to do this is to simply ask for help from those around you. UT Dallas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area have a wealth of entrepreneurial knowledge. What you’ll also find is that we are all willing to help. The Dallas Entrepreneur Center has designated times where anyone can go in and get helpful advice from successful entrepreneurs. UT Dallas and the Naveen Jindal School of Management have a plethora of faculty that would love to help you start your business. When you have questions, go ask them. Spending 30 minutes with someone who has been in your shoes will be significantly more beneficial than you trying to figure it out on your own.

When you’ve understood your strengths and weaknesses and have asked for help from those around you, then it’s time to start thinking about your image and how your customers perceive you. At first, we advertised Jump Space Apps as a company comprised of college students that could do work for a little bit less than those other guys. This worked for a while, but it resulted in us getting clients that really weren’t anything to write home about. We noticed that a lot of our clients didn’t take us seriously purely because we were college students. Even though we produced high-quality work, they couldn’t shake the fact that we were just college students.

So we decided to start thinking of ourselves the way we would have wanted our clients to think of us. We took ourselves more seriously. We marketed ourselves as more experienced, provided work samples to prove it and eventually adjusted our prices to better reflect the quality of our work. This resulted in us getting more clients, and those clients were higher profile and much more fun to work with. It turned out that our clients wanted to work with a confident company that they could trust; all it took was us believing that we could deliver that.

If you are thinking about starting your own business, feel free to reach out to me at jxe120230@utdallas.edu. I’d love to help.

Justin Ehlert

Justin is a Computer Science major, the President of Jump Space Apps, the creator of Fridgely and UTD Eats and is taking the Entrepreneurship Startup Launch Course at JSOM. When’s he’s not making apps you can find him on the baseball field where he serves as a student assistant coach. Read more articles

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