So, you've been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug in college and you think that you've got the next big business idea? Then it's time to stop making excuses and start making money! When you get right down to it, the benefits of starting a business while you're still in college far outweigh the detractors. Need more convincing? Here are five reasons why starting early can work for you.
1. Because You Can Now!
The examples are all around us - Facebook, BustedTees, Google - businesses that were started by college students are hitting the big time. Now, more than ever, technology has made it possible for people to start a business with very little capital if they are willing to invest the time.
In addition, many colleges and universities offer programs and incubators that can help fledgling campus companies grow. The Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization is just such a program, which provides things like networking and leadership training to thousands of students worldwide.
Student entrepreneurs can also get business input by participating in business plan competitions; they take place at many schools and often offer seed money and guidance to students with the winning business plan. To find out whether your school offers a business plan competition, check with your career services department.
2. What Do You Have to Lose?
As a college student, you're probably used to living on the cheap. One of the biggest obstacles in the way of starting a new business a few years down the road is the question of "who's going to pay the bills?" It's a whole lot easier to get into a new venture when you don't have extra bills to pay or mouths to feed, so why not take advantage of it now?
Another concern is that the business won't succeed and you'll lose your investment. From an investment standpoint, now is the best time to place a risky bet! When putting your own money on the line, the risks only get bigger as you get older. That's because the younger you are, the longer you have to earn it back. It's easy to understand why a 46-year-old with two kids and a retirement to plan for might be a bit squeamish about dropping his or her nest egg on a new business. As a college student with a whole career ahead of you, you may have the best opportunity yet.
3. Professional Experience and Networking
Would you believe that even if your business turns out to be a flop, it could still make you money? Starting a business can lead you to professional contacts that could help you close deals, land jobs and make money in the future. As an entrepreneur, you'll deal with suppliers, clients, other entrepreneurs and maybe even journalists - people with whom you probably wouldn't otherwise get the chance to connect.
Starting your own business in college might also land you a job with an employer you've never met. When they see that you have a startup on your resume, employers are going to see a candidate who is hard working, ambitious and the all-important "self-starter." Even if your business doesn't work out as you'd hoped, it could still be great fodder for an interview. Also, if you gained valuable skills from your business - not many looking for a first job have management experience, for example - you can use to them boost your resume.
We live in a world where information is more available than ever before. Nevertheless, you might be shocked to find out how much you don't know about the world. Starting your own business could give you a perspective that four years of college can't provide. Typical people working typical jobs only see certain facets of the business world, but as an entrepreneur, you'll be exposed to everything, including finance, marketing, product development and customer service. Yes, this stuff looks good on a resume, but it can also give you a competitive edge in real life, off paper.
College students have one thing that many Fortune 500 companies would kill for: the ability to get into the heads of the coveted 18- to-24-year-old demographic. That's right, the fact that you're young can actually give you a competitive advantage! The trick is to tap into that power.
By the time many people get around to starting a business, they've missed the boat on catering to this age group. Because today's 18- to 24-year-olds have money and know-how, and are ready to "evangelize" about the products they like, these people are a valuable group to get on your customer list. Having a portal into this demographic could be just the thing your campus-born business needs to get off the ground.
That portal extends to your own backyard as well. Recruiting a select group of college peers with the right mix of smarts and curiosity could be just the boost your company needs in order to be successful. College workers will cost less, and many have just as much technical expertise as their "real world" counterparts.
The Bottom Line
Before you take the step to start a business in college, one thing that you should definitely consider is your willingness to make a commitment. Businesses take time, energy and money to get started, and failing to give any of those things is a sure way to kill off a good company. If you are ready to give it all you've got, college could be a fantastic time to start.