How to Start a Business Right after College
Despite uncertain political and economic times, recent research shows that 70 percent of college grads would prefer to start their own business rather than seek employment. Graduates who have spent years developing skills and knowledge in their chosen field of expertise may well have the edge when it comes to entrepreneurial competition. The majority of business owners lack a college degree, and many feel they missed opportunities because they did not have the right credentials. Armed with the proper guidance and resources, starting a business right after college could be the best move you ever make.
Reasons to Start a Business Right after Graduation
The first year or so after graduation may be the perfect time to try your hand at business ownership.
- Time and freedom. Most recent graduates enjoy more free time and fewer responsibilities than they are likely to have later on in life. This means they can give a new business their all without the conflicting demands of families and full-time employment. If you’re staying rent-free at home, every dollar can be plowed into the business to get it up and running. Physically, you’re in your prime and are well-placed to cope with long hours and late nights working hard to make the dream a reality. All those last-minute sessions cramming for exams were great practice for becoming a successful entrepreneur!
- Ambition and Drive. Adults who have been in the rat race for years often become jaded and disillusioned, which is not the best mindset for starting a profitable empire. Graduates tend to be more positive and ambitious, with an “I can do anything” attitude. Successful entrepreneurs have a clear vision and the practical skills needed to execute it.
- Upskill fast. Setting up and running a business requires a wide range of skills, from finance to marketing. Most entrepreneurs start out alone, which means they have to juggle all the roles needed to make the business successful. This is a great way to learn and will allow recent graduates to develop a host of valuable business skills in a short space of time. Even if your first attempt at business ownership doesn’t succeed, you’ll be a much more attractive prospect to potential employers.
Top Tips for Starting a Business Right after College
Graduates are in a great position to start a career as an entrepreneur, but success takes time and careful planning.
- Do it for the right reason. If you’re passionate about your business idea and either have the necessary skills or are committed enough to develop them, starting a business may be the right choice for you. Don’t fall into the trap of pursuing a business plan that you think will make money but holds no interest for you. You need to love what you do to have the motivation and drive to make it through the tough times and keep going at 1 am when deadlines loom.
- Create a professional image. Even if you’re a team of one running a business from your bedroom, potential customers need to see the company as reliable and trustworthy. This doesn’t mean setting up plush offices or spending thousands of dollars on amazing marketing materials. Setting up a simple yet professional and user-friendly website is a great start. And ditch the personal cell phone number when it comes to business. It’s quick, easy, and cost-effective to add a second business line to your cell. Buy a virtual phone number that makes your business look established and manage business on-the-go via a phone app.
- Do your homework. You may think you have a great idea that will make millions — you may have a great idea that will make you millions. But before you spend time, energy, and money on it, take the time to conduct thorough market research. Do similar services or products already exist? Is there a gap in the market you could fill? Do you have the finances required to fund the business? Is there sufficient demand for your idea? Spending time researching in the early days will save you wasted time and money down the line.
- Gain relevant experience. Taking part-time work or a voluntary role with a business in your chosen industry could provide valuable skills and knowledge that can be used to further your venture. But wait, I want to be an entrepreneur so I don’t have to work for someone else, you say. Sure, but there’s nothing wrong with paying your dues in the early stages, forging some useful connections, and upskilling along the way.
- Network, network, network! Look out for local business events and online networking sessions to make connections with industry professionals. Get in touch with relevant contacts from college, and ask family and friends to help out where they can. It’s important to get out and mix with other professionals in your industry, but you’ll also be pleasantly surprised by the number of useful contacts you have in your existing circle of acquaintances. Glean all the wisdom and free advice you can. Even if someone is not likely to become a direct business associate, they may have some helpful insights about getting started in your area of business.
- Review your finances and set a budget. Unfortunately, starting a business with zero capital is likely to be a struggle, or perhaps impossible. But don’t despair. The most important thing is to have a firm grip on your finances and to budget effectively. Make a list of all your existing cash and identify any potential sources of income — part-time work, business loans, loans from parents, savings. Create a business plan that sets out goals and timelines along with the budget required. You may have to slow the pace while you take on a little work and save, but being realistic about the budget and sticking to it will avoid disaster. Don’t forget, when things really get going, you’ll need to get to grips with paying taxes and complying with state business regulations. If this is all new to you, it might be a good idea to check out your local night school and sign up for a short course on finance for small businesses.
If you’re a recent graduate with passion, ideas, and a strong work ethic, there’s a good chance that you have the makings of a successful entrepreneur. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t be tempted to rush ahead without doing the necessary research and planning. And remember, failure is a part of success. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, was previously a Harvard dropout and co-owner of a failed business. He went on to become the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. If your first idea doesn’t work out, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.