My biggest regret about how I spent my college years is that I didn’t apply some—or all—of my free time to entrepreneurial pursuits. If you’ve got time between classes, your college dorm room is a great place to start a business. After all, Microsoft, Dell, Apple, Facebook, Netscape, and FedEx were all started by college students. If you want to start a business at college, here are a few tips:
Start small. Established entrepreneurs can attract millions of dollars in venture capital with a good business plan and a few handshakes. Chances are, you cannot. Focus on easy business ideas that you can implement by yourself or with the help of a few friends—and with money you already have.
Focus on something you enjoy. In life, we end up doing a lot of things we don’t enjoy—we take classes and work jobs outside of our areas of interest because we need to graduate or put food on our tables. Your own business, on the other hand, should be doing something you like. Finding a business you enjoy won’t only make you happier in the long run, it’ll also increase your businesses’ chances of success.
Network. Find other students at your school who are running their own businesses or who are interested in starting. Go to dinner or throw a party to pick their brains and find out how you can help each other.
Be realistic. Some business ideas seem better in theory than they are in reality. Almost every college has an entrepreneur who thinks he or she is going to revolutionize the way students buy and sell used books by setting up a book exchange; in reality, it’s very difficult to pull off. On the other hand, while business ideas like selling baked goods or providing a babysitting or tutoring service for local families won’t win any ingenuity awards, they can be set up and profitably run pretty easily.
Do your homework. The internet is chock-full of resources that can help college entrepreneurs succeed. Check out the Collegiate Entrepreneur’s Association and Entrepreneur Magazine for starters.
Do you have experience running a college-based business? What was it and how did it work out?