Derek Rymers, a graduate of John Carroll University, discusses his journey as a student entrepreneur and how he applied his education to start his business, Nightlyfe.
While balancing school, work, and networking, Derek found himself averaging only four hours of sleep per night as he continued to work hard to achieve his goals. He understood the risks of entrepreneurship prior to starting his business, and described the lifestyle as “not for the faint of heart.” Although Derek had to sacrifice sleep, he found success as an entrepreneur.
As Derek describes, Nightlyfe is a “total business management platform that is data centric in nature and provides small, independent restaurants a means of boosting their capital and market share.” By using both an artistic and scientific mindset, Derek is able to effectively help his customers by creating solutions from following data and understanding what that information means.
When Derek first decided to start his business, he had a minimum viable product (MVP) that received funding and was ready to launch; however, it was never released because a new opportunity arose. Despite never launching his first MVP, Derek explains that there was a lot of opportunity to grow his leadership and networking skills.
Derek learned who to talk to, how to build connections, and which connections benefit him most. While networking, he was able to receive the appropriate amount of funding, build connections with fellow software developers, and learned how to officially start Nightlyfe.
While developing Nightlyfe, Derek kept one main question in mind - “how do I help these mom and pops?” His main goal was to find a solution to help neighborhood restaurants grow and stay in business with new forms of technology.
Derek’s Advice to Future Entrepreneurs
Derek suggests that entrepreneurship is not about reinventing, but rather “taking something that exists and making it a little bit better.” An example of how he implemented this thinking while starting his own business is that he used data to discover who to contact and who was in need of his service, and used John Carroll University’s LaunchNet program in the developmental phase.
While starting your business, it’s important to interview, survey, and research your potential clientele to validate your product and ensure that you’re providing an appropriate solution. However, Derek suggests that following the numbers and being adaptive and flexible is more important.
Derek’s main piece of advice to student entrepreneurs is that “school and grades don’t matter as much as what you learn.” Worry less about your grades and more about your goals and career. He also suggests that all aspiring student entrepreneurs should know their ten-year target, break it down, and try to accomplish that target in six months. To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to continue pushing yourself and overcoming your limitations.
To learn more about Derek and Nightlyfe, check out our Dream It, Do It episode!
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