There are so many entrepreneurs in the world and a handful of them started their businesses when they were attending college or high school. While some become a big time success such as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg there are those small businesses that make a difference in their own communities. The question is how did they do it? How were they able to open up and sustain a business while attending school?
To answer these questions, I set out to talk to those entrepreneurs that were able to make their dream of owning a business a reality while pursuing an education. My first interview is with Timothy Gaspar of Gaspar Insurance Services, Inc., in Woodland Hills.
Q: Tell me a bit about yourself.
A: I live in Woodland Hills, am married and I have a 1 year old son. I’m 30, went to El Camino for High School and CSUN for College, I graduated with a degree in Finance. I owned a small business when I graduated high school so I didn’t originally to go College, but when I met my wife when I was 21 she made me go or she said she wouldn’t marry me. Plus, by that point I had a few good “lumps” from business so I knew I better have a solid foundation.
Q: Tell me about your business.
A: I own an insurance agency. We provide personal insurance policies to individuals and families including earthquake, homeowners, auto, umbrella etc. We also provide insurance for businesses including general liability, workers compensation, professional liability, etc. I currently have 20 people and 2 offices.
Q: Why did you decide to open up your business?
A: I love running a business, it’s my passion. Some part of me enjoys the fact that it’s incredibly challenging every single day (including weekends).
Q: How did you balance your education and your business ventures?
A: I went to school at night via the PACE program. I like being busy, it motivates me. When I’m not busy I noticed I get incredibly lazy. You just find ways to get everything done
Q: What steps did you need to take to open up you business?
A: I did as much planning and work as I could before I left my old firm. I didn’t pull the trigger on stepping out on my own until all my ducks were in a row. Once you take that leap there is no going back so you don’t want to find out you forgot to submit some form to the state that is going to delay you another week.
Q: How did you get your business funded?
A: A big fat loan to start because I had to buy my book of clients from my old agency. But generally I’m not a fan of using debt to expand, I think it usually leads to trouble. I think when expanding your business you should rely on current cash flow, as old school as that seems.
Q: Was your family supportive of your decision to open up your business right out of high school?
A: Not really, but that’s only because they worried. They would have preferred I went directly into college full-time, that just wasn’t me at the time. My spouse however was very supportive when I left my old insurance firm 5 years ago.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle you faced being a student and a business owner?
A: Just managing time. You just take it day by day, you string enough days together you a get a week, then a month, then you’re out of school.
Q: What are the biggest lessons you learned being a student and an entrepreneur?
A: Don’t borrow money if it’s not absolutely necessary. Treat your people exceedingly well, better than the next guy (that includes paying more).
Q: How is your business doing since graduating from college?
A: We have worked really really hard to keep expanding and thankfully we are doing that.
Q: Did you have an mentors to help you start your business? If so, did he/she offer valuable advice?
A: Yes. My Stepdad taught me the value of emotional intelligence in how you treat people, my Dad is just a hustler, pure and simple. I just wanted to work as hard as he did.
Q: Did your education make it easier for you to start your business?
A: Yes, indirectly. Some of my clients and current relationships are people I met in school.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to a college student who wants to open their own business?
A: Start small but dream big.
A special thanks to Timothy Gaspar for allowing me to interview him.
Are you an entrepreneur who started your own business in school? Let me know. I would love to write about your success story.