College students tend to get stereotyped a lot. Those stereotypes include everything from laziness and partying every night to living off of ramen noodles and pizza. While you’ve undoubtedly had a late night or two and your diet might not include five-star dining, many of those stereotypes are overblown.
In fact, you might have a hard time striking a school-life balance when you’re juggling classes and a social life. Yet, that doesn’t mean you don’t have time to start a business in college. One 2019 survey found that 70% of college graduates would prefer to start their own business, rather than work somewhere else. If you have an entrepreneurial mindset, you don’t necessarily need to wait until you graduate to get your business off the ground.
But, how can you make a new business work while maintaining your grades, social connections, and classes? Let’s cover a few helpful tips to start your small business.
1. Turn Your Idea Into a Business Plan
If you’re thinking about starting a business, chances are you already have an idea in mind. However, your first step needs to be making sure that the idea is a viable one. Is it something someone else is already doing? Are you fulfilling a need or want? Should you get started with something else to get your foot in the door of a specific industry?
There are countless startup ideas for college students and recent graduates, so make sure your idea is something unique and useful, or consider tweaking it before you officially launch your business.
Once you’re ready to move forward with your idea, it’s time to build a business plan. That can look different for every small business out there, but there are a few key components that every business plan needs, including:
- An executive summary
- Business description
- Funding/financing options
- Financial projections
- Market analysis
Your business plan is crucial for a few reasons. First, it will keep you organized and make your mission clear. Let it serve as a motivational tool for yourself and any employees you choose to bring on.
It’s also a good thing to be able to show potential investors or anyone who might want to support your business. The more people know about who you are and what you’re doing, the more interested they’ll be in helping or getting a piece of the pie.
2. Build Your Brand
When you start your own business, you’ll automatically have to wear many hats. You might be an expert in a certain product or service, but that’s only one component of building a successful brand.
One of the most important things you’ll need to learn is how to market your business. Thankfully, most college-aged students are relatively tech-savvy. You can use what you already know about social media to start building a following and boosting your digital word-of-mouth advertising.
Building your brand might require reaching out to other people or hiring gig workers to get things off the ground. For example, your business will need a logo that helps you stand out. You can create a professional logo by using an image library, your own artistic skills, or by hiring a professional. If you don’t know where to get started, working with a pro is a solid investment.
Yes, working with freelancers to help with marketing can increase your upfront costs. However, if you’ve got financial backers, this is exactly what you should be using them for. Alternatively, you can pay for everything out of pocket by working a side job. There are plenty of online jobs that pay well and will work with your busy schedule. If you need a little boost getting your brand in front of people, it’s worth it to invest in the right people and ad placements.
3. Be Ready to Make Every Decision
When you own a business, no matter how successful it becomes, every decision will eventually fall on your shoulders.
As you grow, you can delegate certain responsibilities to others. However, at the end of the day, you will always have the final say in how your business works. It can be a lot of pressure on one person, and it’s important that you’re ready for it. If you want to feel confident in your decisions, use a few helpful steps to make the process easier:
- Identify the decision
- Gather your information
- Look for any alternative solutions
- Weigh the evidence
- Choose from alternatives
- Take action
Eventually, you’ll become more comfortable with the process and have an easier time trusting your gut when it comes to the choices that impact your business.
Is starting a business in college easy? That depends on how much work you’re willing to put in. Will it take a lot of time and effort? If you want it to be successful, most likely. However, by starting a business now, it could be fully up and running by the time you graduate, setting you up for financial success and independence right away, rather than having to navigate a job search.
So, if you have a great idea, a solid plan, and a strong drive, use these tips to get your business started. You never know if your idea could end up being the next “big” thing.