Tuition fees, textbooks, rent, beer…..being a student is an expensive business and loads of young people are now taking back financial control and turning themselves into student entrepreneurs to pay their way through uni. In fact, according to research by Santander Bank, one of the most popular student banks, almost a quarter of students already run their own business or entrepreneurial venture or plan to while at university. One of the biggest reasons is that advances in technology mean that young people can create digital businesses, from their own student accommodation, much more easily. I had to spend many years working for other people before I took my first steps into entrepreneurship, but being able to do it as a student today, well that is just brilliant!
1. Have an idea! Whether it is blogging, vlogging, making and selling funky t-shirts, upcycling and selling on free stuff you’ve found in charity shops or buying old textbooks to sell to Freshers, once you have the idea then jump in and go for it!
2. Get some work experience. It can be a really good idea to gain an understanding of the sector you plan to launch a business into. If you can see the inside workings of a similar business for yourself and how it runs day to day, it will provide valuable insight when you come to launch yourself. When I was a student I dreamed of running my own business but it took several years of gaining amazing experience in the restaurant sector before I was ready to go it alone.
3. Join an Entrepreneurs’ Society at university. Student enterprise charity NACUE (National Association of College & University Entrepreneurs) is a fab place to start and offers training, provides peer-support and hosts competitions for start-up entrepreneurs.
4. Find a buddy to partner with. Starting a business can be a lonely journey, so find someone wonderful to drag along for the ride! Working with someone who has different skills can enhance your startup experience and it is always useful to have someone around who will bring you back down to earth when your idea of a flash mob at the local Student Union might be just a bit too ambitious for the first week of your business!
5. Do your research. Speak to other students, find out if there is a genuine need for your product or service, ask what your peers would be willing to pay for it and get their opinions on your name or logo. Engaging with your fellow students at this stage is also a brilliant way to start networking so make sure you have your social media up and running as soon as possible.
6. There is often a misconception that entrepreneurs fly by the seat of their pants and act now, but think later. Whilst this can be true a lot of the time (ahem!) it is ALWAYS important to have a good business plan so that you can see exactly what your strategy and targets look like in full technicolour! Only someone very silly comes to Dragon’s Den without a detailed pitch.
7. Marketing is a must. As a student budgets are limited but you don’t need to spend much cash to begin raising your profile through PR, marketing and social media – this could be that the buddy you decide to partner with is studying a marketing degree. A website is important so that you can start to generate good content and generate leads but email marketing shouldn’t be neglected either. Student startups can take advantage of free marketing tools from companies like MizMoz who offer ‘pay-as-you-grow’ pricing so that you can send 12,000 emails for free if you have up to 2,000 subscribers. They also offer help to create awesome email templates and pop-ups, inline forms and social media integrations to help grow your subscribers.
8. After you’ve finished your degree, and have made the most out of your university experience, Entrepreneur First run a six month graduate programme that aims to encourage university leavers to start a business. Apply to their scheme and receive support all the way from the development of a business idea to product launch.
Being a student entrepreneur can be incredibly hard work as you have to balance running your business with getting a degree, but wouldn’t it be nice to graduate knowing you are already your own boss with your own successful company already in operation? Or how about you decide to travel and take a gap year, still running your business from your laptop? I think your fellow students might be green with envy! Good luck and enjoy the journey!
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