Business after class: the student entrepreneur life

Have you ever had a great idea and considered turning it into your own business? Four students share their experiences about running a start-up.

Starting a company is never easy, even less so if you are still at university. Studying and working at the same time can be exhausting, but it is totally worth it. At least, that’s what these international and local students from the RUG think: they’re all owners of a start-up and younger than 25.

It’s all about passion

Imagine you have an appointment with your doctor, white coat and all, and instead of prescribing you a pill, he starts advising you about personal finance. That would be Simon Waslander, a student who started his medical degree as a ‘self-promise’ to have a proper job in the future. But seven years ago, he discovered his true passion: reading and writing about finance.

Although Simon has never taken a finance class in his life, he used to spend hours  after class reading up on the topic; that’s how he started transforming his passion into his own company. Recently, Simon began collaborating with Ivo Furda, a marketing and finance student, and Ivo’s colleagues, on Foresight Investor, a digital platform that offers high-quality financial articles. They already have readers from all over the world, ranging from students to professionals in international banking and investment companies.

For Simon, the passion for what you do transforms a job into a pleasant lifestyle. ‘When you work on something you love, you are willing to spend all the necessary time without feeling obligated’. Ivo can attest that passion also helps to fight the fear of starting a company. On average, 50 to 70 percent of new businesses fail within 18 months, and Ivo is aware of that possibility: ‘I always think that, in the worst case, if the company fails, I would have learned a lot and followed my passion’.

Share your talent

Jarik Oosting discovered his talent very early when he was only 15. Although it was in the age of pimples and exploring nightclubs, Jarik spent most of his nights building websites and creating his own company, Oosting Webdesign. This year, he started studying Information Sciences, which is when he realized that his business needed to adapt to the Google era.

Until a few months ago, Jarik’s main goal was positioning his pages better in the search engines: in other words, he needed Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts. ‘That’s why I joined two of my classmates, Simon de Wit and Laurence Arnold, to share our knowledge and improve the websites. It came naturally because we used our free time to discuss new ideas’. From these ‘after class beer talks’, Xaomi was born – a company that focuses not only on making websites, but positioning them in Google with powerful content.

Working hard to the same direction

As the young team learned, one talent may not be enough for a business, but the combination of the right partners can make a big difference: ‘Our secret remains in complimenting each other and working hard to the same direction’.

Find opportunities

Kiril Nikolov moved from Bulgaria to Groningen five years ago to study International Economics and Business. After his summer holidays, Kiril’s bike broke. He needed to find a replacement quickly, but he didn’t want to spend a lot of money. Kiril’s solution was to  post  pictures of the broken bike on Facebook and to sell the individual parts separately, then to use the money he earned to buy his new second hand bike.

Seeing the need for a place for international students to buy and sell their stuff every year, Kiril, along with his flatmates, decided to start a trade group in Facebook called For Sale Groningen. This way, he not only solved his problem, but a problem that hundreds of students deal with every semester.

After a few months of being active on Facebook, For Sale Groningen also became a website. In short order, they got their first advertisers, and the number of visitors and posts by students grew. At the moment, For Sale Groningen is an online trade platform for the city, but Kiril sees it as something that could grow: ‘We are studying the possibility of applying the same idea to other student cities of the Netherlands; it is all about looking for opportunities in the right place’ , Kiril says.

Student power

What all of these student entrepreneurs have in common is that having your own business while studying can be an advantage. Simon and Ivo think that, ‘as a student, you don’t have the pressure to make money, and you can use your free time growing your career.’

Of course, this double-life also requires dedication and energy; the Xaomi team recognizes that most of their time is spent working for the company, but they realize that studying is still the first priority. ‘We have to give 110% of us every day’.

Friends and contacts are crucial

But the most powerful weapon for entrepreneurs is their network. Kiril believes that friends and contacts are crucial for your business, so it is important to regularly participate in professional networking events.

There is no secret formula to starting a company and being successful, but what these students all believe is that people should dedicate more time to their passions. As Confucius said, ‘When you choose a job that you like, you will never have to work a day in your life’.