Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 1st 2016 Contents I'm studying mechanical
engineering, expecting to
graduate this year, and I have
an interest in doing
something in the automobile
sector. Should I start
working toward being an
entrepreneur now, or should I
continue in my technical field
---Harsh Jethani, India
When you ve got a
great business idea,
there s no time like
the present, no bet-
ter day than today,
and no righter time
than right now. There s no point in waiting
for the perfect time to materialise, because it
But does that mean you should quit your
studies and go into business? Not necessarily.
Sometimes you can do both. Balancing formal
education and entrepreneurship can make for
a terrific learning experience, with the two
working in tandem to great effect.
As you may have read in this column, I quit
school to become an entrepreneur because
the things we were learning weren t relevant
to my passions or the career path I had in
mind. But in your case, it sounds like you re
learning important technical skills that relate
to your interests. You may want to continue
your schooling so that you can use those skills
to bolster your business.
For most people, the biggest barrier to entre-
preneurship isn t a lack of access to resources,
support or mentoring, but not being able to
quit a day job or a course of study in order
to further develop a concept. This can be a
difficult obstacle: When you have bills to pay
and a family to take care of, the idea of focusing
solely on a startup may seem unrealistic.
You don t have to give up your dream. Your
best option might be to become a part-time
entrepreneur. While it s likely that your studies
are time-consuming, so is starting a business.
Some of the world s most successful companies
began as side projects, with their founders
working evenings and weekends to turn their
ideas into reality.
Virgin is a prime example of this. All of our
businesses started while we were working on
something else. For example, years ago, when
our team was running Virgin Records, I saw
a gap in the airline market when my flight
was cancelled and I had to improvise a solution.
We launched operations as a side project: We
started small, with one plane, to see if there
was an opening.
In your case, Harsh, a startup might be good
for your education. Launching your own busi-
ness requires you to become a jack-of-all-
In the early days, you re often the head of
marketing, operations, business development
and technology. When I launched my first
business, I had at least 10 job titles (depending
on who I was talking to). Working across so
many areas enables you to learn quickly, broad-
ening your skill set; something that will
undoubtedly make you a better student.
Keep in mind that school can be a great
place to find a mentor, particularly if you re
learning a trade. Some of your teachers may
be juggling teaching with outside work them-
selves. Tell them about your plans and ask for
The part-time route can also help you limit
the downside. Entrepreneurship is an incredibly
risky vocation, so much so that 8 out of 10
startups fail within the first 18 months. If you
work and study at the same time, you ll do
better in the classroom and in the real world.
We worked hard to grow Virgin Atlantic
into an international carrier. We eventually
had to sell Virgin Records to focus on the air-
line, but only after we had proved that there
was a market for our idea. There was, and we
were ready to take a leap; we were sure that
we had a success on our hands.
On the other hand, if you already have all
the information and skills you need to start
up your company, then go ahead and leave
school! You won t stop learning when you
become an entrepreneur -- I learned more in
the first year of launching Virgin than I ever
did in the classroom.
(Richard Branson is the founder of the
Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin
Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and
Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at
can follow him on Twitter at
twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more
about the Virgin Group: www.virgin.com.)
(Questions from readers will be answered
in future columns. Please send them to
Richard.Branson@nytimes.com. Please include
your name, country, email address and the
name of the website or publication where
you read the column.)
SEPTEMBER 1 • 2016 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
The part-time entrepreneur
If you can't quit your studies or day job
to start a business full-time, try doing it
part-time. Keep these tips in mind:
• Block out some time at night or on
weekends to focus exclusively on your
• If you're in school, look for mentors in
your field who might have some valuable
advice for you.
• When it comes to launching a startup,
there's no such thing as the "perfect time"
to take the plunge. Once you feel that
there's a market for your product and
you've developed it enough, go for it!
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