April 20, 2024


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Things You may be Doing Wrong as A Student Entrepreneur

By Eniola Doherty and Peter-Thomas Anthonia Oluwakemi 

As of when writing this article, these writers have attempted to start several businesses as students and failed woefully at each one. They were all student-friendly businesses like selling snacks, perfumes, and clothes. Funny as this might seem, this is the reality of several students wanting to start businesses to support themselves and their parents with their income. 

The University of Lagos (UNILAG) students are not left out of this quest to make extra cash. It could also be true if one were to assume that six in 10 UNILAG students are small business owners and that 9 in 10 students have started one business or the other and, most likely, failed. 

However, just as we have many student entrepreneurs, many struggle with their businesses. It is not easy juggling a business as a student who has to attend classes, do assignments, attend seminars, and do anything your status as a student might require. Using the experiences of a few UNILAG student-preneurs, we will outline the common mistakes you might be making in your business. 

1. You’re not passionate about your business: As much as money motivates, it goes without saying that passion is an even stronger motivator and can help sustain the business in the long run. If you have tried and failed to develop a genuine interest in whatever business you decide to go into, it should not be surprising that you will eventually grow tired of it. 

A testament to this is Ofada ETC, a student food brand established in 2021. The 300-level Mass Communication CEO of the brand, Eunice Babatunde, recounted, “Ofada ETC was not my first business. The differentiating factor between my former and present business is just that my first business was all about making money, a side income while my current business started based on passion and the need to express a hidden talent.” 

2. You don’t know how to schedule and manage your time: Eunice admitted making this mistake when she said, “I did not understand the power of scheduling and balance. So I was caught off guard when I started lagging while focusing on my business.”

It’s satisfying to see a student doing well in their academics, social life, and business, but many sacrifices go into that stability. Luckily, Eunice shared her way of balancing everything: “I had to understand priorities, make timelines, and have a weekly schedule, knowing the best times to take orders and attend classes while also ensuring these times were favourable for my customers.” Her answer reiterates that you live as both a student and an entrepreneur. Not knowing how to balance both lives and manage your time effectively can lead to burnout, failure in both aspects or doing well in one part to the detriment of the other.

3. You’re not outsourcing: While steering clear of outsourcing in a student-run business offers unique advantages like saving money, it comes with challenges that demand careful navigation. CEO of ShoeFairy, Miss Tyson Rukiyat, tells how this particular issue has affected her, “When I first started my business, I did a lot of things I could have outsourced, which ended in me having to divide my attention and not being able to focus on other things.” 

The 400-level Bio-Chemistry student shared how she eventually realised she could find other people to help with other tasks. In essence, deciding to forgo outsourcing in student-preneurship requires a delicate balance, which might be costly in the long run. However, success lies in strategic decision-making. 

4. You’re not being strategic about expansion and innovation: As a student-preneur, the thrill of entrepreneurship can sometimes overshadow the need for a well-thought-out expansion strategy and adding new things to your business. 

Note that while considering expanding your business, whatever new goods or services you wish to include must go hand in hand with your original business services, business name, and vision. If a food brand were to add the sale of toiletries to their services, it would lead to confusion for the customers and the owner since keeping up with offering parallel services would be quite tasking. Taking the time to develop a thoughtful growth strategy ensures that every move contributes to the overall longevity and prosperity of the venture.

You don’t have a reliable source for (raw) goods: From the inception of the idea for your business, proper planning should be the following vital thing, and this includes making sure that you have a reliable source for your goods or the raw materials you would need to provide your services. Raheem Omolara, a 300-level student of Mass Communication, bemoaned her experience in her former business. “It was a cosmetics business where I supplied cartons of lotions to stores, but they always ran out fast, so I would mostly have to tell them to wait till a particular time before I could get it from my supplier. Many of my customers wouldn’t be able to wait, and I lost many of them to competitors.” 

Now the owner of D’Klassic Empire, an online wig store, she has learned her lesson because she now directly imports the hair she sells by herself. “Even if I don’t have them in stock, I don’t have to wait more than 3 days before my goods come in and I deliver them to my customers.” 

Omolara described her hair business as more successful than her past one because she identified the problem and tackled it in the best way possible. If the source of your business is shaky, consider your business shaky as well.

You ignored research, mentor-ship, and proper networking: As explained earlier, proper planning is vital, and this can never be complete without the incorporation or consideration of the experiences of successful people in the same line of business. Many people, including students, have gone ahead of you and have vital wisdom for anyone willing to listen so they don’t fall into the same pitfalls. As fun, as it might be to jump into something new just to get out of your comfort zone, it’s necessary to network with peers and conduct adequate research if you don’t want to fall flat on your face as soon as you step into the ring. Do your research on your target market, common mistakes made and how to avoid them, how to grow the business, plan the growth, get across to your audience, etc. 

Student entrepreneurs in this article share a common trait: a willingness to learn from their mistakes and incorporate those lessons into their businesses. They emphasize the importance of recognizing and addressing areas of weakness, such as strategic expansion, outsourcing decisions, and finding the right balance between hands-on involvement and delegation. To every current or aspiring student entrepreneur, being a student and an entrepreneur is not easy. Still, these helpful tips can help make your journey easier and help you build stronger businesses while navigating life as a student.

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