How to Balance Life and Ambitions as a Student Entrepreneur

 A person on a bicycle, an ASU logo and green trees in the background

Entrepreneurship Catalyst Lance Lim is in his second year of the Master of Global Management degree program, offered by the Thunderbird School of Global Management. As a student, Lance knows that balancing life and ambition can be a challenge. He has found inspiration by talking with his classmates about how they juggle their entrepreneurial pursuits with graduate classes, work and active social lives.  

This blog features highlights from two conversations with Thunderbird Graduate students, which Lance conducted earlier this year. Learn more about their goals, a typical day and their practical suggestions of how to find balance as a student entrepreneur. 

Mijail Z.

A person in a suit standing in front of the Thunderbird School for Global Management building at ASU

Mijail, known as Miki, recently completed his degree at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Originally from Argentina, Miki studied Global Management with a concentration in Global Business. Before arriving at Thunderbird, he had a background in Chemical Engineering.  He owns a circular economy company called  Greenloop, which is the second company he has owned. Greenloop focuses on recycling plastic, with the plan to start in Argentina and come later to Phoenix. 

Miki is very focused on solving the problem of plastic pollution. As he explains it, this company is about “… more than just recycling materials. It is about community engagement, by partnerships with recycling associations and trade schools aims to help people believe to work and study and use this company to thrive in life, inspiring my community in my home country.”  Miki recently won a pitch competition at the Venture Cafe, a fun accomplishment for him and Greenloop! 

A Typical Day for Miki, in his own words:

It focused on dealing with multiple focuses/paths at the same time. All aspects of my company are all on me, so I have to figure out the marketing, funding, capital structure, solving technological challenges, inventory transportation in my country and supply chain. I have to be comfortable with multiple channels of communication open at the same time. From talking to distributors from China to setting up meetings with my hired community manager (part-time) and website developers, there is no typical day for me. It is always different and all my different communication channels and priorities intersect and overlap in different ways. Especially since Argentina is four hours ahead of me, and I have meetings with my lawyer and community manager. On top of that, I still have classes to attend, which I have to do good in.

A Few Practical Tips:

  • Find people who can do things better than you. Trusting others to help you get your jobs done, and paying them to do so, is important.
  • Connect with ASU professors.  Tell your favorite instructors what you are working on and you might benefit from their insight. Miki has gained insight from his professors that has helped his business.For Miki, professors have shared their expertise on how to find trustworthy sources in other countries to help with my supply chain.
  • Be steady. Not everything happens when you need it or would like it to happen. A business is a lot to manage, and it often doesn’t move as quickly as you would want.  Being focused and steady helps things get done at the best pace.
  • Dedicate time for yourself. This helps with avoiding burnout. There is real stress in managing a business. Exercising, meditation and socializing with friends are a few important ways Miki does this. 

A Key Lesson Learned:

“You have to learn to balance your life. You have to learn to keep things steady to check in on your business and yourself. I have learned that growth has to be measured as much in your rest as it is in your growth. You cannot see your progress if you are working all the time. You see it in your rest when you can reflect. You must have a sustainable workload. There is a difference between doing a lot and doing sustainable work.” 

Sandeep S. 

A person poses for a photo in front of a large white freight vehicle.

Sandeep is pursuing a Master of Global Management degree, focusing on Global Business. The global focus of the degree is important to Sandeep, who is from the United States with family from the Punjab region of India. Sandeep is a business owner and started his company right after graduating from high school. As the owner of Deep’s Transportation, Sandeep has continued his education while also managing the company he founded. 

Deep’s Transportation is a limited liability company–commonly referred to as an LLC–based in California. It operates throughout the United States and provides transportation services for a variety of companies and products. From food to paper, Sandeep’s company has offered transportation solutions for a variety of goods and products.  

A Typical Day for Sandeep, in his own words:

If I am the one driving the delivery, I usually have a delivery order come in at 5 a.m. I need to wake up between 4 and 4:30 a.m., takes a minute to unload all the inventory, and by 8 or 9 a.m. I pick up the next load and repeat the cycle until I finish the load order. After I finish loading the truck, I drive out for a few hours to its destination. This could be within California or interstate.  

When not on the truck, there is constant paperwork and invoices. Weekly payroll for employees and insurance is paid. I monitor accounts receivable and ensure that customers pay me and my company. [I also] stay on top of truck maintenance and overall company assets. 

A Few Practical Tips:

  • Be intentional with your schedule. During his undergrad, Sandeep stacked classes on specific days to allow for focused time on campus devoted to school work. For the rest of the week, he prioritized business operations.  
  • There are multiple ways to build demand for your services. Sandeep became a subcontractor for another company to get more opportunities. This can be a helpful way to have consistent business without always having to identify the direct customer. 
  • Understand there may be some trade-offs. For Sandeep, he’s more focused on his school work right now, and that can mean less profit for his company. Knowing this is temporary is helpful. Sandeep believes this will be “worth it in the long run to better get connections and find more efficient ways to improve operations.”  Investing in his education is an investment in the future success of his business.  
  • The struggle is real. Work-life balance can be hard. Relationships can be challenging, especially if you are not giving time and attention to those social connections.  Acknowledging that there is limited time helps with identifying priorities. For Sandeep, feeling homesick is part of his current experience. 

A Key Lesson Learned:

Being an entrepreneur doesn’t have to be a solo experience. By engaging others, you have the capacity to do more and achieve multiple goals. “I have hired employees to cover some responsibilities to lighten the load. Specifically, I hired an office worker to handle paperwork so I can free up time in my schedule for school and family life.”  

Learn From Your Community

As an ASU student, you are part of a large community of learners striving to achieve their goals.  For Lance, having connections to people like Miki and Sandeep is helpful to understand that the journey of a student entrepreneur is both challenging and rewarding. While they each have a unique experience, both provided practical advice and modeled dedication to their entrepreneurial goal.  

If you’re inspired to build new connections and pursue your own entrepreneurial goals, consider talking with your classmates and applying for the Venture Devils program. The Venture Devils program supports many student entrepreneurs—as well as faculty and community members while they work on developing their ideas. Venture Devils empowers the entrepreneurial success of founders by connecting them with Venture Mentors who provide personalized support. Accepted ventures also receive direct access to ASU seed funding opportunities, training and development offerings and spaces for coworking and collaboration.

Lance Lim

Student, ASU

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