How to Become an Entrepreneur at University

How to Become an Entrepreneur at University

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Updated August 3, 2023 Updated August 03

This article is sponsored by IE University. Find out more about entrepreneurship at IE >

Starting your own business may seem like a daunting process at first. The good news for university students and applicants, however, is that your school may provide you with the resources you need in order to become a successful entrepreneur.

Business majors aren’t the only graduates who benefit from participating in entrepreneurial activities during their time at university. At IE University, for example, students majoring in psychology, communications, biology and architecture also get involved in entrepreneurial projects.

Jorge Felix Schnura Becerro is an IE University undergraduate and one of the founders of Tyba, winner of both the final prize and audience choice award at this year's IE Venture Days. Before studying at IE University, Jorge did not think that entrepreneurship was for him, but learning  how to become an entrepreneur has been a transformational experience.

“When I first started at IE University all I wanted to become was an investment banker at a large investment bank,” Jorge says. “But once I began studying here, I started to change my mind. The international background of IE’s students and the entrepreneurial spirit behind everything that IE does awoke in me something I hadn´t felt before – the need to shape my own future and live the life I wanted to live.” 

Entrepreneurial skills allow you to push boundaries, generate ideas and do things differently. These skills can be applied not just to creating your own business but to changing public policy, improving the economy and changing the quality of our lives. Even if you don't become an entrepreneur, developing an entrepreneurial mindset can still help you pursue projects that make a difference in our world. 

Here are 9 steps you can take toward becoming an entrepreneur during your time at university.

1. Choose a university with a good entrepreneurial track record.

Some schools are more supportive of their student entrepreneurs than others. Look to see how many social initiatives, research projects and businesses are being launched by students who study at the schools you are considering.

Make sure your degree program emphasizes cultivating entrepreneurial skills, and provides its students with the resources and training they need in order to be successful entrepreneurs. Speak to students to get first-hand accounts on what how the university supports its student entrepreneurs. For example, Abdel-Latif Arouna, a third year law student at IE University, states that “IE University offers the perfect environment to become an innovative, decisive and productive entrepreneur and global change maker. It is a place where students are encouraged to pursue innovative ideas.”

2. Learn about the characteristics of a good entrepreneur.

Being a successful entrepreneur takes more than just a good business idea.   Entrepreneurs need to be visionaries who can see things that others can’t. Entrepreneurs also need to have leadership and management skills necessary for transforming their vision into reality. Entrepreneurs also need to be good communications in order to sell their ideas to others.

3. Take entrepreneurship courses.

These classes well help you develop the skills it takes to be a good entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship courses will teach you how to design, manage and implement your project. You will also learn the basics of business management, which you can then apply to your startup. It’s also important to take communications courses - at some universities, like IE, these are mandatory - so you can develop the interpersonal skills you need to communicate your ideas to others and persuade potential investors. Classes with team projects allow you to further develop interpersonal skills by showing you how to work with others.

4. Write a business plan.

Your business plan will become the roadmap for your venture. Outline your vision, and write a full description of your business. Don't know what format to use? Workshops, entrepreneurship coursework, and advice from faculty can help you devise the perfect business plan.

5. Get to know the entrepreneurship faculty. 

Entrepreneurship faculty members, like the ones who work in the IE Start-up Lab, can help you polish and strengthen your business plan.

6. Network.

Some universities offer programs where you can learn from the experiences of retired CEOs and successful entrepreneurs through guest lectures or face-to-face meetings. Networking can also be a way to meet potential investors and collaborators.

7. Join a startup lab.

Some universities, such as IE University, offer startup labs – incubators where students can get guidance from faculty and other entrepreneurs in order develop their business ideas and make them investment-ready.

According to Leticia Ponce, an entrepreneur, professor and mentor for the IE Start-Up Lab, “Students in my Business Management class were presenting viable business plans and we wanted to supply these students with certain tools and an environment where they are generating ideas and following their passion.”

8. Build your skills through entrepreneurship training and internships.

In addition to entrepreneurship coursework, university-run workshops teach you the skills for entrepreneurial success. Use university resources and networks to gain access to experts who can train you in necessary areas such as marketing, strategy, finance and startup law. Internships allow you to practice your skills in the real-world, and get feedback from others, before you go off your own to create your startup.

9. Work on your startup pitch. 

Once you've developed your business idea, look for events that allow you to share your business idea with potential investors. At some schools, students can even pitch their business ideas by participating in university-organized events, such as IE University’s Venture Days program.

These events, hosted by IE Business School, are held in Madrid as well as several other international venues like Shanghai, Bogota, Mexico City and São Paolo. IE University students also get the opportunity to pitch their business idea to angel investors – individuals who fund startups. Successful students get funding for their business as well as legal help for incorporating their business.

By Keiko McNally, marketing manager, IE University


This article was originally published in August 2013 . It was last updated in January 2020