Ask the founders of Reddit, ModCloth, or even Insomnia Cookies – there’s no better time to build your brand than as an undergrad! Your college campus is the ideal place to brainstorm, produce, and promote your million-dollar idea. If you’re serious about getting your feet wet as a young entrepreneur, this is the best chance you’ll get to learn and experiment. We’re ready if you are. Here’s how to turn your biggest, scariest, and wildest daydream into a real-life business venture.
Develop Your Ideas & Think it Through
Map Out Your “Big Idea”
What need(s) are you looking to fulfill? What makes your product or service unique? How will you conduct business? Grab a notebook and pen and go to town jotting down notes about everything, from your offerings to your key demographic, staffing structure, and promotional ideas. The more detail, the better!
Immerse Yourself in the Industry
Before you decide to dive in, research the market. Identify your competitors, and make note of what they’re doing right, and what they could improve upon. Read up on the industry, and weigh the opportunities vs. risks involved in getting into this line of business. Be sure to check out blogs, magazines, and other outlets where you can keep up with news and learn from the professionals!
Do Your Homework
Put your electives to work by signing up for classes that will help you build your business. Use class time to learn the ins and outs of finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, and more! Doing so will also put you in touch with teachers and students with similar interests, and those connections may prove valuable as you work towards your business launch.
Give it a Name
Narrow down the list of possible names for your business, products or programs to pick the best option(s)! Before finalizing your choice, make sure the appropriate copyrights, trademarks, and social media handles are available to you.
Transform Your Concept into a Business Opportunity
Write a Business Plan
Don’t skip this step! Apply the template you learned about in class to your own business model. Get clear on your mission statement, revenue streams, and 3 and 5-year plans. By affirming your goals and the methodologies to achieve them, you’ll be ready to answer any questions and think through any roadblocks.
Seek Advice from Your Professors
One of the greatest advantages to launching a business in college is the resources available to you – none more important than faculty! Attend the office hours of appropriate professors to share with them your ideas and ask any questions related to their academic field. Make it your goal to find a teacher you really hit it off with, who can serve as your advisor. He or she may even become a lifelong mentor!
Structure Your Support Team
If you intend to venture into solo entrepreneurship, seek out a community that you can turn to for advice and inspiration – be it in person or online. If you want to build a team, start thinking about who you want to work with; what positions or skills are needed, and where to find your future coworkers.
Prioritize by Planning & Scheduling
It takes a whole lot of time and effort to turn an idea into a reality, and as an undergrad, you no doubt already have a lot on your plate. Schedule time outside of class, internships, and campus activities – every day or every week – to continually work towards your goals. Set deadlines every step of the way and hold yourself accountable to them.
Secure Finances & Take Care of Legalities
Get Serious about Funding
There are so many different ways to secure the cash to launch a new business: you can apply for a loan, seek out investors, submit for grant consideration, try crowdfunding, or simply ask a family member to lend you some seed money. Do your homework in researching all of your options to determine which is best for you!
Determine Your Legal Structure
Assuming you want to make a profit, you’ll need to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Decide whether you’ll be operating as an LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership, or use another type of business structure. With that knowledge, you’ll be able to register your business name and register for state and local taxes.
Prepare for Launch
Develop Your Product or Service
This is where the magic happens. Press play on your business idea and find and utilize the resources you need to create your prototype or prep your service offerings. Forge important partnerships and test your product or service as a way to acquire feedback and insights before the grand unveiling.
Create a Website
Have some official space on the Web where friends, family, and potential customers can find out more about your business. Build your own site, or simply create a no-frills landing page or official social media account where you can share news and interested parties can get in touch with your team.
Use Your Student Status While You Have it
Make the most out of your undergraduate position by taking advantage of campus resources and student discounts. Consider what perks you may need in the future that make sense to get now for cheaper, like electronics, business cards, and other printing services.
Present Your New Business to the World
Confirm Payment & Delivery
Have a Point of Sale (POS) system in place so that you can collect, process, and organize orders for your new offerings. Ensure revenue is deposited into the right account, physical or digital delivery methods are in place, and that you are able to obtain all customer information required for a smooth and successful transaction.
You can’t be the only one excited for your business to launch! Reach out to the editor of your school newspaper and other local outlets with a press release announcing your new venture. Implement some creative guerilla marketing tactics on campus or seek opportunities for promotion online to get the word out about your business.
Celebrate Your Start!
An event is the perfect occasion to show loved ones what you’ve been working on, as well as to generate interest and secure your first clients or customers. Whether a grand opening party, media night, or just a party with friends and family is most appropriate, it’s important to celebrate your hard work and imminent success!
Every great entrepreneur needs a designated space to work, play, and recharge! At OCM, we’re dedicated to serving college students with dorm room essentials and campus gear that is “Guaranteed ‘til Graduation”. We’re in the business of making your dorm or apartment look and feel as stylish, comfortable, and productive as possible! For more helpful tips, advice, and resources on making the most out of your time as an undergrad, visit the OCM Blog at blog.ocm.com.