Tips from the Trenches: A Young Business Owner’s Take on Entrepreneurship After College

In our last Youth Entrepreneurship blog post, we brought up several points to consider when mulling over whether enrolling in college or starting your own business is the right post-high school choice.

Of course, the end of high school isn’t the only time you’ll be presented with two roads diverging. For those of you who attend college, “What’s next?” resurfaces in four short years—or in just a few weeks for some of you. So the question is now, in LeBron James-speak, “Where should I take my talents after college?”

While most young entrepreneurs tend to think they should acquire some real-world experience at full-time jobs before embarking on their business ventures, we recently spoke to a young entrepreneur who might encourage you to reconsider the merits of obtaining that “real-world experience.”

David Comisford, 26, started buying back college textbooks from fellow undergrads at Capital University in winter 2006. Since then, he’s transformed his dorm-based business into Frewg, Inc., an online storefront where college students can buy, sell back and rent college books. And he did it all without any full-time work experience under his belt.

As the chief shareholder of the company he founded, David has some credibility in questioning the value of real-world experience. In fact, he asserts that starting your business right after finishing college is, in many cases, the best time to be your own boss. Consider a couple of his reasons:

· It’s much easier to take the risk of starting your own business when you don’t have a house payment, spouse or children to worry about. Odds are, through the help of family or a social safety net, you won’t end up starving and destitute if your venture fails.

· Inertia sets in once you’re accustomed to co-workers who can ease your workload, departments that tell you a project is impossible or a technology is unavailable, and bosses who take the heat for you and your team’s failures. Being your own boss and having everything fall on your shoulders may not sound appealing. It’s often more comfortable to stay the course. And, as David put it, “Once you become comfortable, you become uncertain.”

From David’s perspective, being the boss beats experience gained in the corporate office, especially when it comes to problem-solving. During the early stages of his book-buying business, a local municipality’s decision to put the kibosh on his seasonal buy-back kiosk threatened his livelihood. By working with local contacts and appealing to the village’s town hall, he found a solution—not the solution he originally envisioned, but a solution that worked. If he had worked in a full-time environment that had conditioned him to accept defeat, David argues, he might have given up.

While you can gain certain skills more easily in the workplace, learning on your feet has its merits too. As an entrepreneur, crossing every bridge when you get there usually offers a more exciting journey. But full-time work can mean a lot of wading in the shallow end of the pool.

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