While many college students are working toward getting a job in their field of study, plenty of others are interested in forging their own path and becoming an entrepreneur. While college is often billed as a place to gain knowledge that will impress future employers, it can also be fertile ground for the next generation of entrepreneurs to build the skills and connections they need for success.
Of course, launching a successful business starts with a good business idea. These 10 low-cost business ideas are great inspiration for ambitious young entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business after getting their diploma.
According to a survey conducted by Intelligent, 17 percent of college students already run their own business, while another 16 percent definitely plan to join the ranks of entrepreneurs after graduation. An additional 27 percent are considering becoming the founder of their own small business, signaling that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well among the youth of today. For these scholars, finding the right idea to turn their passion into a business is often the first challenge to overcome.
Forty-three percent of college graduates who launch their own business do so because they want to follow their passions and do work they find meaningful.
Did you dream of working in the fashion world but couldn’t find more than a few low-level opportunities in the field? If you have a great eye for design, you can strike out on your own and start an independent clothing company. Knowing how to sew or silk-screen will help you get off the ground, but you’ll eventually need to find a good manufacturer to reach the next stage of growth. As with any business, having high-quality products, along with great marketing skills, is the key to success.
Thanks to social media and the 24-hour news cycle, creative individuals like writers and graphic designers can use their talents to produce high-quality, shareable content for businesses and media outlets. A growing gig economy of freelance and contract workers makes it easier than ever to start a career as a professional freelance content creator. This can also be a great way to build up your skills should you choose to seek a full-time job later on. To help yourself stand out, make sure you have an idea of your brand, how you want to market yourself and how you want your skills to be used.
If you want to launch your own business as a freelance content creator, consider the following tips freelancers should know to make sure you build your clientele and manage your finances the right way.
In today’s tech-obsessed world, most people use smartphones, tablets and laptops daily. With this constant usage, there’s a good chance that at least one of those devices is going to crash or break at some point. If you’re a techie who can fix these issues with relative ease, you can offer to repair people’s electronics for cheaper than what the big retailers charge. Start by marketing your services to students at your alma mater who don’t want to wait for the campus IT department to fix their hard drives.
If you spent your undergrad years tinkering with sound-mixing software and staffing the DJ booth at your college radio station, starting an event entertainment company could be the right path for you. With only your music collection and your laptop, you can get people out on the dance floor at weddings and birthday parties, or simply provide background music at more casual events. DJ equipment is a big investment, but plenty of companies offer daily rentals of speakers, subwoofers and other accessories that you can use until you save up enough to buy your own.
Were you constantly hitting the gym after class? Turn your passion for fitness into a lucrative job by becoming a fitness instructor or personal trainer. You’ll have to put in a small amount of time and money to get certified, but organizations like the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America offer online certification programs that you can complete at your own pace. Once you’re a certified trainer, you can look for openings at local gyms or work one-on-one with clients at their homes. You can also find numerous programs for certification to teach fitness classes such as yoga or Zumba.
Are you a whiz with software tools like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop? Many small businesses are clamoring for affordable access to professional branding, such as logos, banners and signs. If you’re about to leave college with a toolbox full of graphic design skills, consider launching a freelance design business that caters to other entrepreneurs. Once you establish a network of contacts and a reputation for quality designs, you can leverage past work into new jobs and possibly even set yourself up with a full-time job right out of college.
Do you have a knack for knitting, making jewelry or creating other small crafts? If you can produce a lot of items quickly, you can open up an online storefront and sell your creations to the public. Startup costs are extremely low if you purchase your materials in bulk from a craft supplier, and if you can turn orders around quickly, you’ll make a profit in no time. You could even turn your store into a full-time gig. Websites such as Etsy, Bonanza and ArtFire are great places to sell your work, and a supplementary Instagram account can help drive traffic to your online store.
Want to put that marketing or communications degree to good use? Consider starting a social media consulting firm. Small businesses often have to take care of their own social media marketing. With so many other responsibilities, though, the company’s owners may be too busy to come up with great strategies for each of the growing number of social channels businesses are expected to utilize. As a consultant, you can help businesses determine the best tactics, posting schedules and content for your clients’ target audiences. As their follower counts grow, so will your business.
Are you an expert in photography? Playing the guitar? A specific programming language? Consider starting a freelance business teaching your skill to others. This is a great way to utilize (and monetize) your passion. If you have a knack for teaching, you can grow your business to incorporate multiple teachers and skill subsets. Start by making sure you have a way to show expertise in your field (such as a website with your photos or audio clips, or an Instagram feed with other examples of your work), and get the word out through as many channels as possible.
People love their pets and would do most anything for them. That means there’s a rich market for all types of pet care, such as grooming, walking, sitting and training. If you have skills in or passion for any of these areas, you can start up a business in no time. Pet sitting and walking requires little to no professional knowledge or equipment, while grooming and training will be more time- and cost-intensive. Head to your local dog park or grooming center to find clients and identify customer needs.
In addition to the above ideas, the following tips are helpful for new entrepreneurs hoping to get started on the right foot.
Whatever you do, make sure it’s something you’re familiar with. Your experience and skill set should apply to the business you’re trying to launch. While you can definitely learn along the way and don’t necessarily need to be an expert to start, it gives you a big advantage when trying to break into a space you’ve studied.
“Recent college graduates should focus on a particular niche,” said Matthew Ross, co-owner and CEO of The Slumber Yard. “Don’t worry about capturing the entire market early on. You can always expand operations later.”
Creating a business plan serves several important purposes. First, creating a thorough draft explaining your business model helps you challenge yourself and refine your ideas to make sure they’re as bulletproof as possible. Second, business plans include financial projections, marketing strategies and competitive analyses, helping you establish a firmer understanding of the market you’ll be entering. Finally, business plans are important for securing funding, either through a business loan or by pitching investors.
As a recent college graduate, you’ll have access to resources and experts at your school if you make the effort to stay connected. Consider joining an alumni network or staying in touch with your favorite professors and fellow students. Attend on campus events like job fairs and consider sponsoring some to help boost your brand.
Universities and colleges love to celebrate their alumni and help them achieve success, so don’t feel like just because you graduated, your school has nothing left to offer. You may find great mentors, skilled employees and promising business partners by staying involved in your alma mater’s broader community.
Although there is a lot of pressure on outgoing students to line up interviews and land a job, entrepreneurial grads can be successful too. By leveraging the skills and network developed during college, recent grads can create a strong business plan and connect with valuable partners to give them a leg up in launching and scaling their business. Of course, it all starts with a great business idea and a passion for what you do.
Nicole Fallon, Adam C. Uzialko, and Tejas Vemparala also contributed to this article.