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Can You Really Start a Successful Business in College?

Philip Kushmaro
Philip Kushmaro

Starting a successful business is hard enough as it is.

Starting a successful business is hard enough as it is. You’ll need a great idea, a business plan, seed money and most of all hard work and dedication. Now imagine doing all this while studying at college. It seems that students are teeming with original ideas when it comes to starting their own businesses, yet they’re hesitant to take that first step because of just that – they are students.

With a lack of funds, a lack of free time and a degree to focus on, it can be pretty tricky for a student to start a business. But, that’s not to say that students can’t dedicate a few hours a week to developing a business of their own – far from it.

Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time, and he famously started "The Facebook" in 2004 from his dorm while attending Harvard College. Now worth an estimated $50 billion, it just goes to show that anything is possible from behind a computer screen.

Michael Dell is yet another example. Dell, too, started off in his dorm room at the University of Texas in 1984. He was a pre-med student at the time, but still somehow managed to dedicate time to his side project. Today he is worth a huge $23 billion.

Just like anything in life, there are always challenges, and for these hard-working businessmen, success didn’t come without sacrifice – both Zuckerberg and Dell ended up dropping out of college. The goal here is to give you some ideas of how to start a business while staying in school. Here are some tips to help you succeed where they failed.

The Challenges:

Money Money Money

One of the largest challenges a student must face is managing their finances. Asides from the lucky few who have rich and supportive families, finding the funds to support a startup is not easy, especially when you're paying for tuition. Students will have to get creative when it comes to funding to set them off on the right foot. On top of that, there’s no guaranteed paycheck – but if there’s any time not to have a stable paycheck, it’s certainly during college.

Time Management

A new business owner, particularly one working alone at college, may become overwhelmed with having to do everything themselves. With limited time and money, those starting a new business need to be emotionally ready to stick with their plan through thick and thin. Plan well and concentrate on the most important tasks first. If you can afford to do so, consider outsourcing certain tasks to freelancers in the process, allowing time to focus on the core of the business.

Work-Life Balance

Attempting to balance college life, studies, hobbies and possibly even a side job, all while opening a business, is a challenge in itself, and it can be pretty hard to stomach. Eager student entrepreneurs should be sure to set aside time for their personal life. Don't neglect your close friends or side hobbies, as these are very important for maintaining a strong mental state, as well as the key to finding balance in later life.

The Benefits

Despite the challenges, there are plenty of ways that being in college can actually be beneficial to those involved in a business, be it as a startup or a side job. Here are just a few ways that business and college can complement one another.

Great for Networking

Once an idea is on the table, the first stage of developing a business is promoting it. And what better place to promote a business than at college – surrounded by vast networking opportunities and potential customers?

Advertising is costly, and those still at college have the upper hand of being surrounded by pools of networks. Colleges are known for hosting numerous events, where you can easily promote your business. You could distribute fliers, get an article written about you in the campus newspaper, or market yourself on social media. 

Access to Campus Resources 

Businesses spend huge amounts of money on both market and general research. While at college, why not take advantage of the resources your campus has to offer? With access to books, journals, gated research sites and networks, the campus is literally an open book. Research will cost nothing but time. Depending on the type of business, colleges also provide numerous resources such as sports equipment, a photography studio, science labs etc., all of which can be utilized cheaply.

Your professors can also serve as a great resource. These are experts in their field, and many of them would likely be happy to help and give some sturdy advice. By leveraging relationships with professors, you'll not only gain knowledge, but also test and develop your negotiation skills.

There are also a number of awesome financial resources tailor-made for students. Student loans are available to anyone pursuing a degree, freeing up other money for a side project. There’s also an array of credit cards designed specifically for students that could help ease the financial burden.

Yes, starting a business is tough no matter the circumstance, but you’ll never know if you never try. Young entrepreneurs shouldn’t be turned off because they are still in college. Use this to your advantage. Be bold. Take a leap. Set achievable goals. Even if your business doesn’t take off right away, you’ll be able to slowly build the foundations, and when you finally earn your degree, you’ll be one step ahead of everyone else.

Image Credit: iidea studio/Shutterstock
Philip Kushmaro
Philip Kushmaro Member
Philip is the VP of Operation @ Ranky. A Junkie of many things. Start ups and how the world works are what interests him most, especially the psychology behind everything. When not at work then probably at an MMA Gym training. Oh and he can read Google's Mind. How does he know? He can hear it laughing at him right now.