Starting a company while you’re still in college poses some challenges, but it's often a rewarding experience.
So, why should you start a business while you're still trying to get a degree?
Experience. You’ll gain skills that may help you land a job after graduation. If your company turns out to be successful, you may even decide to make it your career. You can also take what you’ve learned and start a new company.
Better than a part-time job. This depends on how quickly you’re able to turn a profit. If you can do so quickly, income from your business may be able to replace a part-time job. After graduation, you’ll have an income to rely on while you look for a job in your field.
Free time. It may not always feel like it, but you probably have more free time now than you’ll have after graduation, when a job and family responsibilities may interfere.
Mentors. You can find mentors at any time in your life, but college campuses are especially good places to do so. Professors and researchers are often on the leading edge of their fields. They’re usually more than happy to share their knowledge with college entrepreneurs.
Fewer expenses. Your budget may be tight, but you also have access to financial aid, loans, grants, and scholarships that you won't have after graduation. These funds may be able to help you avoid needing a full-time job. You can use that time to help get your business off the ground.
If your product or service is geared towards college students, you'll also have easy access to your target market for both selling and market research.
Starting a company is hard work no matter what age you are. As a student, juggling schoolwork, a social life, and your business will likely involve some sacrifices,
Cost can be another challenge unless you can find outside funding. You may not be able to start a capital-intensive business or grow as quickly as you’d like.
Finally, despite some well-known examples of successful college entrepreneurs, you may still find it hard to be taken seriously. This can be especially true if you’re looking for investors. Creating a solid business plan may help you overcome this.
Not every business idea is a winner. Before you invest too much energy into yours, it’s worth getting some outside opinions.
Talk with your mentor. An involved mentor can be one of your most valuable assets at all stages of your business venture.
Enter a business plan competition. Many colleges run these competitions. Local business owners and/or faculty members offer critiques of student-submitted plans. You’ll also get experience in presenting pitches, which can help you get outside funding.
Run focus groups or polls. These don't have to be elaborate or expensive. Find students on campus who fit your target market and are willing to be interviewed for a few minutes. Ask them what they think about your product, whether they would buy it, at what price point, and anything else you feel would be relevant. Have interested students test-drive your product or service.
Depending on your business, you may be able to fund your new business with savings. If you need outside money, you have a few options:
Business plan competitions. In addition to getting a critique, winners can come away with tens of thousands of dollars (prize amounts vary widely between competitions).
Entrepreneurial scholarships. Some universities offer scholarships to help students get businesses started.
Crowd funding. From Kickstarter to Peerbackers and RocketHub, there are dozens of websites that allow you to solicit funds to get a business up and running or a product manufactured. Each site has it’s own fee structure and limits on the types of fundraising you can do.
Startup accelerators. Often run by groups of investors, accelerators may offer cash in exchange for a small stake in your company. They can also help you develop your product more fully, build your customer base, and connect with industry influencers.
In addition to finding sources of money, figure out ways to be as frugal as possible with the money you do get. See if your school’s entrepreneurship center offers things like free or inexpensive office space, Internet, utilities or other resources.
Starting a solid business isn't easy, but it can be a very rewarding experience. Whether the business succeeds or fails, the skills you learn can help you with your next venture.