This is a guest post by Joel who is a Certified Financial Plannerâ„¢ that owns 4 different companies and is currently working on various web related projects including a website for finding car insurance rates and a website for comparing health insurance quotes. He would encourage everyone to consider starting their own business even if it’s a side business but to also be prepared for the 10 interview questions that everyone should be ready to answer and to always understand the true cost of using a credit card.
One of the best times for starting a business is while one is a college student? Why is this? Some of the reasons why this is the case for many college students include a lack of big financial obligations (no large mortgage payment to make, large bills, kids to support, etc.), lots of free time, low opportunity cost (the highest paying job that most college students can get is a part time job at the cafeteria washing dishes for $5.50/hr.), and just overall high energy/enthusiasm.
Yes, the above reasons do not apply for some college students but chances are they do apply to most college students. So if college is such a great time to start a business then practically speaking what are some ideas for actually taking the plunge and becoming a college entrepreneur? I’m glad you asked!
Here are 12 ideas that I came up with for becoming a college entrepreneur and let me know what you think of the 12 and then please add any additional ideas that you have in the comments below. Above all else, don’t get bogged down by this list because the most important financial step for just about anything is not being afraid to fail and just flat out getting started! OK, here we go:
#1 Buy & Sell Textbooks
While certainly not an original or ultra creative idea one of the great things about starting up a business buying and selling textbooks is that as a college student you already have inventory! You get a fresh supply of text books that you own that you can sell every semester and so does your roommate, your friend across the hall, etc. Maybe this can be just the thing to cut your chops learning how to build a basic website, gaining some practical marketing knowledge, understanding how to effectively set prices, etc. (Disclaimer: I purposely put the wording “cut your chops” in on the sentence above because most likely a business buying and selling textbooks will never succeed in the long run unless you can get a huge marketplace of book buyers and sellers established. This is not to say that you won’t be able to make some quick cash and learn some valuable business lessons BUT don’t count on this to be a viable long term college business idea).
“What!?” you might say. “I am majoring in business/accounting/finance/etc. I didn’t start reading this article so that you could tell me that I should do manual labor!” You make a great point and I can sympathize with your line of thinking but let me attempt to make an even better point. In college what is one thing that you have an abundant supply of? The answer is people that are willing to do part time work on a flexible schedule for very cheap wages (other college students). Starting a landscaping business does not mean that you have to physically go out and mow every single lawn but what it should mean if you put on your thinking cap is that you have a humongous pool of able bodied college student workers that will be happy for the chance to work for you. Start thinking like an owner of a company rather than an employee and you might just be able to scale your landscaping business into a large full scale 50 worker operation all from the comfort of your dorm room.
#3 Web Design
One of the chief advantages to learning about web design and offering web design services as a college student is that if you are an aspiring entrepreneur and are just not sure of what type of business you want to start then why not learn something that will help you in almost any business endeavor? No matter what business you start you will likely need a website and you will also be much better off understanding at least the basics of web design so why not learn as much as you can about web design as a college student and then offer your services as a web designer? Sure, you may find out that you are not cut out for web design work but at least you learned some things that will likely help you in any future businesses you start (as opposed to say a vacuum repair business or a fish tank cleaning business). Note, that I am not saying that you will be able to code the next Google or become a Photoshop expert over night but if you put the time in and have at least an inkling of natural creative talent you can certainly be very helpful to many small businesses looking for small time website help.
#4 Write Articles
There are many different places online that are looking to hire talented writers on an independent contractor basis. You could start your own writing service and fill projects at some of the larger companies or set up a website and offer your services to small business owners, online marketers, and webmasters that need articles written for their websites.
#5 Throw Kid’s Birthday Parties
If you are a high energy person, have a knack for planning, and love kids then why not start a kid’s birthday party service? If you can hire a couple of dependable fellow students to actually run the parties then the majority of your work would be to attract new clients and then coordinate with different contractors offering services along with you (clowns, petting zoos, etc.).
#6 Dog Walking Service
Once again, you may not picture a dog walking service as being the type of glamorous company that you had anticipated starting but if you love animals then why hone your marketing and sales skills and pick up so many clients that you can outsource most of the actual dog walking to your fellow college students and turn a tidy profit on the margin? Starting a dog walking service has a very high return on assets as there are very few tangible assets that you will need to run a dog walking service. In fact, one of the primary benefits to starting a dog walking service is that you can quite literally show up on the front door step of your first client’s house and have and need nothing besides a willingness to walk dogs till you are blue in the face!
#7 Food Delivery Service
Start a local food delivery service that will deliver food from area restaurants (that do not deliver) to local residents and dorm rooms for a delivery fee + tip. All it takes is a phone and a car or a couple of workers with cars to make this idea a reality. Print out a couple thousand flyers to deliver around the dorms and in local neighborhoods and you are off and running. (I got this idea from a similar service that I have seen advertised in and around Tampa: MealCab.com)
#8 Personal Trainer
If you love fitness and have hopes of opening your own gym someday then college is the perfect time to get some fitness certifications and start finding some clients. The upside to becoming a personal trainer is that if you find out that it is not for you then at least you gained some knowledge that you can use in your own life for years to come.
#9 Host an Improv Show
Are you funny? Do you know people that are funny? As a college student you are surrounded by thousands of other college students in close proximity to you that all want something fun to do on a Friday night. If you can promote your improv show around campus and garner enough buzz then even charging $5 per person and after paying your comedians could still add up to a substantial sum of money in your pocket.
#10 Dorm Delivery Service
Many college students living in dorms don’t have a vehicle for transportation. Start a delivery service to pick up things from local stores for to those people and deliver them to dorm rooms for the price on the receipt plus a delivery fee. The goal here is to batch orders and find dependable drivers/shoppers that can work for you.
#11 Start a Website
OK, this is a rather broad idea but the beauty of starting any type of online business is that the cost to do so is so low. Choose a domain name, pick a hosting plan, and then use WordPress as your website/blog content management system and you can be off and running.
#12 YOU Tell Me
What are some of YOUR ideas for starting a college business?
Photo courtesy rachaelvoorhees