Starting Up A Student Business
It can seem like there are hundreds of successful young entrepreneurs juggling their own business with university work without a care in the world, but in reality the added responsibility and time it takes can be a far cry from the dream. It can be scary trying to start your own business, and while it would be impossible to cover everything in one article, we’ve got six pieces of advice to help you avoid the potential pitfalls of setting up shop alone.
1. The first piece of advice thrown at us is to ‘do what we love’, or to ‘pursue our bliss’ and a successful career will be carved out for us. Needless to say, if your ‘bliss’ happens to be something that translates into a product or service then this is perfect. For the rest of us, however, it’s more likely that we’ll have to ‘do what we’re good at’ instead.
Just because you have a passion for something doesn’t necessarily mean you will be skilled at it (although you’ll have more incentive to improve) and just because you have a passion for something right this minute doesn’t mean you will in five years’ time. Likewise a passion can soon become a chore once you’ve turned it into work; if you know your favourite pastime can translate into the working world, try to make it happen – just don’t believe that this is the only way to enjoy your job.
2. Customers DO know best; they know what they want, so they know what you need to sell. The biggest mistake companies make is ignoring or upsetting their customers and if customers aren’t buying your product – ask them why. Research your target market and find out what makes them tick; you need to know why your product or service will hook them in and turn them into the customers you need.
“In amongst all the exciting new online areas and opportunities it is easy to forget that ultimately it all depends on the customer choosing to shop with your company. There is no better way to learn what is important to customers than to interact with them.” Ian McFegan, Woodhouse Clothing
3. People are going to tell you there’s a set way of doing things. You might get told you need to study a degree to successfully start a business, or you might be told that you need years of ‘real’ work experience before you could possibly venture out on your own. The truth is there’s no right or wrong way to get ready for starting up; you just need to be ready.
Speak to people in the industry, find someone who has been there and done that, and find out what their biggest mistakes were. Ask them what the most important thing they’ve learned is, and take their advice. It’s easy to assume you’ll manage it all alone, but the biggest mistake you can personally make is assuming you know it all already.
4. Don’t assume that you can run the entire business alone. That’s not to say you should start hiring people, but reaching out to your existing contacts or friends and family could prove invaluable in the long run. People are usually eager to help out if they’ve been in a similar position themselves, and the worst thing you can do is forget about the people who could help you the most. If your idea is related to your course, lecturers and their industry contacts are a potential goldmine, so get them involved and don’t be shy in asking for their help!
Finding a business partner could help you carry the load and bring a fresh perspective to an idea; it’s hard to brainstorm solutions when you’re the only person in the room! Look for someone you can trust who can help you can build something together.
5. It’s easy to get caught up in an amazing idea, but you need to ask yourself: how is this going to make me money?
You need a well thought out business plan to make sure you know the answer to this question before you even attempt to start up your company. Don’t just create the plan and file it away either; it needs to be a document that is always being updated, used for guidance and central to every big decision you make as a business.
A detailed business plan will ensure that potential partners or investors can see where your company is going and trust that you have done the research needed to get your idea off the ground. It can give you benchmarks and goals to aim for, let you see whether you’re on the right track, or give you an idea of where you could struggle. The strengths and weaknesses of your idea or service will be highlighted during the research for your plan, and you’ll be able to account for them and develop solutions or backup plans.