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Start Your Business Business Ideas

10 Business Ideas for Entrepreneurial College Grads

image for Fitzkey/Shutterstock
Fitzkey/Shutterstock

Traditional 9-to-5 jobs are no longer a strict norm, especially for young people just entering the workforce. Side hustles, freelance work and self-run enterprises are increasingly popular and offer a plethora of ways to make a living from outside the confines of a cubicle.

Many recent grads are choosing to forge their own paths by starting their own businesses across a wide variety of industries. Here are 10 low-cost business ideas you can start as a new graduate.

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, high-quality products combined with great marketing skills are the keys 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 market yourself 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.

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. [Related: Helpful Social Media Courses for New Marketers

Are you an expert in photography? Guitar? Coding? Consider starting a freelance business teaching your skill to others. This is a great way to utilize (and monetize) your passion, and 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 your expertise in you field (think a website with your photos or audio clips, or an active Instagram feed with other examples of your work), and get the word out through as many channels as possible.

With 7 out of 10 millennials reporting they own a furry friend, 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.

Whatever you do, make sure it's something you're familiar with.

"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."

Looking for even more ways you can start a business? Check out these ideas from our partners at CO— by U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Or dig into these other great business ideas.

Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon and Adam C. Uzialko.

Kiely Kuligowski

Kiely is a staff writer based in New York City. She worked as a marketing copywriter after graduating with her bachelor’s in English from Miami University (OH) and is now embracing her hipster side as a new resident of Brooklyn. You can reach her on Twitter or by email.

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