Starting a Business in College: Tips & Advice

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Starting a Business in College

You don’t need to choose between entrepreneurship and college or wait until graduation before starting your business. You can get started immediately if you have a great idea for a product or service. Your university may even have resources you can use to get off the ground. Of course, being an entrepreneur requires a great deal of time and effort. You must create, market, and deliver your product or service, all while attending classes. Indeed, starting a business in college is no easy task, but it is possible.

One of the key factors in any business’s success is sustainable growth. Indeed, growing too fast hinders your ability to keep up with clients and can land you in debt. While in college, it’s especially important to do all you can to keep your schedule and workload manageable.

Below, we will go over nine tips to help you prepare for starting a business in college.

9 Tips to Help You Prepare for Starting a Business in College

There are many different paths entrepreneurs take when starting a business. They may want a traditional storefront in town, or they may start selling products online. Some companies start by doing services for friends and family members and grow by word of mouth. You may have many paths you wish to explore depending on your idea.

Thankfully, college is a great time to figure out what works best for you. Our tips below will cover preparing for and starting a business in college.

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1. Take an Entrepreneurship Course

Of course, one of the more obvious ways to prepare yourself is to take an entrepreneurship course. Many colleges offer these sorts of courses as part of their business department. Even if you’re not a business major, you may be able to enroll as one of your electives. Additionally, universities may offer vocational or undergraduate certificates that focus on entrepreneurship.

These sorts of programs are ideal for anyone planning on running their own business one day. Notably, the curriculum often focuses on goal setting, marketing, management, finance, and other vital skills.

Consider the major reasons new businesses fail: poor money management, a faulty business model, and failure to reach your market. These skills are hard to build outside of a professional environment. Indeed, a lot of trial-and-error goes into figuring out what works. While you’ll inevitably face a failure or two with your company – it is simply a part of business – you can avoid some of the more common mistakes by learning from the pros.

Knowing the ABCs of entrepreneurship can greatly help you with your goal of starting a business in college. While experience is a great teacher, understanding the technical terms and how to market is a must for success.

2. Utilize College Resources

Your college may offer resources specifically for entrepreneurs. For example, they may provide access to machinery and tools, software, consultants, and entrepreneurship groups. Some universities may also maintain a list of businesses, experts, and online resources they can provide their students. Many business schools want to support those taking on the mission of starting a business in college. Don’t be afraid to use them.

However, even if your university doesn’t offer resources specific to entrepreneurs, you can still benefit from everything they do offer. Notably, the career services department can help you build your own list of experts, software, and groups nearby and online. You may also discover other like-minded individuals on campus who you can talk to about business. Professors are wonderful resources to ask questions and bounce ideas off of, as they are experts in their field. They may also have connections that can benefit you going forward.

woman wearing a shirt "ask me what I do" while starting a business in college

3. Build Your Network

On the topic of building connections, college is one of the best times to build your network. Indeed, it is one of the few times you will have access to an incredibly diverse group of people, each with different backgrounds, interests, and expertise. Individuals who aren’t studying your major or interested in entrepreneurship can still provide great support, ideas, and assistance to your business.

Truly, a strong network opens a lot of doors. You and your peers can help build each other up in a complex world. Through direct help, access to new clients and partners, and sharing information, a network enables you to build a stronger view of the world and understanding of business.

Thus, make sure you spend time building connections while in school. Some of these individuals can help you with starting a business in college. Others may turn out to be great resources in the future.

4. Help Other Entrepreneurs

You probably already know just how competitive the world of business can be. Hundreds or even thousands of companies are all fighting over the same market. However, building each other up is important, especially when you’re just starting. Using your knowledge and experience to help other entrepreneurs doesn’t just help them out – it may benefit you now or in the future.

We mentioned some colleges have groups specifically for entrepreneurs. If not, you will likely find some future business owners around campus. You should consider getting to know them and sharing information. Something they might have learned may help you make a decision now or prevent a big issue in the future. Indeed, if your strength is money and theirs is marketing, you have much to learn from each other. Try to avoid the mindset of “us vs. them” as you’re both in this together.

