Fancy yourself as the next Alan Sugar? Think you could quite happily live the lifestyle of Richard Branson? Starting a business is something that lots of people dream of, but very few actually ever get round to doing.
And despite what you might think, university can be a great time to give it a go. You probably don’t have a mortgage to pay or a family to support, so what have you got to lose? This sort of opportunity doesn’t come along very often, so grab it with both hands!
Here are our top ten tips on starting a business at university.
1. Develop a winning business idea
Coming up with a solid business idea is easier said than done, but it’s absolutely the bedrock for any future success. Do your research, and look for any gaps in the market that you could fill.
But be careful - a good idea is not always a profitable one! Getting the balance right is essential. Ask yourself why is no one else doing this already? And if they are, think carefully about how you can do it better.
The idea does not even have to be original, for instance you can start right away making money online in lots of ways which could have the potential to grow into a business further down the line.
2. Write a business plan
It’s easy to get carried away with your business idea and try to rush into everything, but take a step back to get a plan in place. Your business plan will be one of the most important documents that you ever create, and can really get your brain ticking when it comes to all of the areas you need to consider. Treat it as something which evolves with the business as plans, more often than not, change! You’ll find plenty of templates online for free to get you going.
3. Consider whether you’re cut out for it
Working for yourself is not for everyone. Getting started in business from scratch requires huge amounts of dedication and self-motivation. Do you really have the personality traits to see your idea through to reality? Be honest with yourself. We don’t want to put you off, but it’s worthwhile sitting down and giving this some serious thought before getting carried away with the romantic idea of a jet-set lifestyle!
4. Think about whether you need a partner
A business partner can help to take off the pressure and keep you sane when you’re juggling dozens of little tasks. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good option though! Don’t just get your mates involved for the sake of it, and take the time to consider whether you want to go it alone. Bear in mind that in today’s world you can always take on a freelancer or virtual assistant to help with tasks without any long term commitments.
5. Set yourself tangible goals
You’ll have other things to take care of, so make sure that you have some kind of accountability. Be realistic about what you can achieve, but commit some goals to paper to keep yourself focused. It’s also massively rewarding when you can look back and see what you've accomplished!
6. Find out if your university offers any kind of support
Check out any business support that your university might offer. Some provide office space for their students, and others might have some more practical hands-on help. Call in to see the career advisors and ask if they have any contacts you could make use of.
Finally, consider taking on an extra module that will teach you some valuable business skills. Lots of students don’t even realise this type of support is available, so make an effort to find out what you could get.
7. Seek out university societies that could help
If you’re lucky, your university may have an entrepreneur society. These have really started to take off across the UK in recent years, and there is absolutely no better place to learn, share ideas and start in business whilst at university than a focused group of like-minded individuals. You may even meet your future business partner!
Similarly, a society might exist that’s directly related to the nature of your business. Find out what’s on offer and get involved.
8. Use the tools and contacts that you already have
It’s unlikely that you need to rush out and spend a fortune on getting your business up and running! You probably already have a laptop and an internet connection, and other things that you need are quite often available for free at your uni or local library.
Likewise, don’t spend a fortune hiring experts if you already know people in the field. For example, it’s no longer uncommon to find students who can set up a website, so ask your mates.
9. Don’t neglect your studies
Even if your business really starts to take off, it’s rarely a good idea to let your degree suffer. Make sure that you’re managing your time effectively and give exams and assignments the dedication that they need.
10. Ignore the negativity!
Starting a business can be a lonely process, and you’ll come across lots of people who want to put you and your ideas down. Some of your mates will be spending all of their spare time hitting the clubs or playing video games, so they might not understand why you’d want to do anything else which involves hard graft! Try to take it with a pinch of salt and focus on what’s important to you.
There’s no doubt that getting started in business is tough, but if you follow these tips, you’ll be much better placed for success.
Have you ever considered starting a business at university?