January 23, 2012

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Article

Juggling Acts

Student Entrepreneurs Keep Things Moving

Linda T. Kennedy

January 23, 2012

You’ve heard that starting a new business is a circus; just try it while going to school. Many successfully do though, since Utah’s universities have professional programs designed to help its students put their best ideas to work. For instance, at Westminster College’s Institute for New Enterprise, students conceive, plan, launch and lead new for-profit business ventures through coursework, workshops, field experiences, competitions and personal mentoring. And Westminster’s Opportunity Quest business plan competition awards cash to the hottest ideas on campus. Here, two Opportunity Quest 2009 winners, Ryan Kendrick, owner of Chocolot Artisan Confections and Matt Carlson, owner of Four Pillar Fitness, explain a few key juggler’s skills—balance, focus and pacing—to help you score high results in business and academics. Balance Carlson: Achieving balance is like trying to fit rocks and sand in a jar. If the rocks are the most important thing, put the rocks in first, then pour in the sand. “If you pour in all of the sand first, you’ll have a hard time fitting in the rocks,” he says. “I sit down with a calendar for the week and I schedule the most important things first and everything else after that.” Kendrick: Decide what is the most important and focus on it. “Your family has to be on board with you. If you are working a Saturday or staying up late, it’s going to put a lot more stress on both your business and personal relationships,” he says. “So, you really need a family that’s supportive of your decisions. I really believe that’s essential.” Focus Carlson: Learn to compartmentalize. “My brain is like a filing cabinet,” he says. “When I leave work, I shut the work filing cabinet. Then I am at school from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and I don’t answer any work-related questions during that time.” Kendrick: Develop a solid business plan—and if you don’t know how, work with someone who can help you. “That’s what gives you the ability to target some goals out on the horizon and work towards those goals,” he says. Pacing Carlson: Be proactive to help control what you can expect. “I used to let business and school dictate my life,” he says. “I was very reactive; whatever came up or my circumstances dictated my behavior at the time. Now I know if a client is going to want a certain amount of attention, I anticipate it. It’s a lot easier to prevent problems then to solve them.” Kendrick: Understand how quickly you want your business to grow and make sure your lifestyle is going to give you the time for that. “Don’t set goals that are too lofty because all that’s going to do is lead to frustration when you don’t hit those goals.” Finally, Troy D’Ambrosio, director of the Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center at the University of Utah (U of U), offers student entrepreneurs some quips because what’s it all about if it’s not for fun? He works directly with student teams to help commercialize technologies developed at the U of U by faculty and students. To date, the center has been involved with 28 startup companies. 1) Multitask. Learn to work on your business plan while listening to your professor’s lecture (except me, of course). 2) Buy only “wash and wear” clothing. You wouldn’t have time to iron and you can’t afford dry cleaning. 3) Find a caffeinated beverage you like. You will only get two or three hours of sleep a night. 4) Take mass transit. Use the extra time on TRAX to work on your marketing plan by doing “Voice of Customer” interviews with fellow passengers. 5) Watch the World Series of Poker. You will learn valuable skills on negotiate with venture capital when you go all in. 6) Join a social media network. It’s the closest you will get to a social life. 7) Practice being humble. You’ll be having such an incredible time, you’ll want to brag to your family and friends.
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