5. Create a Schedule

Another important aspect of starting a business in college is avoiding burnout. Indeed, university isn’t all partying and fun as the movies show. For many, it can be an extremely stressful time. Life doesn’t stop while you’re studying. Around half of full-time students hold a job and a little under a quarter have children. These individuals have to plan ahead and schedule carefully to ensure success. The same goes for entrepreneurs.

Notably, there are two major ways you can go about scheduling. You can schedule your classes around your business or your business around your classes. The first may be the better choice if you run a physical store. Indeed, you need someone behind the counter or in the field to help customers. Many students who work full-time take online and night classes to meet this need. Additionally, asynchronous courses give you further flexibility as you can submit work and watch lectures at any time of the day.

The second is best for those who sell their goods, creations, and services online. For example, if you make blankets, you can accept the orders you have time for and work on them when you’re not doing schoolwork.

Regardless, your goal here is to avoid burnout and protect your physical and mental health. You may find that attending school part-time works better. Though, it’s important to note that financial aid and scholarships often require full-time status. Before you enroll or open your business, make sure you think about your needs and availability.

chart with a plan for business

6. Focus on Sustainable Growth

We mentioned earlier that sustainable growth is vital for success. When starting a business in college, it’s important to scale it carefully. Many people think diversifying their services early on is a great investment. In truth, this decision can severely harm a company’s financial security. It’s important to make sure the customers you have are as happy as can be with your current offerings before adding more. Otherwise, you might end up with multiple subpar goods and no repeat customers.

Basically, make sure you don’t overextend yourself too quickly. Ensure the quality of your original offerings first before you try to add on. Remember, it’s easier to build your reputation when you provide one amazing service versus several mediocre ones.

7. Learn On-Campus Rules

Another important aspect to consider when starting a business in college is whether they have rules about advertising or selling on campus. Can you hang up flyers or set up a stall anywhere? Are there certain services that you aren’t allowed to sell? For example, you will likely not be able to start a company that serves food on campus. You would need permits and a dedicated food preparation space for this business.

Additionally, some colleges and dormitories ban all sales, which goes against solicitation policies. You would not be able to sell physical goods from your dorm room or advertise on private property. However, you may still be able to open an online store and ship or deliver your products by hand.

8. Offer Your Services On Campus

Once you know you can run your business on campus, you should consider marketing to your peers. Indeed, your idea may be something that appeals to the student body, such as candles, clothing, or cleaning services. Physical goods may be advertised simply by you or a friend wearing them around campus. Also, word of mouth works well when providing a highly sought-after service.

Truly, even if your business isn’t for college-age students, it’s still worth mentioning what you offer. Your peers may have friends or family members off campus who would be interested in buying from you. As a bonus, you’ll get to know your audience quickly by talking to other students.

If you’re not allowed to market on campus, you must be careful about selling to fellow students. Starting an online store would likely be your safest option.

man wearing a suit, starting a business in college

9. Know Your Limits

Above all, when starting a business in college, you must know your limits. You can thoroughly plan your growth and keep your schedule from overlapping, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. Realistically, entrepreneurship takes a great deal of effort. Many new business owners put more time into their company than they ever did as employees.

If you’re not ready to fully open your business yet, you can still start planning now. Boost your skills, improve your products and services, and build that network. Basically, know your limits and don’t push yourself too hard.

Final Thoughts

Lakewood University is an accredited online school that offers a variety of degree and certificate programs, including entrepreneurship undergraduate and certificate programs. Additionally, our degree offerings, including our MBA, allow students to focus on the key aspects of successfully running their own businesses.

We have rolling enrollments and asynchronous courses. In other words, you don’t have to worry about missing a lecture or running late to class. If you plan on starting a business in college, Lakewood University offers the flexibility you need to earn your degree.

Don’t hesitate – reach out to our admissions department today to learn more!