It is possible to launch a startup while you’re in college, even if you aren’t a prodigy, and you don’t have to drop out to be successful.
Top Tips to Run a Successful Startup as a College Student
When you’re in college, you may find it easier to seek out mentorship, and if you target college-age students, you also have the benefit of a built-in focus group to offer feedback.
One of the challenges can be to work out time constraints. Here are some tips that will help you to succeed.
Find the Right Business Idea
Research the market thoroughly to find the right business idea. You don’t need a million-dollar idea to start with.
Your idea can be anything from a simple service business, like a delivery service, to developing an app that’s useful for students.
Keep your eyes and ears open, and you never know when you may have an “aha” moment and realize you have the idea for a business.
You need to ensure that your idea solves a problem, and the more specific it is, the better. An idea that does not have real benefit for others or is too vague is unlikely to succeed.
Finding the right idea is only the very start of the process of launching a startup.
Test Your Idea
Spending time working on a product or idea that doesn’t fit the needs of people is likely to be a waste of time.
Making a rough scaled-down version of your product and getting feedback from users can prevent this.
Asking fellow students what kind of improvements they would make and what questions they may have can be very helpful.
For user testing, many experts make the absolute minimum of effort, such as creating a series of slides on a slideshow that make it look as though a user is using a product.
Testing your idea may be as simple as walking up to students in libraries and asking them questions or posting in Facebook groups.
Choose the Right Courses
If you want to become an entrepreneur while you’re a student, it will help you to choose classes that can help to prepare you.
You will be exposed to professors who could become mentors and meet other like-minded students who could even become future partners in a business venture.
Classes can provide a risk-free environment in which to test out your ideas and build your entrepreneurship muscles.
Your school might have an entrepreneurship or business department where you can take courses that offer you useful information, such as those that teach you how to develop prototypes for products or how to market your startup effectively.
Classes on the basics of accounting and knowing things like how to price products can also help you to effectively manage your startup.
Make Sure You Have a Business Plan
Making a successful product as a student can be a very useful learning experience and help you get your foot in the door.
However, the difference between creating a product and starting a business is to make sure you have a business plan.
Running your startup isn’t possible without mapping out a business plan. You will need to have a good understanding of your industry and target market before you do this.
The U.S. Small Business Administration shows you how to write a business plan quickly and efficiently so that it can guide you in structuring, running, and growing your business.
It’s a way to think through all the key elements of the business and is essential if you need investors.
A lean startup business plan can consist of a page and take an hour to create, whereas a traditional business plan is more detailed.
Work Out Your Time Constraints
Finding a balance between study and work can be one of the most difficult aspects of running a startup when you’re a student at college.
Look for all the study tips you can find on how to make the most of your time. You may find it necessary to hire a professional to help you with your assignments.
You can check plagiarism online on StudyClerk, a free online plagiarism checker. Make sure you’re not wasting your time on assignments that aren’t 100% original.
Use School Resources
Colleges and universities have free resources you can use as a student. Copy and print services, online resources, and free WiFi can be indispensable.
You can also collaborate with student organizations to help promote your business and use conference rooms as a meeting space.
Use the student radio station and newspaper for advertising your business and reaching a wide potential customer base.
The use of all these school resources reduces the risks of launching a startup. If your college has entrepreneurial centers and launch-pad resources, this can really pave the way for you to launch an innovative product.
Find a Mentor
At college, you have exposure to a wide network of seasoned professionals who can help you expand on your business idea.
Look around for a professor you trust or an advisor who could help to answer your business questions.
Mentors can offer you advice, coaching and give you opportunities to connect with experts in the field. Functional knowledge, guidance, and support will help to speed up your success.
You can find mentors in many different ways, including using LinkedIn, alumni referral networks, and word-of-mouth referrals.
You could also visit your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which may just be hosted by your college.
These centers have partnerships with schools of business and offer free one-on-one business training.
Find Funding Options
It is best to choose a startup idea that doesn’t require too much funding. Approach your parents and think of friends you could approach for funding first.
If they can’t help, you could start pitching your idea to other investors.
You could also create a crowdsourcing event on campus and reach the larger college community to help generate startup funds.
Special funding options are available for student entrepreneurs. You can approach scholarship and finance offices to find out more about them.
These offices may help you to secure federal grants, loans, scholarships, or fellowships that will give you financial assistance.
Develop Your Networking Skills
The best way to learn how to network is by doing it. You can start with some virtual networking on LinkedIn.
Virtual networking will help you to build up your social media marketing skills which can be a crucial tool for business success.
You can also seek out clubs, activities and get involved in student government for networking opportunities.
Looking beyond the college campus to local chamber groups can also be a good way to make connections.
The connections you make in your college years could provide the foundation of a network that supports you for years as your business grows.
Entrepreneurship can be a challenging journey and often requires making many mistakes in the learning process.
Like learning any other skills, it’s important to practice, and for an entrepreneur, this means starting a business and trying it out.
College is a good time to do this as it provides a less risky, less isolated environment in which to learn and receive advice from mentors, get feedback from peers and use college resources.
If you believe it’s possible to balance education and business, you can manage them both successfully.
College is the perfect opportunity to gain an education and grow a business if you can connect the dots between your area of studies and your skills.
Look for the overlap between what people need and what you’re good at to find the perfect business idea, and then don’t hesitate to go for it.
Julius Sim is the head of the customer service at EduBirdie, where he ensures optimal order fulfillment while maintaining high standards of writing quality.
He’s himself a brilliant writer and writes for students whenever he has time. He enjoys traveling, birdwatching, and playing beach volleyball in his free time.
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