How to start a business in college
When Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, was a student at Yale, he wrote a term paper that traced his future path to success. The paper explained the future of the shipping industry, which Smith predicted would be heavily influenced by technological progress. The professor didn’t like the term paper that much. However, Smith’s big idea led to an incredibly successful business. Although he didn’t actually start this business while in college, it’s still a great example of how students can have grand ideas, worthy of attention.
Let’s take another example. Let’s say you’re great in the kitchen and you can cook awesome meals with basic, cheap ingredients. Here is a business idea for you: get an old van; turn it into a mobile kitchen; make pita breads with different fillings; and sell them around campus. Of course, you’ll need some kind of license for that, but it’s an idea and you could take it somewhere. All it takes is an idea.
If you’re having doubts, follow the steps below, which will teach you how to start a business in college.
- Brainstorm for ideas
What would you like to do? Do you have any talents? Think of something really unique. A brainstorming session might be a fun experience, but it can also be torturing if you can’t think of anything that works. Whatever is the case, you have to go through it. Take a piece of paper and write down all ideas that come to mind. You may think of starting a blog or website, selling products on Amazon, recording videos for YouTube, or starting an actual business that’s not available in your area.
If you don’t know where to start, you can expand upon a hobby. If, for example, you love photography, you can start your own studio or work as a freelance photographer. If you love travelling, you can start your own travel agency and take students on field trips. With time, you’ll take that idea further and you’ll reach new heights.
Once you have your list, think about the best ideas. Write down their pros and cons, and choose only one of them. Starting a few businesses at once is a huge risk because they will take all your energy and budget, without producing maximum results.
- Write a business plan
You absolutely need to draft a detailed business plan that includes: the activities of your business; predictions about the number of customers you’ll attract; the income you intend to make; and the necessary expenses and investments you expect to incur. This plan will guide you in the right direction, and it will give structure to your idea. Think about everything that you will need to start this business. For instance, do you need to invest in licenses, equipment, or website development?
- Prepare the budget
This is the hardest part. There are businesses you can start for free, such as a blog, website, or tutoring service. However, most ideas do require some kind of initial investment. Don’t worry; the initial investment is usually minimal. You can ask your parents to lend you some money; you can contact business angels if you have a really special idea; or you can work part-time until you save enough money to get you going.
- Take the right college courses
This is important: you can’t forget about your college education just because you want to start a business. Forget about all those examples of successful businessmen without a college education; they are the exceptions, not the rule. If you want real success, you need to understand the business environment inside out.
Take the right courses at your college. Business planning, marketing, management, leadership, etc – all of these issues are important when you want to be your own boss. You are already paying for your education, so why don’t you use its full potential?
If your degree program or particular area of study has nothing to do with business (like literature or medicine, for example), you can still take a few business-related courses that will give you more confidence and knowledge for starting a business. If you can’t stuff extra classes into your schedule, think about taking summer courses or signing up for an online business course.
- Protect your idea
There is a golden rule in business: you never talk about your ideas; you execute them. If you need advice and guidance, you can find a mentor who you trust. In case you are completely confident in your idea, then keep it to yourself and work towards the establishment of your business. Never share your ideas in any online community before you start your business. There are plenty of people who have the money, but not the creativity. They are just waiting for an idea to grab and they will take yours if you’re not careful.
If your idea is extremely unique, then you’ll want to protect your intellectual property with copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Make sure to protect your logo, brand, and company name regardless of the type of business you’re starting.
- Plan the marketing campaign
Once you craft a business and financial plan and you start the actual business, you’ll need to attract clients. If you don’t get this part right, all previous efforts and money invested will be in vain. Start your own Facebook page and promote your products or services there. Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Tumblr – staying active on all these social media sites is important for building a brand.
However, you should not limit the promotion to social media platforms. Let’s say that you’re starting a T-shirt business. The T-shirts are cool and unique, and you already started promoting them via social media. You can achieve much greater success if you can convince the most popular students on campus to wear them. If you take a look around you, you’ll surely notice a few fashion bloggers. Give them some items and ask them to promote them on their blogs. That’s the kind of attention you want – people using your products and services.
Establishing a business may be easy, but maintaining it is hard
Getting a business off the ground involves some stressful activities and a lot of commitment, but your passion and motivation should keep you going, no matter what. Once you start the business and make a few sales, you’ll need to commit to maintaining and improving the business. Think of new ideas that you can implement and, above all else, make sure to achieve customer satisfaction.
Whatever you do, don’t forget: you cannot neglect your education for the sake of the business. College courses can only make you a stronger business owner, and so make sure to achieve a balance between these two aspects of your life!
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)