Starting a business as a student is not easy, so we interviewed two college seniors that have been through the process for tips to help future student-entrepreneurs succeed. Here is their advice.
Create a Business Plan With a Competitive Advantage
A business will fail without a thought-out plan and defined competitive advantage.
Penn State senior John Rice co-founded Noterz, a college note resale business. He advises aspiring entrepreneurs to do competitive research. If you don’t, he says you can end up wasting time and money because of a later unnecessary change of course.
Paige Toppert, Texas A&M senior and founder of Lightwell, a vintage light rental business, also believes in the importance of competitive advantage.
“The idea does not necessarily have to be brand new, but at the least, it must be a more efficient version than what competitors offer. No idea is perfect, so it is important to be flexible. Start with a plan, but be open to change as you develop your business,” said Toppert.
Know Your Customers
In order to effectively target and sell a product or service, an entrepreneur must think about your target market. To be successful, a business must know what their customers need and want, often times before the customer even realizes it.
Secure Necessary Financing
Financing is often the biggest obstacle for entrepreneurs, especially college students who are balancing tuition costs with startup costs. Rice encourages students to check out websites like Kickstarter, indiegogo, and Quirky, all specifically developed to financially help get business ideas off of the ground.
Work Your Network
When it comes to details like figuring out your legal structure, necessary licenses and taxes, college students can be in for a real challenge.
To cover all of the bases, both Toppert and Rice stress the importance of connecting with the right people in your current network. Many universities and communities have resources for student startups. If entrepreneurs connect with these resources in the beginning, it can help save money and eliminate confusion in the long run.
Here are some other things to think about before starting up:
It Is Never Too Soon
Rice advises starting as soon as possible.
“As a senior in college, I am now busy with harder classes, extra-curricular leadership commitments, and full-time recruiting. Starting my business earlier in college would have allowed me more time to develop Noterz before graduation. Starting early also gives you more time to decide whether or not a start-up is even right for you. If you start early and soon realize that it isn’t, then you still have time to focus on pursuing a traditional career,” said Rice.
Know What You’re Getting Into
Starting a business takes a lot of time, especially when you are a full-time student. Toppert stresses the importance of time management for student-entrepreneurs.
“Developing and running a business is going to take three to four times more time than you initially budget for. It’s possible to balance this and school, but just know what you are signing up for. Be conscious of the difference in investing your time and spending your time. There are a lot of things you can justify doing ‘for your business,’ but ultimately, the time spent won’t pay off. If you invest your time, you’ll be better off.”
Jordan Knesek is part of the college associate program at FOX News.