Alec Johnson, OCB Entrepreneurship professor, center, shakes hands with students at the Fowler Business Concept Challenge on November 15, 2013, at the auditorium in Schulze Hall on the Minneapolis campus. Student Dennis Gisch (Entrepreneurship) immediate left of Johnson, is also pictured. The Fowler Challenge invites UST students to develop business concepts. Winners of the annual event receive University of St. Thomas scholarships.

Outside Consultant: What Are Some Considerations When Starting a Business as a Younger Person?  

This “Outside Consultant” column by Alec Johnson, a faculty member in the Entrepreneurship Department at Opus College of Business, ran in the Star Tribune on Feb. 7, 2022.

Young people need to pick up the mitt and get in the game. The cost of failure when you’re young and when you’re in college can be quite a bit lower than at other points in your life.  

There is a belief in our society that you have to work and need to have experience first to then tackle the career of entrepreneurship. That’s just not true. There are a lot of advantages to starting young.  

Anecdotally, we see that students who end up starting businesses are quite frequently shaped by their parents’ careers. Likewise, if parents go and work in a Fortune 500 in town, students are more apt to follow that path.  

I grew up in a household of entrepreneurs. I was heavily influenced in a career path that way. It is important to be attached to a “why” when it comes to pursuing a particular business endeavor.  

We talk about passion so much in the entrepreneurship field. People get confused that passion or purpose must be some extremely large, lofty, societal goal and it really doesn’t. It can be something smaller like improving the lives of parent-coaching roles that people take on.  

Nobody knows the right time to let go of a business venture, though. I’ve watched so many of our St. Thomas alumni go through this process. It looks different to every business.  

Knowing it is the right time because of what your competitors are doing, and their acquisition process is a very cautionary tale. At that stage, the best product isn't the one that’s necessarily going to win in the market. That repeats itself over and over. Recognizing that moment and surrounding yourself with people who recognize that moment with you is key.  

Put yourself in a position to have a low-cost failure. This is important for anyone planning their entrepreneurial journey. 

Know your purpose. When my tech start-up failed, we did not have the quality or strength of purpose necessary. This was one of the major factors that led to our failure.  

Alec Johnson is an associate professor in the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.