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Young Texas entrepreneurs go their own way

Have degree, will launch. Increasingly, college graduates from Texas universities are saying just that. Instead of relying on a traditional corporate job - or even applying for one - Texas graduates are launching their own businesses. Many of these businesses are web-based, which, thanks to technology and a smaller capital requirement, means a lower barrier to entry.

These young Texas entrepreneurs often get help from their universities.

Many colleges, the Dallas Morning News reports, help their students with startup capital and entrepreneurial classes to begin a business while still in school. Southern Methodist, Baylor and the University of Texas at Dallas have programs that provide seed money to help students turn their ideas into working, growing businesses. Baylor University's Accelerated Ventures program, for example, gives students $5,000 with which to create a business over two semesters.

Having a great idea, of course, is only part of the puzzle facing young entrepreneurs in Texas as they work to turn those plans into reality.

Worrying about sometimes crushing college debt is one barrier young entrepreneurs face when trying to start their business. With degrees at some Texas schools costing upwards of six figures, it can be daunting starting a business while staring down a huge college debt. There is a silver lining, though, says a Baylor University instructor.

David Grubbs, who teaches a startup course at Baylor, doesn't discount students' college debt, but he points out that most recent college graduates don't have mortgages or car payments to worry about. And many of these Texas entrepreneurs create services and products for a potentially huge online audience, meaning they can operate from any location.

Other issues facing young Texas entrepreneurs are hiring a great workforce; establishing credibility; keeping up with technology; managing cash flow; balancing sales and marketing; standing out from the crowd; and perhaps most important, wooing investors to get funding.

Texas A&M graduate Kaleb Bryan and two partners launched Spotagory, a location-based mobile photo-sharing app, in March. Bryan, 24, began developing Spotagory while still in school, and now it has more than 5,000 users, he said. With the Dallas tech community supporting his vision, Bryan said he was able to attract investors and raise $200,000 before he launched the app.

Bryan and his partners work from what he calls a "startup house" in Coppell, keeping their overhead low compared to a brick-and-mortar business such as a restaurant.

Not having a huge workspace also works for Shama Kabani, 25, the founder of Marketing Zen, a digital marketing firm in Dallas. If she tired this in the 1980s, she told The New York Times, she'd have to have a corner office, but today all she needs is a computer, patience and willingness. Kabani hired all of her 24 employees online - she hasn't actually met any of them, she says - including 15 who are in the Philippines.

That flexibility is a major trait of young entrepreneurs in Texas and all across the globe. And instead of their youth working against them, it can be an asset when attracting business. Kabani says she tried to hide her age when she first started Marketing Zen until one of her clients told her he hired her because she was in her early 20s. He wanted someone, Kabani said, who spoke digital as a first language.

The barriers to creating a company and the challenges to making it a going concern are many. But in Dallas and throughout Texas, young entrepreneurs are blazing their own trail on the path to success.

If you'd like to discuss protecting your Texas small business or other issues, contact our office.

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