3 Startup Tips From A College Entrepreneur (Video+Blog)

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Chandler BoltChandler Bolt is a college student, author, and serial entrepreneur who’s started and ran over $320,000 in businesses by age 20. He works with college students teaching them how to run their own business and has received the “Entrepreneur of the Year” award from Young Entrepreneurs Across America. Chandler's latest book is titled "The Productive Person" A how-to guide book filled with productivity hacks & daily schedules for entrepreneurs. Connect with Chandler Bolt on LinkedIn.

From No Business to $100k+ in 7 months: 3 Startup Tips I learned in My Summer Startup

Two years ago I got my first chance to enter the world of entrepreneurship through an internship program that teaches students to run their own business.

I was a freshman in college and only 18 years old but over the next 7 months I ran over $100,000 business. This was an unbelievable time of fast paced growth professionally and personally.

Here are the three biggest lessons that I learned the hard way.


1. Sell Quality, Not Price

This was a big lesson that I learned from my Dad who’s also in business. Ask anyone about my Dad’s business and they’ll tell you: “They’re not the cheapest but they’ll definitely do GREAT work.”

So many people worry (especially when they’re first starting) that they won’t be able to get any work unless they’re the cheapest. This is not true.

By using price to sell jobs, you’re commoditizing yourself. You’re automatically attracted the customers who’s only concern is price. These people rarely care about the level of service you provide and will switch to your competitor as soon as they get a better deal.

DO NOT discount. If people really want what you’re offering, they’ll pay for it.

I was very hesitant to discount on my jobs but eventually gave in because I couldn’t pass up the sales. DUMB MOVE. I discounted on 2 of 45 jobs and these customers caused me the most headaches by far.

Learn from my mistake. Don’t sell on price. Don’t discount.


2. Manage the Lows. They’re What’s Important.

Being an entrepreneur is crazy. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions. One day you’re on top of the world because you just closed your biggest sale ever. The next day you’re at rock bottom because half of your crew quit. Yes…both of these happened to me.

As an entrepreneur, it’s really important to manage these low points. The show must go on. Anyone can work hard when things are going well. It’s during the tough times that real entrepreneurs “don’t make excuses; they just make it happen”.

I watched other interns get off to a blazing start right after training. They would work really hard when their motivation was high.

But where I beat all of them was in my work during the low points. Putting in the extra work on extra tough days made all the difference. This means continuing to work when your sleep deprived, you just lost a big sale, and when you just don’t feel like it any more.

One of the biggest lows that I had during the summer was when half of my crew suddenly quit. That was a bad phone call to get, especially on my one vacation of the summer.

With roughly 2 months left in the summer, my business was in the dumps. I found myself in an entrepreneurial funk that felt impossible to get out of. I was almost ready to throw in the towel.

Know your “WHY”.

Your “why” is the single thing that can pull you out of an entrepreneurial slump. For me, my “WHY” was being #1 in the country and “Entrepreneur of the Year”.

It was remembering my “WHY” that motivated me to take daily action and slowly turn my business around.


3. Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly.

People are the most important part of your business. Your business can only grow as fast as you can hire great people. And…as fast as you can get rid of the bad one’s.

Having half of my crew quit in the middle of the summer turned out to be one of the best things that happened to me. I learned just how awesome business could be when you have good people.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I had a couple of “bad apples” on my crew. What started with one “bad apple” became two…and then three. Eventually it crushed team morale and killed productivity.

When I hired a new crew, all of that changed. Team morale was at an all time high and we were finishing jobs faster and cleaner than ever. Customer reviews were amazing.

The lesson learned here: spend extra time hiring employees. It’ll save you so much time and frustration in the months to come.

More importantly, if you have any doubt about keeping an employee around, FIRE THEM IMMEDIATELY. It’s easy to give them the benefit of the doubt and wait around on this. Don’t do it! Go with your gut; it’s usually right.

What are some tough lessons that you’ve learned the hard way in your startup? I’d love to hear some of your war stories. Let me know in the comments below!