OPINION: The time to start something is now | Opinion

Raleigh is a thriving city for entrepreneurs, and we don’t have to miss out on the fun either. Take a walk downtown and you’ll pass many up-and-coming restaurants, creative companies, and spaces like the Loading Dock and HQ Raleigh for budding entrepreneurs to work and improve upon their ideas.

The fast-moving pace in this world can be intimidating, but if you are willing to get to work, throw your shoulders back and hold your head up high, you too can appreciate the risk and thrill of making your idea into a successful startup.

According to statistics from our university, NC State startups have a $1.2 billion annual economic impact in North Carolina, and I would expect that number to grow based on the entrepreneurship frenzy that is taking over the area.

I recently participated in the Minute to Pitch It competition at Entrepalooza, NC State’s entrepreneurship festival on Sept. 7, and explored a plethora of startups spaced out around the lawn of the event. It was exciting to connect to other students working to develop their ideas for a company, some already well on their way to success.

From talking to each of them, the main piece of advice I took away was to share your idea with friends and potential customers to continuously receive feedback. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for help from adults in the industry who have already done this and professors — I have a weekly meeting with my mentor in the College of Textiles.  

Our youth is actually our advantage. People know we don’t have a lot of money or experience, and they’re willing to help — whether that means advice over a cup of coffee or looking at your business model and offering revisions or takeaways. Start researching initiatives, not only at NC State, but in the greater Raleigh community too, like Innovate Raleigh, a nonprofit that acts as a catalyst for entrepreneurship in the Triangle.

I’m not saying it’s a walk in the park. It’s really tough when you start considering how much everything costs. The best design firms in Raleigh will give you estimates that will blow your socks off. There are, however, several avenues you can explore for obtaining the money you need to start up, such as asking for a loan from friends or family, starting a crowdfunding platform, offering a cash profit sharing plan, participating in entrepreneurship competitions and spending money on a good attorney for accurate, necessary legal advice. An important rule for a startup, though, is to try to spend the least amount of money possible. 

The good news? You’re on a campus with thousands of students all wanting to work on their resume, get in on a good idea and improve their skills before they’re in the workforce.

People may tell you to wait, and it’s true that you don’t have to do everything before you turn 25, but you are lucky enough to be in this incredibly fast moving entrepreneurship space, so I’m telling you — don’t wait.

The time to start something is now.

That goes for everyone. What I mean by that is that when I waded into a sea of male entrepreneurs at Entrepalooza, I felt a little intimidated and maybe even out of my league. There were a few other women who pitched (and they did an awesome job) which was heartening, but still, there exists a large gap — a serious understatement — in the startup world.

According to a 2016 article in Harvard Business Review, “In venture capital-financed, high-growth technology startups, only 9% of entrepreneurs are women.”

Yet again my search proved disappointing when I found, in the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, that men are nearly twice as likely as women to launch a new business.  

That can change, and NC State is the best place for that change to happen. 

Not only do we boast resources such as the Entrepreneurship Initiative, the Garage, Albright Entrepreneurs Village, Lulu eGames, Entrepalooza, cutting-edge research, a team of world-renowned faculty, facilities like The Nonwovens Institute — the list goes on and on, but we are also located in Raleigh which is killing the game.

According to Wake County Economic Development, Raleigh is currently home to more than 500 startup companies. In the past three years, Raleigh startups have raised a combined total of over $300 million in Angel and Venture Capital Investment; and over the past five years, startups have generated economic activity of over $1.1 billion from IPOs and over $9.2 billion in acquisitions.

Positive entrepreneurship hubs, nonprofits and corporations are looking to support all kinds of entrepreneurs, including students and women. One of my favorites, iFundWomen Raleigh-Durham, exists as a crowdfunding platform for female entrepreneurs in the area.

With the leading innovation that happens on our campus, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t all be jumping into the startup world. Don’t wait for someone else’s next big idea; make your vision a reality.

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