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Why College Students Should Start Their Own Businesses

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:

Time

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.

Resources

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.

Fewer Commitments

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.

Target market

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.

Insurance, Salary and other Benefits

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.

The Economy

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!

Author:

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.

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6 Responses to “Why College Students Should Start Their Own Businesses”

  1. avatar Matt says:

    I started a nonprofit organization with a friend a couple of years ago when we were freshmen in college. Luckily for us, our university offers an entrepreneurial incubator through the business school that provides office space, monthly advising sessions, networking opportunities, and access to free legal services. Now, as juniors, we have seen the success of our venture as it continues to grow but it certainly did not come without sacrifice. When starting a business in college, time management is key. As everyone on our team had different class schedules, we would meet every semester to find times where we could meet as a group during the week. We would then assign tasks to each specific day, ie Monday – marketing, Tuesday – grant writing, etc. Obviously this will vary by venture.

    For us, as business majors, it has been a priceless experience applying what we learn in class to a real-world enterprise. If you think you have a great idea, pursue it and take advantage of the resources available to you.

    • avatar Kelly Cuene says:

      Matt, what a great success story. Thanks for sharing! I love how you applied your business knowledge/skills to serve a genuine need you originally noticed in your own community. Clearly, you worked really hard and took advantage of resources and I hope your story inspires others! Best of luck to you and the Tutor Chat Live team!

  2. I definitely agree with you on this article. With this unstable economy, I feel one is better off making his or her own opportunities, instead of waiting for a mediocre one to open up. Not everyone is meant to be an innovator or business owner, but if you have what it takes, by all means push forward and enjoy the long entrepreneurial road to success!

    SchauminChanel
    Freelance Apparel Designer/Owner
    Creative Conceptz Ltd.

    http://mydesigndiarysecrets.blogspot.com/
    http://twitter.com/cre8tiveconcept

    • avatar Kelly Cuene says:

      SchauminChanel, your point about the economy is an important one – thank you for commenting! It’s smart to start freelancing or some other type of business while in college in order to have more options after graduation, especially when corporate hiring is on the decline. Even for someone who is job searching after college can benefit from an existing income stream from an already established venture while they look for their next role.

      I enjoyed checking out the sketches on your site!

  3. avatar Ian Gertler says:

    What an inspiring article! As an entrepreneur with many start-ups, marketing/social media/Internet professional with leading companies like 1-800-FLOWERS.com and Computer Associates, and an advisor to countless others, this is the time to explore your passions. There are a variety of resources available today to launch an idea and learn from the experiences, but it’s also challenging with so much competition in the marketplace.

    When I graduated from school, I helped to re-launch an interactive agency that is still around and doing very well today. The risks were a bit lower then. Recently, I helped to launch another company (called Cursor Marketing). Even with successes in my past and an incredible team, the risks were higher since I have a family to support now and my decisions impact more than just me. The point: follow your dreams early on and see where they can take you, but leverage the resources available to you and the great insight from those around you as well — especially in college or university settings.

    I’d be happy to connect with anyone looking to launch new opportunities if you have questions or want feedback. You can follow me on Twitter: @iangertler – or even follow our company blog at: http://blog.cursormarketing.com .

    Good luck – you’re the future of tomorrow, so think big – especially if it’s utilizing technology to make a difference. I’ve been invited to attend the Techonomy conference and you can see how some of the people highlighted in the article above are going beyond business to solve the world’s challenges. http://www.techonomy.com

  4. avatar College says:

    This article we will examine some of the practical ways you can save money when buying your college text books.

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