Ask the Experts

Student Start-Up

I have many business ideas and I think at least one is good. What are the odds on starting a successful, new business in college?

Your question got everyone’s attention, thinking you had another Facebook. Besides the well-known Internet start-ups from Harvard alum, many non-online businesses have been started by students. Since the newest billionaires have online ventures, the others do not get as much media attention. However, finding many success stories, we want to give you an overview of what you can do and how to get help.

College is not just a path to education, it is supposed to prime you for the workplace. This is the environment to test new ideas and set-up a new business. You have nothing to lose: no overhead, no possessions and few commitments, compared to later in life.

You are now surrounded by a network of like-minded and enthusiastic students. Use the college network as source of potential partners, assistants, and financial investors. Discuss your ideas, searching for compliments and critiques to develop your business plan.

Students are fickle, so if you can sell them on your idea, it is a good sign of a viable new product or service, recalls the founder of Brimley’s White Glove. The other students are networking too and can introduce you to other contacts. Of course, the opposite can happen, but you are in college to learn.

Take advantage of campus resources, like high-speed internet or meeting rooms, you have paid for the privilege. Do research now at the libraries, outside of the campus research is not free.

Your lecturers and professors offer a wealth of knowledge and experience. It is unlikely that you will ever be in an environment of more highly qualified professionals. Question the professors in the same field as your business, they have invaluable insights to share.

After viewing The Social Network about the creation of Facebook, the real Mark Zuckerberg commented about some inaccuracies in the film. He recalled that many students and professors at Harvard gave him support and advice.

It is likely that your college also offers entrepreneurial programs for students with start-ups. Stanford University for example runs a Start-up Garage course. Theory and practical workshops combine the training and knowledge to take a business from concept to practice.

Financing a new business is daunting. However, there are now opportunities for online crowd-funding, that simply did not exist a decade ago. You will also discover that partners and staff will wait for income, if they are committed to the venture. Every successful start-up quickly learns what is an esop, to share ownership with your team.

Even if your college start-up fails, it will be an asset on your resume. You demonstrated that you are motivated, proactive, creative, and a great potential employee.

If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time… Steve Jobs.

Nadeem Ghori is the President of Webplex, a digital analytics agency.