Hannah Walters (The Writers Guild)
More individuals are starting their own businesses than ever before.
According to recent statistics, the majority of these are individuals currently studying at university. Students are launching their own businesses at a rate of one every two hours. This is hardly surprising. Starting your own business at university can be a great way to fund your studies, get your foot in the door with potential employers, and find a career that you’re passionate about. You don’t have to worry about paying your mortgage or supporting your family and have more disposable income to play with.
Although the thought of starting your own business whilst studying may seem daunting, with the right support, it can work out. There are many million-dollar businesses like Facebook, Microsoft and Gymshark started out as university start-ups. However, it’s important to have a realistic approach to starting a business and mitigate risks where possible. This guide aims to provide the fundamentals of setting up a successful start-up.
Choose a solid business idea
Start by thinking about your business idea. What do people want and need? What skills or talents could you offer the world? What problem could you help to solve?
This could be easy if you are the go-to person for a particular task, you have a special talent that people find impressive, or you have a unique hobby or passion you could share with the world. If you have a talent for writing, why not consider launching a business as a freelance writer? Or if you love social media, why not become a social media guru?
You could also consider if you could solve a common problem that many people have. For example, food delivery services were created to help busy people save time and make life easier. But a word of warning – forget trying to be original. Most ideas have already been done a hundred times before. Focus on how you could go above and beyond what is already on offer, adding your own twist and value to the industry or market.
Even if you are dying to get started, don’t rush this step. Take your time to consider what would actually work before you move forward with your idea.
Do your research
Find out who your potential competitors could be, what they are offering, and how they are staying popular. Look for any gaps in what they offer and consider how you could fill that gap with your own business. You can get this information by doing a quick Google search or by exploring social media.
Also, consider who your target audience would be. In other words, who would pay you money to deliver your product or service? If they are the target market you can start by asking friends and family and consider using a free survey website such as SurveyMonkey or GoogleForms to target other potential customers. By gathering this information, you will have a better idea of whether your idea could work, understand the needs of your market and develop a profitable business.
Create a business plan
Once you have your idea and have done your research and checked its viability, you can develop your business plan. This doesn’t need to be complicated or long-winded unless you are applying for funding. Often just a page or two will be enough. You will need to start thinking of your short-, medium- and long-term goals. By setting out your goals early on you will have something to work towards.
In your business plan, you should map out what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there. It also creates a clear direction of focus which will make things a lot easier in the long run. Make sure your business plan is concise and focuses on what the reader needs to know. Don’t include too much waffle and make sure to check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Include all detailed information you need, such as market research, detailed financial forecasts, and assumptions, in an appendix. Another thing to remember is to base your business plan on reality as potential investors, financiers, and business partners will see through over-optimistic plans that ignore weakness or threats.
The UK government website has lots of business plan templates and advice on how you can write a business plan. From your research and business plan, now is a good opportunity to conduct a SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats) analysis, and work out your value proposition.
Figure out your funding
Once you have done your research, it’s time to start figuring out how to fund your new venture. Depending on the type of business you start, the amount may be relatively small and easy to handle. For example, a small budget can be enough to start a freelance writing business- perfect for cash-strapped students, and you may already have many of the tools already needed to get started such as a laptop.
If you need more funding, there are many ways you can get help. Occasionally, family and friends may be willing and able to help. Otherwise, there are many websites out there where you can look for information on how to apply for a small business grant. Bear in mind that any money you borrow you will need to repay and not all businesses do succeed. Another way to get funding for your startup is to launch a crowdfunding campaign. Some websites like crowdfunder.co.uk provide you with a platform to raise your investment funds from the general public, normally in return for incentives, perks, products, and even small equity stakes.
Outline a marketing strategy
An effective marketing strategy is a key element in your startup, as it allows you to reach new customers and generate income. To develop your own, consider where your target audience hangs out and then look for ways you can effectively target them. Refer to your initial SWOT analysis and build your marketing strategy from the areas you’ve noted such as your unique selling point. It is an important part of your marketing strategy, so make sure you spend time working on this as it will determine whether you get a sale or not.
After you have worked on these points it’s time to look at your marketing objectives, making sure you understand your customers and developing your buyer persona. If you don’t want to create a marketing plan from scratch, have a look at one of the many templates available online.
Now that the basics are in place, it’s time to test and gain feedback. This could be done as simply by reaching out to friends, family, and classmates. Providing all goes smoothly, you are ready to launch your start-up!
Depending on the type of business, you should consider setting aside from budget for the launch itself – whether this is for additional marketing for the event, or some drinks for guests to join – it is important to mark a special occasion such as this step forward in your startup journey.
Starting a new business as a student can be a great way to generate extra cash, make your dreams a reality and perhaps launch a brand-new career. Hone your craft, improve your skills, have a little faith, and turn your passion into a business you can be proud of. You never know, you may just be the next multi-million-dollar business the world has been waiting for.