5 Tips for Starting a Small Business on a College Student’s Budget
With technological advances making entrepreneurship easier than ever before, college is a great time to start your own business. In fact, some of the largest tech companies from Google to Facebook to Microsoft were all started by college students. The best news, however, is that even if your business is not a success, starting a business in college can be a great stepping stone to creating a successful business after college.
While 80% of new businesses fail within the first 18 months, the experience you gain from initial failure can be exactly what you need to become one of the 20% that succeed.
Leverage Your Student Status
When business owners need business advice, they have to pay for it. One of the best ways to learn about building a certain business would be to learn directly from someone who has successfully built the same. If you already had an established business, however, you would be a competitor and the head of that company would be unlikely to share some of their best secrets of how they made their business a success.
As a college student, you have a wide range of opportunities to learn from some of the most successful companies. From interviews for a research paper to internships, there are several ways to gain valuable information from successful businesses.
In addition, college surrounds you with knowledgeable experts that will often give you valuable advice for free. On an average college campus, you can find experts in almost every field. From business to economics to even legal advice. There are also several different entrepreneurship events, lectures, workshops and even courses available to you. Some colleges even have startup competitions or business accelerators.
Your school may have successful alumni that the alumnus office may connect you with. Class projects and homework assignments are also a great opportunity to combine business startup tasks with work you have to do anyway.
Be An Employee Before Becoming An Employer
While being your own boss is the dream of many, sometimes you need to have a boss first to understand what makes a good boss. The same holds true of building a great company. Having a job while in college forces you to build appropriate disciplines and manage your time in ways you might not have to if you focused on schoolwork alone. Building a business is a hard, grueling task, so before you undertake it, gain experience working for someone else.
In addition, working for someone else can also help you build up the capital and even some of the soft skills necessary to run your own company. To build your own business, you will need to learn about sales, marketing, negotiating and managing, just to name a few areas you will need experience.
Getting a job that touches one of these areas can help you gain valuable experience and learn about the good business structure first hand. Having a bad boss can help you be a better one just as much as having a good boss can. Whatever job you get, there are lessons to be learned and valuable takeaways to experience.
Use Free Resources For Learning And Planning
Your tuition covers several expenses that can be some of the biggest costs in a startup. From copy and print services to computer labs to even a cheap labor pool made up of your fellow students, you have access to a range of economical or free resources that most startups have to pay for. Besides college resources, there are also several different community resources available to you.
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a free business plan builder and most communities have small business forums and groups you can join to help expand and improve your knowledge base. As you build a business, you will run into many unforeseen problems and challenges, but you can also surround yourself with tools and resources to help you navigate.
You don’t want to wait until you have a problem to build your network. Many times, having a strong network and asking questions in advance can help you avoid some of the most common issues with startups and small businesses.
Take The Most From College Groups And Clubs
Most of the Fortune 500 executives were part of Greek life. While Greek establishments can provide you with a wealth of resources, alumni groups can also offer many of the same benefits if Greek life is not your thing. Whether you take the Greek route or go it alone, tapping into alumni groups can offer you a veritable wealth of advice, customers, contacts and even funding.
Being a part of a Greek organization can also help you kill several birds with one stone. Not only will you have access to wealthy, influential alumnus, but use your peers for advice and support. Your colleagues can help you do stuff for your startup, like marketing, but they will also keep you from focusing so strongly on business you forget to have fun. Remember, life is about balance and while starting a business is taxing, you occasionally need to stop and take a break.
Keep Marketing A Low Overhead
Marketing in the digital age is cheaper and easier than ever before. Whether or not you participate in Greek life, marketing is another area where your classmates can become invaluable. These days, almost everyone is on social media and many businesses spend a small fortune on social media marketing. You have the opportunity to get much of your marketing done for free thanks to your friends and classmates. Whether you have a product to sell or an event to promote, they can help you do it.
Building a website is cheaper and easier than ever before. You don’t have to be a digital expert to build your online presence. However, if you are not so tech savvy, know this: the same way you can use class projects and homework assignments to build your business, so can your classmates. You may find a classmate getting a computer science or some IT degree that can build and run your website for you as part of one of their assignments or even just a side project.
Wrapping It Up
Not only does college offer you a wide range of opportunities to build a successful business, it also helps minimize the cost if it doesn’t succeed right out of the gate. Since you can keep overhead low thanks to a wide range of resources, you won’t owe money on a loan if it doesn’t make it. This means you can jump right into another venture that may become successful if the first one doesn’t. Remember, few people get it right the first time out. If your first business doesn’t succeed, it’s not a failure, it’s a learning experience.
Michelle is a writer and a solopreneur who enjoys cycling, fitness and mixing-up smoothies. Always interested in ways which can help individuals reach full potential in life, she enjoys producing stories on productivity, lifestyle, and entrepreneurship. Outside her keyboard, she enjoys visiting cozy coffee shops and taking long urban strolls with her boyfriend. Reach out to her on Twitter.