How to combine studying and entrepreneurship

Are you a student and thinking of starting your own business? By marketing a service or product, for example? Read this article for tips on smart ways to combine studying and entrepreneurship.

1. Manage your time 

As an entrepreneurial student, you will have a busy life. Study, business, sport, committee work, part-time job, time for family and friends. Combining all this is a challenge. Manage your time well. You can do this by making a schedule every week, for example. Also, make sure you use your time productively and do not get distracted.

During their studies, entrepreneurs Jessica Eijgelsheim and Sharina Kiesebrink developed the Code Qube. A method for teaching children computer programming. Eijgelsheim and Kiesebrink regularly completely shut themselves off from the outside world for a week to do research and work out plans. “We had to be careful not to want too much in our enthusiasm. What we needed most of all for our business was focus, focus, focus!"

2. Check your degree programme's regulations

If you start a business during your studies, you can usually turn it into your graduation project or intern in your own company. More and more schools, colleges, and universities are encouraging students to start their own businesses with special schemes for budding entrepreneurs. These schemes mean you will have an adapted curriculum, coaching, and spread of subjects and exams. Check your study programme's website for the exact requirements. Or ask your student counsellor how this is organised.

For their graduation project, Eijgelsheim and Kiesebrink chose ‘Children and programming’ as the topic. “Fortunately, the study programme gave us all the space we needed to develop our ideas. But we didn't just accept anything. Not even from a teacher. You have to stand firm and be quite stubborn when necessary.”

3. Explore funding opportunities 

To grow your business, you need money. Many startups looking to scale up are looking for investors. An investment from a business angel can help take the next steps. With a business angel, you not only raise money but also tap into knowledge. But remember, having investors can mean you will no longer be able to make completely independent decisions about your company. Is that what you want? In addition, you usually have to change your legal form from a sole proprietorship or general partnership (vof) to a private limited company (bv).  

You may also be able to get a subsidy. On the website of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), you can find an overview of subsidies for new, innovative businesses. Eijgelsheim and Kiesebrink were tipped off about the MIT subsidy. This is a scheme for SMEs to stimulate innovation. 

4. Use your student status to your advantage

Your network can be very valuable for finding investors, for example, or new customers. Do not only use social media to expand your network, also join platforms for (student) entrepreneurs and startup hotspots (in Dutch). Several educational institutions organise networking events, such as Fontys Student Startup Festival (in Dutch).

But being a student and entrepreneur offers more opportunities.  “A young student is kind of a magic term, and women in engineering even more so,” explain Eijgelsheim and Kiesebrink.  “This opened doors. We got in touch with the right people. At one point, we were approached by a Dutch embassy. They were looking for innovative Dutch products and asked if we wanted to take part in an education fair in London. That got us a lot of connections."

5. Enter competitions

All kinds of competitions for startups can boost your business. Think of the innovation competition Pitch your project or the Young Inventors Prize for startups in sustainability. The prize is often a sum of money to invest in your business. Taking part in such competitions also gives your company name recognition. And it puts you in touch with other entrepreneurs with whom you can share tips and experiences.

Eijgelsheim and Kiesebrink regularly entered competitions. “That gave us a boost to continue developing the Code Qube. Winning meant appreciation and recognition for our idea. The prize money allowed us to continue development and production. We also benefited a lot from the coaching associated with competitions.”