ANTrepreneur Alums: Business Workers vs Business Owners

Graduating college is exciting, but thinking about your next move in the chapter of your life can be a bit stressful. We asked a few UCI #ANTrepreneurs for valuable information on what their experience was like deciding to continue working on their startup vs. choosing to work for somebody else once graduating college. Here’s what they had to say.

ANTrepreneur #1: Alton Chislom, co-founder of Versafit

Alton graduated from UC Irvine with a Masters in Business Administration and Information Technology. His company, Versafit, a central hub to discover and connect through on-demand fitness engagements, has been in business since 2015.

Are you glad you made this choice after college to work on your startup instead of working for someone else?

I am extremely happy I made this choice after grad school. I always knew I would one day start my own company. I just didn’t know it would be this soon. It’s a ton of hard work and sleepless nights, but the lessons learned are invaluable.

Is there anything you would have done different?

Although I have no regrets about taking the risk, there are a few things I would have done differently. First, I would have sought out help and guidance sooner. Maybe it was youthful arrogance thinking we could do it on our own. Despite the early success, we realized without proper guidance and help we could only get so far. I also would be much more diligent in how I spent my money. There were a lot of things I spent money on that I absolutely did not need. I can count on 1 hand how many things I spent money on that actually moved the needle.

Do you have any advice for graduating students?

Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams and goals. You are at an age where you are not responsible for much outside of yourself. Make the jump! Surround yourself with smart and positive people who have been where you have before and made it out. There will be failures and there will be setbacks, but don’t be too arrogant that you make the same mistakes someone else has who would have happily given you advice. Be an active communicator and create a mutually beneficial network.

ANTrepreneur #2: Olaoluwa Adesanya, co-founder of Airnotes

Ola is a graduating senior who will intern at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, this summer.

Are you glad you made this choice of working for somebody like Microsoft after college?

Yes, working with a company like Microsoft has a lot of advantages, starting with its successful record. Microsoft has been in business for about 42 years and has paved the way for a lot of technologies we use today, if you look close enough you will probably see one of their products around or currently might be using one; in fact it is almost impossible to discuss the history of computers without mentioning Microsoft. As an entrepreneur who plans to be active in the tech space I feel there is a lot to learn from an organization with such level of success.

Is there anything you would have done different with your decision?

No, I decided to enjoy the best of both worlds and by that I mean working for Microsoft while also growing my startup. Abandoning AirNotes is almost impossible especially with the amount of progress and breakthroughs we have made. Currently AirNotes is patent pending on an IP we believe would change human computer interaction forever, in fact not bringing our technology to life feels like depriving the world from an amazing experience. It is definitely going to be challenging working for both great companies but challenges create opportunities and room for growth.

Do you have any advice for graduating students?

The idea is not bigger than you. Airnotes started as a sketch on a piece of paper because at the time that was all I knew. I didn’t understand circuit designs or coding to bring the idea to life but each day I took the next possible step within my reach, from a sketch to coding classes and from that to youtube videos of circuit designs and finally to people who knew how to do both better than myself. Don’t think small dream big, dreams don’t fit our reality or our current state, they are not supposed to seem possible or easy, but with each passing day take the next possible step within your reach to make that dream a reality.

ANTrepreneur #3

Last, but not least, our third ANTrepreneur owned a business while attending UC Irvine and graduated last year with a major from the School of Physical Sciences. He preferred to not disclose his name, and is currently working in another firm.

Are you glad you made this choice after college to work for someone else instead of working on your startup?

I would preface that I did not voluntarily decide to end working on my startup, but a series events had led me to be employed in industry in a corporate environment. Then again, I would say I don’t think anyone voluntarily quits working on their own project, rather that it becomes unfeasible to continue working on a dying ship.

Working for someone has its pros however. There is stability in your paycheck and various benefits such as health care and various retirement fund programs. You may work for a well- established company with a great reputation that adds to your resume and builds more credibility then a startup that experienced minor success but no one has ever heard of. And there is also the benefit of free food from the company every once in a while.

Startups are empowering and liberating because you aren’t a cog in the machine. You are the machine. Your company is you and your efforts directly affect the outcome of your company. In other words, excuse the cliché, you reap what you sow. This ultimately leads to larger demands however, which is why starting your company is intimidating to some individuals. The truth is, is that startups are a window of opportunity for an individual to maximize their potential. Startups are the best learning environment because they require one to learn, but more importantly require them to apply; something that a college education may not do.

Do you have any advice for graduating students?

Focus on the skills that you are learning at the university or at the job you are doing. Are the skills that you are practicing applicable to the position you want to be in down the road? If you are relying on the title of a position or the prestige of a degree instead of the skills that comprise that position, you’re looking at it through the wrong lens. Don’t assume that your degree alone is going to get you anywhere; it’s really not.

So with that in mind, through your degree, through your current internship or job, or through your startup, what are the skills that you have acquired or you are currently learning that are going to propel you to where you want to be in the next 5 years?

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