A College Student’s Startup Guide

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The classic inspirational story of a college student who started a successful business from a dorm room is Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard University computer science undergrad who leveraged an idea into the hallmark social media website Facebook.

The emphasis on the extraordinary qualities of his circumstances may mistakenly imply that having access to these connections is necessary to develop a skill into a successful business model. In fact, many student-run businesses begin on public university campuses with seed money from readily accessible part-time jobs or a college-sponsored entrepreneurial competition.

Regardless of your circumstances, the steps for attaining success in a new business are similar:

  • Be inspired
  • Believe in yourself
  • Leverage your available resources
  • Don’t give up

Inspiration Is Everywhere

Justin Kauszler and another Virginia Commonwealth University undergraduate business student read an article that supported the theory that listening to background chatter improves concentration and creativity. They developed a website, Coffitivity.com, that enables users to play a loop of coffee shop noises (dishes clinking, conversations and laughter) optimized at the scientifically tested decibel level for mental stimulation. Their success has been featured in Time and the New York Times.

Then there’s the Texas Tech University student with a talent for electronics repair who established an iPhone repair business after a fellow student dropped hers and needed a fix. These people saw a problem and went about solving it, and you can too.

Leverage Your Marketable Skills

Examine your own skill set and focus on one activity or hobby you enjoy, or a quality that a friend, parent or professor has commented on—it may be the genesis for a business model. Networking is the key to building confidence, because for most college students becoming a barista or serving meals can seem like a more realistic job description without support from like-minded success seeking individuals.

Utilize Available Resources

Every college student has valuable channels on- and off-campus to leverage in a business venture. An expert in business, technology or another field you may need advisement in is probably working on campus and would probably be impressed by your enthusiasm.

But if you should become discouraged by a professor or another student from developing your idea, take heart. Before succeeding in business, the founder of FedEx was a business student who wrote a research paper for a college class about the digitization that would revolutionize the shipping industry. His professor was not impressed. If you are enrolled in a vocational college, such as Penn Foster, that nurtures the practical application of academic training, reach out to a campus student business organization or a chapter of Future Business Leaders of America to learn about business startup competitions and funding opportunities.

A Simple Formula

It’s pretty simple: You need to sell a product or service and make a profit. If you have an idea that has a niche, a supportive friend or mentor, a little seed money and a desire to succeed, establishing a business during college—when your monthly financial obligation is comparatively minimal and the world supports your potential—is largely in your favor. Go for it.

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