5 tips for starting a business in college

5 tips for starting a business in college

Just because you are in college, it doesn’t mean that you can’t start your own business. In fact, some of the most famous companies in the world were started by entrepreneurs from their halls in colleges across America.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen set up Microsoft while studying. Matt Mullenweg founded WordPress at college as did Britton Hadden and Henry Luce with Time Magazine. Perhaps most famously of all, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his dormitory room at Harvard in February 2004. A decade later and there was even a movie made about that one.

Sure, it isn’t easy juggling studies, assignments and exams with founding a business. Not to mention the fact that many students struggle to get by on the money they have as it is, let alone find additional finances to invest in a new company. It isn’t impossible though.

In some regards, starting a business in college is actually to be encouraged. Many students graduate with no idea of what they are going to do next. If you have your own business already up and running or at least the basis of an idea of a company of your own formed, then you are putting yourself in a promising position once your days of study are at an end.

Here are five tips for starting a business in college.

1. Create a business proposal

The first stage in creating a business is having an idea. You might be tempted to go where you think the money is, but if you decide to move into an area which you aren’t passionate about nor have any expertise in, then you could be dooming the venture from the start. When the going gets tough – and it will get tough – will you love what you are doing enough to see it through?

That’s why you should focus on setting up a business doing something you are passionate or at least knowledgeable about. Think of your favorite pastimes and hobbies and consider how you might turn them into a vehicle for making money.

Once you’ve settled on what you want to do, it’s time to formulate a business proposal. A business proposal is important for lots of reasons. One is that it gives clarity on your plans. It describes your idea, your target audience, and your budget. Another is that it offers you a roadmap to follow. It lays out what you want to achieve and the steps you are going to take to get there. Finally, it gives you a document in hard copy format that you can present to other parties, which can be invaluable when it comes to getting resources further down the line.

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2. Take advantage of your positions as a student to get a mentor

One of the advantages of starting up a business while a student is the sheer amount of knowledge that you have to tap into. Your college will be packed full of professors with expertise covering a whole host of different areas and most of whom will be willing to help you with your venture.

Seek out someone on campus who can guide you through the startup process, fuel your creativity and offer advice when you need it. It’s the sort of support that isn’t available to the everyday entrepreneur and you should make the most of it.

3. Look at how you can fund your business

Finding the capital to get a business off the ground is tough at the best of times, let alone when you are a student. The average amount owed by students when they graduate is $37,172 and that figure is rising all the time – it’s gone up to $20,000 in 13 years alone.

When you are looking at that sort of eye-watering debt, scrimping and saving wherever possible becomes a priority, yet there are several ways in which you can fund your business. An angel investor might like your idea and your entrepreneurial spirit while still a college student and decide to invest, for example.

Business loans might be a little more tricky given you’re still at college but you can also consider some out of the box thinking such as asking friends and family to invest in exchange for equity in the business or speaking to a company like Bonsai Finance, who will often offer to lend money even if your credit score is low via one of their student loans bad credit programs.

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4. Become an intern

You might think of an intern as being somebody who works full time but doesn’t get paid and by and large, you’d be right. As of 2016, about half of the 1.5 million internships available in America were unpaid, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable – especially if you are looking to learn how to run your own business.

Even a short, two week period working with a company who specializes in the same field that you want to move into can offer great insight into what might work for your own business. Perhaps more importantly, you might even come across bad practices that you decide to avoid once you get started. It’s all a learning process and there is no better way of learning than with an inside view.

5. Learn to cope with failure

Even a straight-A student will have experienced at least the fear of failure at some point. This is important as the road to success in business is even more bumpy than that through education. If you can’t cope with setbacks or want to throw the towel in at the first sign of a problem, then chances are you won’t get very far in the process.

There are many ways in which your attempts to get started might not go to plan. You might not get the funding you need, investors could reject your business proposal or you might just find it too difficult to juggle all the necessary roles.

Be prepared for the problems that will arise and know that you need to tackle them head-on with a positive attitude. Most importantly of all, you need to believe in yourself. You got through high school and made it to college. The next stage of your journey, from graduate to an entrepreneur is just as difficult, but just as achievable.

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