The idea of starting a business while in college along with juggling coursework, a social life and general “adulting,” can seem incredibly overwhelming and impossible. However, the benefits of launching a business while still in college far outweigh the time you will lose partying with friends or sleeping. While the process isn’t going to be easy, it is going to be worth it.
Why? Because you are going to learn so much about what it means to truly create and own something as well as invaluable life skills that will aid you in the future.
So how does one go about starting a business as an 18-22-year-old University of Cincinnati college student?
Gather Your Resources
The resources available to college students is practically infinite. Financial, marketing, legal, accounting and business advisors are all on campus and eager to help students pursue their goals. It is unlikely that there will ever be this many FREE resources available to you in your lifetime, so take full advantage of it while you can!
The perks of being a student also include access to great technology. Printers, scanners, reliable Wi-Fi and discounted prices are going to be key components to a successful business.
Be Selectively Involved
It is important for students to have a full college experience that encourages them to try new things outside of their comfort zone. However, if starting a business is a priority, find clubs, internships and classes that will work as stepping stones toward your business goal. Participate in entrepreneurship clubs and seminars, find multiple internships that put you in a direct position with business leaders and take classes that will teach you the skills you need to run a successful business.
Many colleges will offer chances for students to practice pitching to real venture capitalists as well as participating in mock interviews, hackathons or startup competitions which sometimes even grant seed money. Every little bit counts when starting a business from nothing!
Get Your Finances in Order
As a college student, it isn’t likely that you have thousands of dollars lying around that can be put into a small business. However, as a college student you do have access to many financing options. But this is where things get tricky.
As a student, it can be quite difficult to qualify for a small-business loan and student loans are not the way to go when seeding a new idea. Instead, look into ways that you can qualify for free money or grants. Many competitions offer seed money to winners! There are also alumni investors who want to invest in students’ ventures and ideas so be sure to talk to your business department to see what their connections are.
Develop a Customer Base
The bottom line of business is sales. If you have nothing to sell, you don’t have a business. In order to sell, you must have customers. Therefore, it is extremely important to identify who your customer base is and talk to them. Are people interested in your product or service? Are they willing to buy before the product is in their hands?
Make it a priority to build a strong website and network with potential customers. This will ensure that your product or service is, in fact, sellable.