How to Build A Business Before You Graduate

By Megan Patiry on January 28, 2014

 This article is brought to you by College Pro. Looking for an edge over your competition? With College Pro, you’ll learn business skills you can take with you in any future career. To learn more about College Pro, click here or call 1-888-277-7962.

All potentially great ideas have one aspect in common: no matter how forcefully they tug at the strings of our hearts, vying for attention against our daily, monotonous routines, they are typically brushed off or deemed too ambitious for the current stage of our lives. The great ideas that live, on the other hand, are those that smirk knowingly in the face of tradition and the “real world.” They see gaps of time between our classes, in the early morning hours while we’re sleeping and in the time spent shelving books part-time at the campus library, as opportunities where they could take root and become tangible.

These ideas are the children of the entrepreneur in each of us, and through nourishing them while we’re still in college, we can give them the opportunity to grow in ways they might not if we wait until we graduate.

Photo via Celestine Chua on Flickr.

The Ideal Time to Start a Business

The idea of building a multi-billion dollar business in college actually wasn’t the original idea Mark Zuckerberg had in mind when he started “The Facebook” during his sophomore year of college. In fact, the site began as a simple dating platform, and was something Zuckerberg created into the wee night hours in his dorm room and between classes at Harvard University. He simply didn’t let the fact that he was a still a student deter him from building the base of his business, which has now turned into one of the largest social media platforms of the modern age.

Believe it or not, your college years are the ideal time to begin building a business. At first glance, it may seem like the opposite is true due to the pressing issues of class workload, athletics and your part-time job, but take a moment to think about the time you do have. At this point, many of your expenses are being paid through Federal loans, scholarships, grants and/or parent contributions. This leaves, remarkably, tons of free time available to begin working on the basics of a business, since many of your living expenses have been taken care of without the need of a full-time job.

The important thing to remember is that if you want to be an entrepreneur, you can. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to follow tradition when it comes to college and career.

As Brandon Anderson, owner of Transportation Supply, stated in an article, “junior year I had many friends attending career fairs and competing for internships at companies where they would hope to be offered a position their senior year.”

“While this seemed like the road to follow, I knew that I had different passions for my future,” Anderson said.

There are several steps you can take to start pursuing an idea for a business, with little to no cost involved.

Step One: Start Networking

Another reason college is the ideal time and place to start a business is because it’s essentially a networking melting pot full of educators, professionals and a student body ready to give feedback and tips regarding your idea.

Take the story of Nate Robert, John Reynolds, Chris Benson and Tyler Wortman, 2013 seniors attending MIT, who effectively started the implementation of a project and model for beer distribution (now named Glydsedale) while still attending their university.

“The MIT network, mainly through the Trust Center but outside it as well, was absolutely amazing and is the only reason we’ve been able to find the successes we have,” Nate said in an article featured on Forbes.

“When we first started, we had absolutely no idea what to do! We reached out to our networks and talked to everyone we thought might be able to help.”

Reach out to professors and departments that relate to your business idea and discuss it with them. It would be best to draw up some type of business plan (or at least a rough overview) of what your business is looking to provide as well as how you plan to provide it. For instance, is your service or product going to be offered online or in-person on campus?

Find a Niche for Your Idea

Sometimes, networking with other professionals (and even friends) ends up offering different perspectives regarding your idea, taking it from a potentially broad, abstract idea and pulling it into a niche.

Daniel Vitiello, during his junior year at Texas Tech University, launched an iPhone repair business after a friend asked him to fix her phone, according to an article via U.S. News Weekly.  Vitiello had previously described himself as a “household handyman,” but after realizing his skill at fixing iPhones, went on to start charging less than competing shops in the area and began fixing roughly 10 phones per day, at $40 a pop. He now works full-time developing his business, United iPhone Repair.

Vitiello is an example of a student honing his “handyman” skills into a profitable niche, before he even receives a degree. A simple way to do this is to consider opportunities relating to your idea that provide a service to other students, or perhaps even consider offering teaching or tutoring services.

Say, for example, you’re a whiz at Photoshop or have a personal photography collection that rivals what you can find in most magazines; you can effectively start a small business offering photography and one-on-one Photoshop tutorials for profit. This not only builds your business and puts cash in your pocket, but it also helps other students pursue their dreams of photography, or any other medium you find yourself teaching.

Carve Out Time

This is perhaps one of the most critical steps you can take in your business-building venture: carving out the time needed to make it succeed. Businesses require marketing, social media networking and the time of actually “working” your business. However, if you are passionate about an idea, this time will merely be a reflection of your passion, and will be well worth the sacrifice in the end. These tips from various entrepreneurs can give you an idea of how to make time:

Multitask

An excellent way to create more time for yourself while juggling classes and building your business is to multitask efficiently. This may involve sending out emails in between studying or at lunch, or making phone calls during your walk to the gym. However, be sure to know which tasks to devote your full attention to, as too much multitasking can result in a decrease in quality if executed poorly.

Create To-Do Lists

To-do lists are very effective, especially when they’re placed in sight of your working area. In order to make these more effective, consider prioritizing your lists, arranging tasks in order of importance for the day.

Take Breaks

Really, take a break. Studies have shown taking regular, intermittent breaks can improve creativity and productivity, and according to University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras, “Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness.”

This shows that paying attention to tasks for too long can negatively affect our concentration, and force our brains into perceiving them as unimportant.

It is also important that while you are taking this break, that you really take it, and try to relax your mind while doing something totally unrelated to what you’re working on, such as going for a jog or cooking up a meal.

Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the only entrepreneur known for starting his business in a dorm room; many notable individuals, such as Michael Dell, founder of Dell Inc., and Frederick W. Smith, founder of FedEx, launched their businesses while still attending college.

It isn’t necessary to set out with a goal of creating a multi-million dollar company (although this kind of positivity can’t hurt!) during your college years, but it is important to realize what it is you want out of your life. Do you see yourself at a 9 to 5 desk job, following the same monotonous routine for years, or do you see yourself pursuing your potential idea and developing it into a profitable, passionate business endeavor?

If your heart is whispering “the latter,” remember: the time is now.

Run your own business, get control of your future, make an impact on your life. To learn more about College Pro, click here or call 1-888-277-7962.

Megan is a freelance writer, organic foodie, health activist, and spontaneous traveler. She also has a passion for adventure, hiking, yoga, and paradoxically, chocolate in all its raw, gluten-free forms.

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