Seventeen percent of college students plan to start a business before graduation, 10 percent have already started one, and 27 percent say they will continue working on their business after graduation as a career, according to Entrepreneur.com. To start your own business in college, you’ll need to do more than just quit your part-time job and hope for the best. It takes some planning and serious research before your business idea will take off and become profitable enough for you to pay your tuition and rent or start saving for your future. Kim Lachance Shandrow of DevelopIntelligence’s blog, provides student entrepreneurs six steps to help them map out their company’s futures to help them become successful.
First, evaluate yourself. Think about your skills and knowledge. What do you know? What are you passionate about? What industry do you want to work in? What is your preferred working environment? Think about getting a job in the field you want to eventually enter if you haven’t had one already to give you the experience and industry knowledge you need to make your business a success.
Next, come up with a good idea. Find a need, and then find a solution for it. Ask yourself if there is a demand for your product or service. If yes, then see if you can find your target market. If you can, then ask if people would be willing to pay for it. If you answer yes again, ask if your product or service offers a unique selling point, something that makes it stand out. If it does, ask if you know of any limitations or cons to the product or service. If you don’t think that there are any, make sure there aren’t any legal problems with pursuing it as a business idea.
Then, find out who your competitors are by searching online for them. Also look in industry magazines and trade publications to find competition locally and internationally. Go to trade shows or conventions to find out who your competitors are. When you know who you’re up against, see how other people view them by reading reviews online on Google, Yelp, etc., and in forums, in blog posts, articles, etc. Get on their mailing lists and follow them on social media to see how they promote themselves. Pay attention to how they work, particularly their sales process, and then identify their strengths and weaknesses.
The next step is to write a business plan. This should encompass a business concept that includes background of the industry, business structure, and details of your product or service. Also map out who your competitors are and the demographics of your target customers. State your strategy for sales and marketing, and line out who your management team is, what their responsibilities are, as well as their skills. Also, include projected financial statements and financial requirements and a risk assessment that includes weaknesses that may impact the business’ success. (Colleges, nonprofits, and governments offer young entrepreneurs start-up funds. Do some research!)
Find a mentor to help you with learn the business. Your college may have a mentoring program for young entrepreneurs, and you can also directly contact people in your industry who you respect. Learn from their experience and wisdom.
Finally, register your business with the relevant government entities. This keeps you legal and helps ensure that you stay out of the limelight of the tax authorities. You might want to work alone in a sole proprietorship, form a partnership, a limited liability company, or a corporation of some sort. Talk with legal counsel to sort out your options.