This recent Huffington Post article highlights ten well-known entrepreneurs that started businesses in college. The list includes some big-name companies and familiar success stories: Google, Facebook, TIME Magazine, Dell, reddit.com, FedEx, and Microsoft, among others.
All new businesses will not be the next Microsoft or Facebook success story. Starting and running a new business is a great learning experience and skill builder, regardless of your success. (Of course, it certainly would be nice if you had the next billion dollar idea, right?) But, controlling every aspect of a business – production, accounting, marketing, sales, budgeting, and more – means developing strong communication, organizational, analytical, and project management skills which demonstrate business acumen and a solid work ethic.
So, you’re a poor college student with a good idea. Why is now the time to start? Consider the advantages:
Most college students I know are busy, but they also have more flexibility in their schedule than someone working a 9-5 corporate job. Especially when you have summers off. Take advantage.
Many universities and business schools have resources that can help you. Entrepreneurship courses, business plan competitions, business incubators, faculty members who can provide expertise and guidance, and entrepreneurship-related student organizations, such as CEO and the like, are common on many campuses. If your university doesn’t provide these things, check with others that are nearby and see if you can access any resources that way, or at least connect with other student entrepreneurs at nearby campuses.
Many traditionally aged college students do not have a family to provide for and are not tied to a geographic area or a long-term significant other–yet–which makes it less risky to put time and energy into an unproven idea.
Depending on your product or service, you may be sitting smack dab in the middle of your target market – college students and/or college campuses.
As a student, you are likely able to obtain health insurance via your parents’ plan or your university. Unlike a working professional contemplating a switch to entrepreneurship, you won’t have to worry about losing out on a nice salary, a retirement plan or other company perks after leaving your corporate gig (assuming you are not currently working in a job that provides these things). When you have little income coming in, then the possibility of having little to no income while you start your business isn’t so hard to swallow.
Unless you have been living in a cave, you know it’s tough out there. If you are a student without an internship this summer or a recent grad on the job hunt, starting a business could be a fruitful alternative. If nothing else, starting a business requires tons of skills employers want. Even if your business does not last forever, the experience will be an attractive attribute to potential future employers if you decide to go that route later on.
There are lots of resources online to get started, such as Entrepreneur.com, StartupNation.com or DiscoveringStartups.com. One of the best resources are other people, especially students, who have done it. Work your in-person and online networks to connect with others and ask questions. Search LinkedIn and BrazenCareerist for groups dedicated to entrepreneurs and find blogs related to the topic on Google Blog Search or Technorati. There are tons of books dedicated to the topic as well. Alexandra Levit has a helpful, concise overview of starting a business in one of the chapters in her book New Job, New You.
This blog has a lot of smart readers who are savvy college students – anyone have a story to tell about their own experience starting a new business while in college? Please share your story or advice in the comments!
Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, her blog, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.