BY LORRAINE McKINNEY
You don’t have to wait until you graduate from college to start your own business. Today, many college students are successfully juggling entrepreneurship and coursework, enabling them to pay off college debts and start building a post-grad nest egg.
Of course, building a business while still in school isn’t something to be taken lightly. If you’re feeling that entrepreneurial itch, take these factors into consideration before starting.
- Know Your Priorities – How organized, ambitious and practical are you? To run a successful business while still in school, you’ll need to be all three. It’s critical to carefully prioritize your academic and business responsibilities so nothing falls through the cracks. Always keep the bigger picture in focus.
- Pick Appropriate Courses – If you plan on continuing your business after graduation, choose courses that are related to your business goals. Select classes based on subject matter, expert professors, and others who share similar objectives. Pick what will give you the best business foundation and help you meet like-minded individuals.
- Use School Resources – Colleges have all kinds of free resources that you can use when starting a business. These services include school-sponsored entrepreneurship events, free wifi, online assistance, and school libraries, just to name a few. Of course, you should also take advantage of networking with your business department professors, who have a wealth of savvy business information to share, from launching a startup to formalizing a business continuity plan.
- Connect with Students – In addition to picking your professors’ brains, be sure to network with your fellow students. Who knows, you may even meet that perfect business partner for your start-up. And, likely, you’ll need to hire a few students to help with tasks ranging from printing/distributing fliers to designing a custom website.
- Ask the Right Questions – When you are in class, you have an ideal opportunity to poll fellow students to get information you need for your business. For example, ask them if they would use the service you offer, what they like about your business idea, and what they would do to improve on your ideas. This is a great way to get the information you need to be successful in your new business venture.
- Look into Funding – Depending on the type of business you are starting, you may need some sort of start-up funding. Fortunately, students are often well-positioned to get help not available to others. Check with the counseling and financial offices at your college for assistance with finding and securing loans, federal grants, fellowships, scholarships, etc. Don’t forget to explore crowdsourcing and other innovative sources for your startup.
- Set Your Schedule – You know that old saying about one’s eyes being bigger than one’s stomach? This can also apply to starting a business while still in school. In that entrepreneurial adrenaline rush, everything may look exciting and doable. But be careful not to overextend yourself. If you do, you may end up with a failed business and failing grades. Create a schedule that includes detailed checklists and deadlines, and stick to those.
- Don’t be Afraid to Say “No” – Being a student is already a full-time job. Adding a new business on top of that can feel like too much. So it’s critical that you learn what to cut out of your schedule and get in the habit of saying no. There isn’t always going to be time to go down to the pub with friends for a beer, no matter how much they bug you to go. On the other hand, don’t become a total hermit either. For successful student entrepreneurs, it’s all about balance.
Lorraine McKinney is an academic tutor and elearning specialist.