Being your own boss is the dream for many – but, despite what you may think, you don’t need bags of experience to start a business. Indeed, many of the most successful entrepreneurs begin their enterprise journey whilst studying at university (or even high school!).
University can provide a perfect springboard for testing skills and business plans. A melting pot of ideas, like-minded peers and inspiring experts, a university campus offers boundless resources and diversity. So don’t limit your time as a student to essay-writing, revising, and partying (or sleeping in…!) – follow these four steps and really make the most of your university experience.
Shape your skills
Before starting a business, it’s essential to nail down your strengths and weaknesses – you can’t be a good boss without self-awareness. If you’re particularly skilled in a certain area, you’ll want to devise a business plan that leverages this talent. For instance, if you’re a computer whizz but not so good with people, you’ll want to capitalise on this asset, whilst also considering the possibility of partnering with someone else who can handle the sales and personnel side.
Nothing is set in stone, though. Being a student offers a great opportunity to analyse yourself and improve any weak areas. Find it difficult to speak in front of people? Join a debating society. Lousy at time management? Use your university work schedule to devise rigorous time plans for yourself and figure out how to apply these to your future career (do you need to set yourself strict deadlines? Put a colour-coded calendar on the wall? Have online reminders popping up on your computer screen every so often?). College life isn’t only about working on your degree – it’s about working on yourself.
Hone your concept
Your idea doesn’t have to be brand new or radical to succeed – but it does need to be solid. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there a demand for your service or product – and who needs it?
- Do you have an identifiable USP?
- Who are your competitors?
- Have you considered any limitations carefully?
If your concept isn’t particularly innovative, try and think of a little twist that might give it the edge – an element that will distinguish it from the competition. Something as small as a discount system or an inviting marketing strategy (an active blog or social media page, for instance) can be enough to help you pull ahead from the crowd, but you need to think about and consolidate these ideas now. Don’t leave it until just before your launch date!
Perfect your business plan
Think of a business plan like a map: it gets you from A to B, setting out your business goals and explaining – in detail – how you intend to achieve them. This document will not only be useful for you and your team, but also can be a powerful tool when it comes to attracting investors, so it pays to spend real time on development. Consult fellow students and business societies, and ask teachers in the enterprise department for their advice, too; your business plan needs to be free of mistakes, tightly written, and reinforced by considered reasoning and research.
Create a collaborative network
Being a young entrepreneur can feel lonely – but it doesn’t have to, particularly at university. This is the perfect place to team up with like-minded people: people who share your ideas and passion, and can also fill any gaps in your skillset. If you form a solid team, you’ll not only gain valuable support, but also you’ll be able to divide up tasks and make the whole process seem more manageable.
Don’t only seek out peers, though. Starting a business whilst studying can seem daunting, but never forget that there are likely to be many experts (lecturers, teachers, and even PhD students) on the same campus who will be willing to help you. They may be busy with their own projects and research, but a carefully-worded email or request for a few minutes of their time, during which you explain your passion for your project and your willingness to learn, may inspire them to act as your mentor. At the very least, they may be able to look over your business plan and give you an honest opinion – which, at the earlier stages of business development, would be invaluable.
Are you a budding student entrepreneur who wishes there was more enterprise-related activity at your university? Crowdfund Campus might be able to help. Our innovative business simulation, Sandpit, can act as a catalyst for on-campus enterprise – and it’s great fun, too! Contact us today to learn more.