5 tips for getting started without a business school network
In my last blog post, I shared that I found the first engineer I worked with (and subsequent engineers as well) through the broader Harvard community. I was in business school, on campus, at the time and it was a great way for me to find resources (people, spaces etc.) to support me as a non-technical founder, and just in general. But what if you aren’t in business school and still want to start a business? This week I am listing out my top 5 tips for getting started on your business without being in business school.
1. Share with your personal network (and ask for connections): This does not mean I am saying “ask for your friends and family to invest”! I will write a full post on fundraising later and a ‘friends and family’ round might be part of it. But in general, I hate the presumption that someone’s personal network has capital. So instead, lean-in to what your personal network can provide that isn’t money. Connections to people with certain skills, free resources or office space, expertise in your industry or access to their professional networks. Your friends and family will be your biggest cheerleaders and are likely to make introductions for you. Share what your passion is!
2. Connect with a network: A network doesn’t have to come from business school, or any educational institution at all. But it could be a good start to consider your under-grad college / university. Look up if they have programming that supports alumni. I found a great community through Michigan State, my undergrad. Since I graduated, they started an entire support system and curriculum around Entrepreneurship. If your alma mater doesn’t have a network to join, take to Google and look up things in your city. There are likely pitch competitions to get involved in or even just co-working spaces to meet other founders. Consider that this community could be virtual/ online.
3. Check out contractor/ consultant platforms: Looking for work to be done very near-term and not ready to hire employees? Consider checking out platforms such as Fivr or Catalant, where people do work for hourly rates or on a project basis. This can be a great way to find someone to complete work you need to done without the commitment of a full-time employee and the expense that goes along with it.
4. Consider posting an unpaid internship: If you have work that you need help with, but do not have a lot of cash to pay to have it done, offering an unpaid internship could be a great option. This could be with your own undergrad, but more likely it would be with a local college or university. You can reach out to career resources of the college / major that is appropriate and see if they would perhaps work with you to offer credit to students in their program. There are a lot of programs that will even help pay their students if you can’t in order to help their students get great, real-life experience.
5. Spruce up your social media: I am not typically super active on social media. I’m not silent but tend to consume more than I put out there. It’s a bit of an uncomfortable space for me, so it’s always a challenge for me to share a lot of what I am working on in that way. But LinkedIn, or other platforms too, can be a great place to share what you are working on, post questions you need help with and post needs, such as temporary employees etc. LinkedIn blends your professional network with an opportunity to share in a personal way and it could be the best way to find resources.
In reality, being able to leverage the Harvard community did make my path easier. But there are so many resources across the country that are available now, seeking entrepreneurs to support. Don’t let there be a mental roadblock that you can’t get started without access to an elite network. You can! Let me know of any great resources for founders in the comments section!