Starting your own business after university; the highs and lows – Nick Hilton, Co-founder & CEO of SnapStudies

Nick (right) and his business partner Jack (left) preparing to pitch to investors

I became co-founder of a start-up business in June 2013 at the end of my second year of university. I had dreamed of becoming a business owner all my life, but I could never have imagined what I’d be putting myself through when actually running a business. By sharing my experience, I hope to give you some idea of what you could expect if you decide to take a leap and start a business yourself.

Starting my Business – The Highs

Businesses are like books: almost all of them have a sticker on them advertising how many awards they’ve won to show they’re the best at what they do. One of the highlights for me was being runner-up for Cheshire’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015, something I’m determined to win next year. Getting a business off the ground is really hard work, but receiving that level of recognition really gave me the motivation I needed to keep up the momentum with getting the business onto a solid footing.

There aren’t many career paths that will reward you in the same way as starting your own business. When you succeed in a project you’ve put all your effort into, then the sense of fulfilment is like nothing else.

The Lows

Whilst the highs are glorious (and make you feel unstoppable from time to time) the nature of doing something so ambitious can get to you. In my experience, no matter how confident you are, when things start to get really difficult or you experience failure, you’re going to come out of it shaken. I’d say to anyone thinking of starting a business during or straight after university that you’ll find it one of the most testing experiences of their life. In fact this is true for any time of life!

I’ve also found that I’ve needed to develop strategies to manage the self-doubt which sometimes creeps in when I’m faced with a challenge. I’m not a naturally confident person. For me, adopting a life of pushing yourself on a daily basis which comes with running your own business means doubting your own abilities on a regular basis. I dread public speaking and find pitching to investors to be exhilarating but terrifying. However, I’ve managed to successfully pitch for finance and office space, I’ve spoken in front of an audience of business leaders in Moscow at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, and one day I’d like to become an MP. My personal strategy is to spot any self-doubts and challenge them. I’ve found that once I change my mindset to ‘I am capable of doing it and nothing is going to stop me,’ I’ve been able to smash my previous expectations.

My advice is that if you aren’t the most confident person then there are many parts of this endeavour which will be particularly testing. However, if you acknowledge the parts you find difficult as your weakness and push through them, in the end you will be all the better for it. You might never be the most confident person, but through your accomplishments and by being in situations which challenge you in different ways on a daily basis, you will be able to achieve what might seem impossible right now.

Is it worth it?

In hindsight, I’d say that if you decide to start your own business you need to be honest with yourself: is this the right step for me? Is this the right time? (It never is) What areas of running a business will I find particularly difficult? However, if you put your heart into what you’re doing and give it the effort it deserves then you will never regret taking this path.

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