The Pros of Starting a Business as a Student

The Pros of Starting a Business as a Student

Yes, there are a few

Student Success Story - Matt Perry

It’s a breeze to list the cons of being a student entrepreneur. Not having enough time and having trouble prioritizing school and work are just a couple of the reasons why starting a business as a student is rough. Once you add in family, friends, and hobbies, the entrepreneur life seems impossible. Matt Perry, co-founder of Lobo Gear and a senior in the accounting program at UVU, admits these factors do make it difficult, but many students overlook the pros of launching a business while still attending school.

Matt PerryBrock HensonTaylor Means

Matt Perry, Brock Henson (UVU alumnus), and Taylor Means all met while working in the finance department at a solar company. One day they began chatting about camping, setting up tents in the dark, and struggling with the lighting options that currently exist. They asked themselves “why isn’t there just one lighting solution that lights up the whole campground and is hands off?” They realized they had each started businesses before (online retail, landscaping, and more) but struggled because they did it alone. They decided to work together on this new idea and it is definitely working well for them as a team. 

 

You can take advantage of student discounts

The business they launched together is called Lobo Gear, and their first product is a bluetooth outdoor lighting system which includes multiple lights that can be mounted anywhere (trees, tents, cars) and controlled from a phone. After generating their original idea, they conducted surveys to figure out which features people liked the best. The process of creating a prototype was harder than Matt initially thought it would be because “a decent amount of electrical engineering is involved,” he explained. They worked with an engineering firm for a while, who was giving them discounted or free services since they were students, before finding an engineer on Fiverr who has been excellent at producing the quality work they need to finish the prototype. They also utilize Prolab, an innovation lab where students can pay a small, discounted fee to use all their equipment and create prototypes. 

 

You can win seed money at competitions

It can be hard to stay motivated when starting a business because there aren’t deadlines or assignments, but Matt has a great solution for this. He uses theLobo Gear at Opportunity Quest pitch competitions at UVU and surrounding universities as deadlines. He signs up for them and does the necessary research required to update his pitch deck or hit the next milestone with the prototype. He pointed out, “even if you don’t win, you still did more work and research that you needed to do anyway.” He went on to say that while being in school can feel like a con, there are a lot of resources for students that make it easier and give you more support as a business owner. Lobo Gear has won a few thousand dollars in seed money by pitching at Seed for Startups, Pitch!, and Opportunity Quest, where they took third place. 

 

Mentors & experts jump at the opportunity to help you

While it sounds scary, Matt finds the Q&A part of the events extremely valuable, explaining that even if you’re unsure of the answers, you learn something through the process. After failing to answer a question adequately at one pitch event, they ended up pivoting their business idea a bit and it helped with the direction of their product. Lobo Gear also made great connections because of their participation in the Entrepreneurship Institute events, receiving lots of good feedback from objective and honest people. Matt noted that if you ask family and friends you often get biased feedback, but the advisors and mentors who support UVU students know that “the real way to care about you and support you is to help poke holes in the problems you might have in your business.”

Lobo Gear LightThe next big goal Matt has on the horizon is launching the lighting system on Kickstarter on March 1st. Lobo Gear has entered Outdoor Weber, a nation-wide outdoor idea competition, and if they make it to the finals they know they will have a better shot at winning if they acquire some traction through the Kickstarter campaign. They’ve noticed that the students that win the pitch events typically have traction or sales revenue because it helps prove their concept.

Matt’s advice for other student entrepreneurs is to “actually startjust do something.” Even if it’s a rough idea, start with anything and make a checklist of what you might need to do to get going, then break those down into smaller goals. Matt also mentioned that contacting the Entrepreneurship Institute helped him immensely. He made an appointment with Mark Seastrand, who gave him a business canvas to fill out which helped him nail down what the problem was, why people should care, and what the solution was. Mark also got him connected with a few people to help him get started. “Even if you find one person, they can usually give you one more person who can help,” Matt explained, and he is always on the hunt for the next person who can give him advice or help.

 

You get campus-wide exposure

For example this article! Getting eyes on your baby startup is extremely difficult, but as a student, UVU wants to showcase you and your business.

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Update (March 4th, 2020) Lobo Gear has made it to the finals of Outdoor Weber