Last year in Dr. Downing’s Business and PR Writing class, we took a quiz that told us whether or not we were entrepreneurially-minded. Having started an Etsy shop the previous summer, I was slightly scared to take it – what if I learned I wasn’t cut out for owning a business? Upon adding up my score, however, I found out that I do have a bit of an entrepreneur in me. And that felt encouraging, even if the voice telling me so was a piece of paper with some multiple-choice questions.
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be a businessperson and how it affects your life beyond merely making money. For me, it is all so much more than simply selling a product; it is a creative outlet, a vehicle for my many artistic passions, and a huge source of the self-confidence that I formerly lacked. Looking back, I have no idea why I didn’t start my shop sooner. I have come to believe in the value of an entrepreneurial spirit, which I strongly believe more students should pursue.
In all honesty, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to have a business of some sort. Initially, it was probably more a fascination with transactions – even if it was lemonade in a paper cup, I wanted to sell stuff (which is an instinct many kids share, I think). But as I grew older and learned more creative skills, such as knitting and crocheting, I quickly developed this vision of creating unique items for the purpose of sharing my talents and maybe earning some extra money on the side. For a short time in my pre-teen years, I actually designed and crocheted my own American Girl doll clothes, which I sold through an email loop my parents were a part of. Later, in high school, some of my friends would pay me to make them scarves. I started looking online to see what successful crafters were doing, and I was inundated with beautifully curated shops featuring cable-knit beanies and elegant gloves. Selling on Etsy became a lofty aspiration that seemed out of my reach, but I finally made it happen right before my junior year at Elizabethtown College.
Since starting my shop, I’ve been able to combine my love of crafting with several of my other interests including photography, photo editing, graphic design, and writing. I’ve also gained a wealth of knowledge about the practical elements of running a successful shop, like pricing (my worst enemy) and advertising (more up my alley, but still difficult to navigate). But overall, I feel much more business-savvy than I did a year and a half ago.
Although my experience as an Etsy seller seems ideal for my situation, I understand that not all college students have the desire to start a business. Not everyone is geared that way. But for those who are, I think it’s in your best interest to start early – even if your idea flops, you’ll have learned something from it.
We’ve all heard that college is a time to experiment. While some people take that as an excuse to partake in risky activities, I think it also applies to the projects we’ve always had stirring in the backs of our minds, but that we were too afraid to pursue. While there may be some logistical hindrances, we have a wealth of resources at our fingertips. Our professors are often eager to contribute their advice and ideas, and we have courses available to teach us certain skills we might otherwise have difficulties with. (I recently added a minor in Graphic Design, which has already been a tremendous help in marketing my shop.) We’re also surrounded by bright and talented peers who can contribute ideas and perhaps even join in our entrepreneurial pursuits.
If you’ve ever thought you might want to start your own business, I encourage you to give it a try before you graduate. Like mine, yours might be miniscule in scale, with aspirations of huge profits left on the back burner. But if you have patience and give it a solid effort, you’ll gain some valuable skills and experience that can’t hurt your chances in the professional world. As long as you’re investing in something you love to do, I can assure you it will be a deserving and constructive use of your time.