If you’re thinking about starting your own business before you’re 30, you’re in for a ride. You are going to learn more than you ever imagined and it’s all going to happen fast. You’ll learn through each success and even more through every “failure.” You’ll learn through advice you’ll take and won’t take, and through all the sleepless nights that lay ahead. You’ll learn from the bonds you create and the ones that melt away, but the only way you’ll learn all of this quickly enough to succeed is if you surround yourself with other young entrepreneurs.
I forgot how important this was until I returned from the Kairos Summit this year. The entrepreneurial path is often lonely and sometimes scary. Chances are you’re surrounded by people who don’t understand what you are doing or why. Parents will tell you to get a job, peers will mock you for working late nights while they are out at the bar. It is hard to overstate the value of surrounding yourself with people who do understand, to inspire you and encourage you and to help you get started, here are the top places to meet them.
1) The Kairos Summit:
Every year the Kairos summit brings together the countries most innovative, energized and forward thinking entrepreneurs. Mix those entrepreneurs with business leaders that have the know-how and connections to bring your ventures and ideas to reality and you have the Kairos Summit. The summit was founded by Ankur Jain, a Wharton School student, in order to create the perfect environment to “furl innovation for a better tomorrow.” You can learn more about the summit and Kairos Society on the Ankur Jain Kairos blog. The event is invite-only, but if you are able to attend you will leave this summit refreshed, inspired and ready to change the world again.
2) The Annual CEO Conference
You may not be recognized (yet!) as one of the top 100 collegiate entrepreneurs in the country (see above) but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the entrepreneurial spirit in you. Every year in Chicago, thousands of college students come together to listen to successful entrepreneurs speak, attend breakout sessions, and of course, enjoy Chicago. Although the speakers and events are amazing, if you go you will quickly find out that interacting with other students who share your vision of being your own boss is far more the most valuable aspect of the conference. If you day dream about building your own business empire instead of doing slave work at an investment bank, I definitely recommend coming here. Who knows, you might meet your business partner. At the very least, you will know taking the road less traveled is possible.
3) Entrepreneurial events on campus
College is the best time to spread your entrepreneurial wings. Who cares if your business doesn’t make it, you’re in college. Uncover the invaluable lessons of taking a leap, and potentially “failing” now while you still have the ultimate safety net. There are kids all over campus who share your desire to start a business, you just need to find them. The easiest place to look is obviously entrepreneurial organizations, or even entrepreneurial classes. Find people who are taking these classes and start brainstorming. You don’t pay attention in class anyway, you might as well learn something.
4) The web
You all know what Facebook is. Use it. It’s easier to meet and connect with like-minded, passionate people than ever before. Start a meet up group in your area, connect with other entrepreneurs on linkedIn, join young networks on Brazen Careerist and join the conversation on twitter. If you aren’t finding support or inspiration from your circle of friends, the web isn’t a bad place to turn.
Once you have the support you need, you will be amazed at how pumped you are to start building a business. Instead of people ragging on you for working so hard, you’ll have a network of people encouraging you with support and advice along the way.
Patrick Ambron is partner and Chief Marketing Officer at Brand-Yourself, the world’s first online reputation managment system for individuals. You can read some of his work on the company blog or check out his personal site.