Not many WashU students can say they have owned their own business, and some may see it as an impossible feat to grow a business while also keeping up with the academic and social pressures of college. The Student Entrepreneurial Program is a unique collection of student-run businesses on campus that serve a range of student and University needs. We own a business called U-Shuttle, which is a bus transportation company serving students and student groups at WashU.
After purchasing U-Shuttle at the end of freshman year, we were unsure about how this business would benefit us in the future. Now that we are both about to graduate, we are confident in the lessons we have learned, and would recommend this opportunity to every student at this school. Considering StEP? Here are some tips based on our own entrepreneurship journey:
Organization is key.
You don’t have to own a business to know that organization in college is crucial. Getting into WashU would’ve been difficult without having these skills in the first place. However, your toolkit with owning a business will be expanded beyond what you could have imagined in college. We wanted to continue to participate in other activities on campus, and between the two of us, we were involved in a sorority, business fraternity, Student Union, pre-orientations, sports, StEP, internships, and jobs throughout college. As a result, we needed to be flexible and organized to balance and adjust our time. Having a business forces you to master organization and prioritization in every aspect of college.
Classes become even easier.
The concepts learned in college classrooms are often abstract. However, when you can apply these skills in a real-world setting, the concepts become so much more concrete. Classes such as accounting, marketing, finance, psychology, and public speaking give you the tools and skills necessary for owning a business. You have the opportunity to reinforce these skills in a variety of ways that wouldn’t necessarily happen inside the classroom. Capitalizing on things that you learn in class every day and using them outside of class enhances the value of your education.
Take advantage of your resources.
Business owner or not, the resources available to you as a WashU student are broad. During our first year of running the business, we realized that we needed a well-written terms of service for the ecommerce website we had just built. On a recommendation from our business advisor, we made the short trip over to the Law School and utilized the clinic for free. We walked away with a revitalized service contract and additional other legal disclosures that probably would have cost us hundreds of dollars at a Clayton firm. Also, now that the Student Entrepreneurial Program has relocated under the Skandalaris Center, there are even more resources than ever before for anyone interested in starting or running their own business.
Find your confidence.
As a business owner, your reach extends beyond that of your fellow students. Often you will be working with suppliers, contractors, consultants, and advisors who are functioning in their normal day-to-day capacity. Being the expert in your own business, you have to lead effectively and make others understand what you need from them. Gaining the confidence to speak with people who are often older and more experienced than you is an important skill that can be carried over to everyday interactions.
U-Shuttle has been a great way for us to get involved on campus, and we want you to have that opportunity as well! If you are interested, please fill out an interest form at www.u-shuttle.com and we will be in touch!
Additionally, if you are interested in buying a business, you must attend a Buying a Business Workshop. The dates for those workshops are also on our website.
Nicole Nemec (BSBA ’17) plans on graduating with a double major in Marketing and Health Care Management. Nicole manages all of U-Shuttle’s marketing from the website to print materials.
Risha Rathore (BSBA ’17) is majoring in Finance and Healthcare Management with a minor in American Culture Studies. With U-Shuttle, Risha manages all of the financial accounts, oversees the accounting and reporting, and ensures that U-Shuttle remains financially compliant.