You’re in the middle of writing a 10-page essay on feminism in the digital age when it happens. An amazing idea hits you as you sit in your dorm and you know. Following in the footsteps of Gates and Zuckerberg, you’re ready to start your own business.
But where do you begin?
Here are 5 fantastic tips to help you launch your business and maintain your GPA.
Know What You’re Getting Into
Launching a business takes time, effort, time, money, time, plus more time. Client calls have to be scheduled around Econ 201, orders fulfilled the same week your essay for Russian Lit due, and work doesn’t stop for finals week. Many of us already need more hours in a day and as a college student (especially if you’re full-time) your time is at a premium. How does this fit into your life? How much funding will you need for a launch? What products or services are you offering? Do you need to a license? Does your business need to be registered with the state? You can answer all these questions by writing a business plan. This document helps you turn your idea into actionable steps. It also comes in handy when you’re securing funding, but more on that later.
Value Your Time, Build a Website
We already know your time is precious and one great place to conserve time is in building your website. Do you need a website for your business? Yes, you absolutely do. 81% of customers look online before buying products or services and you don’t want to miss out on those potential leads. It’s simple to get started but the design will take the most time. If you know CSS and HTML, this part is no problem. But don’t worry, there are options for those who can’t cascade style sheets. Web builders like Weebly, WordPress, Wix, and SquareSpace all offer templates you can customize without any coding.
Can’t build your own website? Find someone else to do it for you. The internet is full of designers ready to build your site at every budget level and you can approach them directly. If that option is outside of your budget, websites like Fiverr, PeoplePerHour, and Upwork have a database of freelancers offering a their services for a range of pricing.
Looking for a free option? Find someone willing to do a skill swap. Offer a designer your product or one of your services for free in exchange for designing your website. Not only will you get a new website, you’ve also made a connection and found a future evangelist for your business.
The point is, value your time. You don’t want to spend hours, days, or months coding your own website. And you definitely don’t want to spend that much time learning how to do it yourself before you even get started building one. While it would be a nice skill to have, unless you’re already studying this in school, you should stick to what is going to get you the result you need as quickly as possible.
Find Your Free Resources
As a student entrepreneur, take advantage of all of the free resources at your fingertips. Set up an official business email address using your own domain. There are free options available which means you have more money to spend on other essential items for your business.
Check in with your school’s business center or entrepreneurship support services. Some colleges offer access to space, development resources, pitch days and training, and mentorship opportunities.
Are there any classes that could directly support your business? Think outside of the norm and focus specifically on skills for your business. Maybe textile classes, computer science, or design are just what you need to launch yourself. What does your library or college offer to support small businesses?
Finally, the Small Business Association website is full of advice, resources, and the latest federal business regulations.
Get Out and Mingle
Starting a business can feel like a solitary venture but don’t let yourself stay holed up in your dorm room hacking away at a business plan. Some of the best business breakthroughs are born from conversations with other people. So go forth and network.
Find events at your school for entrepreneurs. Are any organizations based around starting businesses? Join or just attend their events. Organize your own event by partnering with an established organization. Find out what’s happening in your community. Are there any local or national organizations having events nearby? Is there an upcoming conference you can attend in person or online? Look to social media. Join Facebook entrepreneurship groups. Follow like-minded people on Twitter and Instagram. Find companies you admire and follow them on LinkedIn. Look for a small business or entrepreneur Meetup to attend. The internet is full of people ready to share advice and even pool resources.
Find a Mentor
One important part of starting a new business is finding a mentor, someone you can look to for advice or call on in a pinch. This should be someone you trust and admire and with whom you can have candid conversations. These folks are all around you in college, all you need to do is reach out to them. Talk to teachers, guest speakers, and alumni. If you’re in a fraternity or sorority, reach out to your fellow members. Connect with people on Twitter, LinkedIn, or new apps like Shapr. Be professional, be confident, be yourself, and make the ask. You never know who will say yes.
The Bottom Line
Starting a business always takes effort, moreso when you have to go to classes every day. With the right preparation and support, a successful launch and acing your finals are absolutely possible. Set your goals, know your needs, and find your resources. You’ve got this. Good luck.