Sunday, December 23, 2007

Studentbeans.Com Success Story

I was recently at a school in North London delivering a young enterprise session to a group of 15-year-olds when I asked what they were going to do once they finished their GCSEs, on chorus they responded to get A2s, to go to university, to get a degree and then to get a job.

It was much to their surprise that I was standing in front of them at the age of 24 as a director and co-founder of my own business, the leading student offers website. It was refreshing to see their reaction and inquisitiveness to what it meant and how it was possible!

While I was doing my degree in Birmingham, (something not typically associated with many entrepreneurs), with so much time on my hands I saw an opportunity to get involved and make the most of time outside of my studies.

Over the three years during my course I became involved in AIESEC, the world’s largest student run organisation that helps people realise their potential. Through the organisation I went to conferences with students from across the world and went on sponsored work placements to the Philippines and Colombia in the first and second summer respectively.

At the end of my first year I was on the summer ball committee responsible for securing sponsorship for the event and fundraising. Over months of hard work I ended up getting over 30 brands involved in the event ranging from STA Travel to Starbucks.

In my second year of university I was a brand manager for The Yell Group – responsible for promoting their 118 number. This gave me a fantastic insight to how large businesses work and the importance of a brand and its values.

When it came to graduating, while many people were showering me with advice to get some experience behind me, as my business was related to the student market I thought, what better time to start? My biggest fear was leaving university and becoming cocooned by the normalities of daily life and not being able to have an impact.

Work experience and working for other people all have their place but to really learn and understand what it means to run a business, no one can do it for you, it is up to you to set the ball in motion. Once you start it is addictive, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What happens to so many people with ideas is that they never take that step, as they are afraid of failure. Some of my peer group are working in jobs they always thought they wanted but when reality hit, and they realised they’re just a cog in a wheel, it has been really disappointing for many of them. Remember, life isn’t a rehearsal, if not now then when? The most important question to ask yourself is what is the worst thing that can happen?

Richard Branson said: “Three months of running a business or trying to set up a business and you will learn, I suspect, as much as you can learn in three years at a business school."

While Branson didn’t go to a business school, I agree with him that you learn more by running a business in three months. University however was for me exploring what I was interested in, meeting some amazing people, discovering what I wanted to do and learning along the way.

James Eder is the director and co-founder of

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