In the midst of pursuing an education, many students never get a chance to explore what may be the most exciting opportunity of their lives: running their own business.
Entrepreneurship is the engine that drives the U.S. economy. According to the United States Small Business Administration, there were 27.5 million small businesses in the U.S. in 2009. A small business is defined as any firm that has fewer than 500 employees, and these businesses make up 99.9 percent of total businesses in the country.
As a student entrepreneur, you are more than capable of starting your very own small business provided you have identified a need in the market and you can keep yourself motivated enough to see it through.
Here are five tips to starting a successful student-run business:
1. Identify a market need and research your opportunities
Although it may seem like every problem we have today has some sort of answer to it, the fact remains that consumers are always looking for something faster, cheaper, more convenient or just cooler than what already exists.
As a student entrepreneur, your job is to keep your eyes out for those opportunities and match those opportunities with your skill set. Find out what you are passionate about and see if there is a need in that market. If you have an idea that you think could be revolutionary, don’t dismiss it.
Entrepreneurship is all about bridging needs and resources. Find a way to give people what they want and you are well on your way to success.
2. Keep startup costs low
According to the SBA, the average cost to start a new business from scratch adds up to about $30,000. For those of you who are students and have that much disposable income to play with, more power to you. For the other 99.9 percent of students, however, investing that much cash to start your venture is probably not only a scary thing to think about, but also impossible.
Don’t let this scare you, though.
Many of the world’s biggest companies actually started in areas like the owner’s garage or the back of a truck (See: Nike). The trick to not drowning yourself in debt is to look for industries that have little to no startup costs.
Usually this means starting a service-based company that minimizes the use of expensive inventory, but there are a lot of other options that could help you control startup costs.
3. Use all of the resources available to you as a student
Too many times entrepreneurs forget to take advantage of the information and resources that are readily available.
As a K-State student, you have an ample amount of tools at your disposal. From organizations such as Career and Employment Services and Powercat Financial Counseling that could help you with market research and budgeting techniques, to the venture starters sponsored by the K-State Center for Advancement of Entrepreneurship, there are tons of free sources of information that could help you start your business.
4. Ensure financial accuracy and keep your books transparent
One of the biggest downfalls of any business, no matter the size or industry, is failure to monitor financial health. A lot of this can be attributed to inaccurate accounting or just a complete lack of organization or documentation.
Accounting is commonly known as “the language of business” for a reason — without an accurate, reliable and organized method of record keeping, you will never be able to track your revenues and subsequent expenses.
Part of financial responsibility is to make an effort to make these records as correct and transparent as possible so that the information can also be shared.
5. Adapt: be open-minded to adjustments that you may have to make to your original plan
If there is one thing that I’ve learned in life, it is that things rarely go as planned. Adaptability is a must-have, especially as an entrepreneur, because the world of business is constantly changing. What may have been in demand one day could be obsolete by the next.
As a student entrepreneur, you have an advantage: a large demographic that is usually very in touch with what’s cool and with general market demands. That’s a tremendous edge because it can give you the inside story on what the general public wants from businesses, giving you the ability to make adjustments to the market.
Andy Rao is a junior in finance and accounting. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.