Uni’s over, time to get down to business

24 October 2012

Written by:

As university life draws to a close for many of us, life beyond the Agora and the realm of car park 2A at La Trobe seems somewhat daunting. We find ourselves wondering, ‘what happens next?’

Source: Shokunin via Wikimedia Commons

Do you apply for graduate positions, take time off to relax after the stresses of uni, travel, go back to uni or live a carefree lifestyle until your money runs dry? The possibilities seem endless.

Whether you save up to go overseas or simply earn some extra money to pay off debts, many of us will enter the world of employment. The trend has been to go off to the mines for a short period of hard labour with long figured monetary returns. Many of my friends had considered this option as it seemed to be the quickest way to set yourself up.

But as a recent article in The Age pointed out, ‘the mining boom is over’. ‘Young Australians do not want to make their fortune by drilling the ground. Young Australians want to make their own fortunes and the best way for them to do this is through entrepreneurship.’

For Richard Smith, becoming an entrepreneur, organising his own business venture and assuming the risk for it, was the ideal end to his uni lifestyle. During his second year of studying Exercise Science, Richard became unsure that uni was for him. Despite a lack of funds, Richard made the decision to start his own business.

‘It started as an intention to be a side-business, a way to make some money while I figured out what I wanted to do in terms of uni and my career later in life.’ He deferred from uni, and set his sights on starting up his own company.

The first business venture saw young, athletic, fitness-focused Richard Smith and a few of his closest friends create gyms with on-site trainers at some of Melbourne’s most elite private schools. ‘It was easy at the beginning. You’re working with your friends so the workplace is carefree and easy going. But as the company grows and more money starts coming in, problems start to arise.’

Richard goes on to explain one of the most common problems associated with going into business with friends. ‘With friends, you don’t look at the venture with a business mentality; it’s more like doing something fun with your mates.’ But as Richard Smith discovered the hard way, ‘when the money started coming in, people became greedy and selfish and the team broke down.’ He recalls one of his friends trying to steal the business.

In addition to this, and slow growth of the business, Richard’s company set their sights on a new venture. Still following his interest in fitness and using his extensive knowledge in the field, the company moved into becoming software providers for gyms across Australia. ‘It’s taken two years for the business to grow into a profitable endeavour, but being a bigger market, the returns will be much higher.’

It seems like starting your own business is very promising, so are there any downfalls? Richard says the hardest thing is working long hours and not seeing any income flowing in. ‘It’s taken five years to get to the point that we’re at now. We had to borrow money from our parents to kick the idea off the ground. We lost money and had no social life for a while, but with only an Exercise Science degree to fall back, for me; there was no other option but to keep going.

‘The hardest thing is to be persistent even when you feel like giving up.’

So what wise words of advice does Richard Smith have to offer?

‘Don’t quit your day job. Start slowly and most importantly, start a business in a territory/industry that you are familiar with. A mate of mine wants to start his own app with no knowledge or experience with software. He has given up everything to focus on the idea and has spent the last year broke and spending most of his time sitting on his ass.’

‘Do not go into business with friends. Do it alone. And do not let others scepticism deter you. I found a lot of my friends questioning whether or not I could pull it off. It seemed that they thought I was just a dumb kid wasting his time and money. People that aren’t in the same boat as you often cant understand what you are doing, so they will have a negative attitude towards it all.’

So while it is obvious that starting your own business is a lot of work, it is worthwhile. ‘The experience and the lifestyle that comes when your business grows into a successful one, has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever achieved. I would definitely do it all again. This is me now. The office life, sitting at a desk all day doing monotonous and repetitive tasks, is not for me. I have been put on the spot with my business. I have learnt to take my own initiative and to get things done. I am dealing with my own money and therefore have to deal with the consequences that come with that. I have met valuable contacts through networking and experienced things I could never have imagined from working on field in a hands-on environment.’

‘When you’re at uni, you are young and a bit naive. Starting my own business has taught be a priceless life lesson; to be realistic. I have become more mature and have a new outlook on all aspects of the world around me.’

So as you pick up your pens and exam booklets for one of the last times and let your mind wander to life beyond uni, if the office lifestyle does not appeal to you, take a risk and take the path less travelled. Start your own business, and after overcoming a few obstacles, you will witness the rewards in your bank account and your outlook on life.

Christina Lovrecz is a Graduate Diploma in Journalism student at La Trobe University and is one of upstart’s staff writers. You can follow her on Twitter: @clovrecz