Studies and Start-up: Tips and Tricks

Sybe Westerhof

Sybe Westerhof

Sybe is a pre-master student of business administration and management at the University of Twente. He is also an ambassador at DSIF, where he works on marketing projects.

We know that launching a start-up can be very challenging, and for some combining start-up with studies seems almost impossible. But is it? In fact, some of the most successful start-ups, such as Facebook, WordPress and Dropbox were all created by students. We also wanted to break this stereotype by interviewing the founder of Hops & Grains, Yorick Bosch. As he and his team had a first-hand experience of what it is like to maintain good grades at the university and at the same time build a start-up. By combining his input with other useful tips & tricks, we prepared some insights on how to successfully launch a start-up as a student.

Shortly about Hops & Grains

Hops & Grains was founded in 2017 by the University of Twente (UT) students with the mission that people should have influence over the beer that they drink. This start-up allows people to create their personalised beer in a few simple steps by using an online platform.

At the beginning of the start-up, the beer was being brewed at the student apartment of Yorick. In that period, the massive expectations were hard to fulfil. However, a competent team in which everyone’s voice is heard, in combination with the necessary funding eventually led to a successful start-up launch.

In 2017 the start-up won the UT challenge, in the innovation category and the audience prize. In the same year, the start-up won the funding NEMO award. Moreover, in 2019 Hops & Grains won another challenge, the 2nd place in the EBF pitching challenge.

1. Know Your Priorities

Maintaining the necessary motivation to work on your start-up is one thing, but how do you actually combine it with your studies and your social life? To be able to succeed in most things, you have to dedicate your time and eventually spend less time for activities that are less relevant to your success in studies and start-up. Dropping activities that you like to do is not always fun, but if you really want to succeed with both your start-up while also passing all your exams, this will be a necessary step.

As for Yorick, he decided to quit his part-time job at the Pre-University programme of the UT to focus more on developing Hops & Grains. He mentioned that the combination of studying, entrepreneurship and working part-time was too much. It was a decision that Yorick did not regret, even though he enjoyed his part-time job. But he even more enjoyed weekends at the brewery, where the best achievement was his start-up’s products.

Even though working on a start-up requires many hours of work, it does not mean that your study progress will be neglected because of it. Plan your time, there are many free tools out there that might help, for example Google calendar. Also, make a list of priorities, a free and user-friendly program for that is Trello. This allows you to still have enough focus on the start-up, while at the same time accomplishing your study goals.

2. Adapt Your Studies to Your Start-up

Information learned at university might not be the most relevant for your start-up, though it depends on how you look at it. In your chosen educational institution, you are surrounded by professors who have a huge baggage of knowledge. Come forward, ask for assistance, for feedback, you will be surprised by their willingness to help. Also, customise your minor, choose subjects that are of relevance for your start-up success, for example, marketing, business and finance.

Yorick went one step further and adjusted the topic of his thesis to its start-up. The goal of Yorick’s thesis was to test if the business model of Hops & Grains could lead to profits. This not only helped him out with research and his business plan, but also during that period, he learned plenty of new lessons about entrepreneurship and feasibility of his idea.

3. Motivation

This might seem obvious, but not everyone knows how to maintain it. For a successful start-up, motivation is the number one key to overcome all the obstacles. Here is a tip from Yorick, he uses the Pomodoro technique to stay focused during his work.

It works as follows: first, you identify the tasks that you are going to work on and then you start working on them for 25 minutes straight. After this, you take a break of five minutes. This cycle is repeated four times, and after the fourth time, you can take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. After this break, the entire process starts again and can be repeated throughout the whole day. Pretty easy, right?

The advantage of this technique is that you allow your mind to refresh often enough that you will keep feeling focused. According to Yorick, holding yourself accountable also helps to maintain motivation. So planning what tasks you will be working on throughout the day and then making sure to take the responsibility to execute them by using the Pomodoro technique might help you a lot to keep motivated throughout the process of launching your start-up.

4. Teamwork

It is naive to think that you can realise your dreams of creating a successful start-up all by yourself. Having a great idea and a great plan will help you tremendously, but you will surely need others help and support in the process. One famous quote related to this comes from Oliver Wendell Holmes:

 “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.”

Sharing your idea with others, asking for feedback and combining the strengths of multiple people can help you to succeed.

Teamwork was also an essential aspect for Hops & Grains. Yorick mentioned in the interview that you cannot get anywhere without having all the competencies that you need in your team. Yorick developed the idea of Hops & Grains and was the one with the knowledge about brewing beer, but he did not have any idea on for example, how to build a website.

So, reducing the workload of your personal studies can easily be done when every member of the start-up team is assigned tasks at which they can excel. By doing this, the start-up will develop rapidly while you still have time to focus on other important things in your life.

5. Transforming Your Idea Into Something Tangible

So, what does transforming your idea into something tangible have to do with the combination of studying and developing a start-up? Probably a lot more than you would think at first glance. It is crucial to keep having a high amount of inspiration and drive to keep going. And when you can physically see the progress that is being made, it will cost a lot less effort to maintain the enthusiasm that you had at the starting phase.

There are a few basic ways you can achieve this. First of all, it can be beneficial to develop a strategy. This allows you to see clearly how the initial idea can be developed into the physical end product or service. Setting deadlines with each phase of the development will also help you to stay on track. It may not be easy, but don’t forget: if there is no struggle, there is no progress.

3 Things that Influenced Yorick in Professional Pursuit

People: Jacques Troch – the former CEO of Grolsch. He is one of the biggest supporters of Hops & Grains and a key motivator. As Yorick said: “He’s like an honorary professor here”.

Movie: The Founder – it is about the foundation of MacDonald’s. How the founders were pushed out from the company by a marketing manager. As Yorick mentioned, “It does teach you that you should be careful of who you make deals with and make contracts with”.

Movie Character: Willy Wonka – a character from the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory“. This character inspired Yorick “because he has a crazy factory for kids with candy and what I want to have is a crazy factory for adults with beers”.

DSIF Can Help You to Develop Your Start-up

We hope that these tips & tricks to combine your studies with developing your start-up have been useful. Start-ups like Hops & Grains have shown that it is possible to turn an interesting concept into a physical product. This does require motivation, dedication and teamwork. A lot of start-ups also have issues with obtaining enough capital to get started. This is where DSIF can help. Do you have a great business idea, and are you in need of funding? Contact us and hopefully, you can get closer to realising your entrepreneurial dreams!

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