“College Is the Perfect Time to Start a Business”

March 22, 2017 Rieva Lesonsky

While there are some universal tenets of success, entrepreneurs wouldn’t be entrepreneurs if they didn’t march to the beat of their own inner drummer. Many successful small business owners have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that help them achieve success.

Here some of today’s smartest, highly innovative, most successful business owners share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: Kate Beckman, the CEO and founder of Fresh U, an online publication for college freshmen. In her first year at Syracuse University in fall 2013, Kate created a freshman publication, which she launched nationally in June 2015. It has since grown to 300+ freshman contributors across the country, currently has a media partnership with Teen Vogue, launched an additional national site for first-year students at historically black colleges, and is in the process of establishing satellite publications run by editorial freshman teams on 20+ campuses.

In addition to launching and running Fresh U, Kate interned at Cosmopolitan.com during the summers of 2014 and 2015, and currently is a freelance writer for the publication. 

All this—while still a college student. Kate graduates in May.

You can reach Kate on Twitter @Kate_Beckman.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Kate Beckman: When I was younger, I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I was actually training to be a professional dancer in middle school and part of high school, before I decided that wasn’t for me and I wanted to go into journalism. I had always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t think of it as a career path until my last year of high school. 

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Beckman: I started my own business because I saw a space in media that my company could fill. I had a strong concept that I saw potential in, and I wanted to take it further. College is also a perfect time to start a business because there are so many resources and mentorship opportunities you can take advantage of. So, I started my business because I saw an opportunity, but also because it felt like the right time to start it. 

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Beckman: The closest thing I had to a pivotal moment was deciding that I wanted to take my campus publication to a national level. Before that, it was just one of those, “What if I did this?” thoughts. But halfway through my sophomore year of college, I decided I was going to take Fresh U national. It was a big decision, because I knew that if I could get Fresh U off the ground, it would be something I would work on for the rest of my college career and beyond. Making that decision to actually pursue my business idea really put me on the path I’m on now. 

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Beckman: A professor at my university said something along the lines of, “You have to find something that no one has done, and then do it.” It’s a piece of advice that really resonated with me, and something I always come back to. Regardless of your industry, you have to make your business stand out. You have to do things that other companies aren’t doing or do it in a way they aren’t doing. 

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Beckman: More entrepreneurs should ensure they are frequently checking in with their team members about ways the company can improve. Not everyone is going to come to you with constructive criticism—you have to ask. Ask your teammates for feedback and then really listen to what they have to say. You might find something out that you wouldn’t have realized [otherwise]. 

Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?

Beckman: I think we’re going to see a lot of success from small businesses with niche products that know how to use social media effectively. If you have a unique product and you can create a viral Facebook video for it, or you can develop a huge following on Instagram, you’re going to see more results than [companies using] traditional advertising tactics. Even for businesses with more conventional services, creating posts that will compel someone to tag their friend or family member is going to be increasingly important. 

Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?

Beckman: My favorite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I read this book for the first time when I was in middle school, and I’ve read it multiple times since then. The book has a really strong and intelligent female lead character, and her character was a role model to me when I first read the book. 

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Beckman: “What you have to do is work with the raw material you have, namely you, and never let up.” – Helen Gurley Brown. The late editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan is one of the reasons I became interested in a career in media in the first place. This quote inspires me because it’s a reminder of how much you can do with your strengths and by continuing to work toward your goals. 

 

 

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