APU Business Original

How to Start a Business While You’re Attending College

By Dr. Larry D. Parker, Jr.
Department Chair, Supply Chain Management, Contracting and Acquisition (SCA)

Many people have thought about owning a business at least once in their lives. For some, it’s been just a passing fancy; for others, they’ve dwelled on the idea but never taken action.

But for the rest, they’ve studied, read, lost sleep, had panic attacks and taken the plunge to start their own business. In fact, some entrepreneurs have even started a business before they’ve completed college. According to Jake Croman, a writer for Entrepreneur, starting a business while you’re in college is a positive trend.

Related link: Podcast: Job Seeking and Recruitment in the New Economy

Your Business Start-Up and Attending College

What does it take to succeed in college and start up a business at the same time? The first step is to determine your priorities.

Look at both your short-term and long-term goals and see how school and business fit into those objectives. Croman advises that you ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why are you starting a business before graduation?
  2. Why do you value staying in school?
  3. Can your schoolwork help you build a business?
  4. Do you see a future career with your business after graduation?

Where to Focus Your Priorities

Creating priorities doesn’t mean giving up one goal for the other, though prioritizing does help you realize what is important. You don’t want to lose out on a prime opportunity because you felt you needed one more hour of study.

There might be a time when receiving an A on your midterm results in you keeping that 4.0 GPA instead of drafting and stressing over yet another business proposal. Priorities help you keep goals organized and in sight.

Related link: The Future of Business Schools: Restructuring Degrees to Meet Industry Needs

Spread the Word about Your Start-Up Business to Your University Network

Since your schooling can be linked to your start-up business, use that education to your advantage. Enroll in classes that specifically encourage the route you’re taking with your business. Find insight and advice from your professors and peers.

In fact, let your instructors and fellow students know about your business and see if they would be interested in the product/service you’re marketing. If they are not, utilize their feedback to determine how you can make changes to satisfy their needs. Also, use your class material to help you plan, strategize and pursue your business passion.

The great thing about college is that you can soak up those academic credits with an independent study course. This type of course will allow you to focus, research and even begin the first stages of opening a business. 

Ask for Help from Your Fellow Students

You’ve asked your peers their opinion about what your business is going to offer, but have you asked for their help? After all, once you start your business, you’re going to need employees.

What is a better way to find employees than to seek out motivated, like-minded individuals who want to get a jump-start on their resumes? The motivation and drive from these passionate employees will greatly help a business to move forward.

Once you have a game plan, do the research to back it and think over possible employee options, funding becomes the next step. Croman notes, “Finance and scholarship offices can help you secure loans, federal grants, scholarships, and fellowships that offer students financial assistance. Holding an email address ending with “.edu” is lucrative because there are specific funding options available for student entrepreneurs.”

What’s another option for potential funding? Harvard Business Review notes that some funds could be obtained through crowdsourcing. GoFundMe is one potential site you can use and Kickstarter is another.

Finally, seeking funding from university alumni could be another possibility. Use the connections you’re gaining through networking with students and professors. Reach out to alumni, especially those graduates who keep in touch with their alma mater.

Minimizing the Stress of Starting a Business

Does the thought of starting a business and all the work it will involve seem overwhelming? Well, that’s to be expected.

However, there are ways to minimize your stress, such as using spreadsheets and checklists. Make yourself a schedule but be sure to add in regular breaks and moments to de-stress.

Also, be sure not to overextend yourself. If going out with friends means you’re just going to worry about the work you’re not getting done, then perhaps ask them for a raincheck and stay in.

Finally, find a mentor. Search for someone you look up to, who inspires you and can impart wisdom regarding your business. Croman observes, “Mentors are there to offer sage advice, coaching, and opportunities to connect with businesses for college credit.”

Attending college and starting a business can go hand in hand. There are a lot of pros to starting a business while in college; your next step is just to take the plunge and begin working.

About the Author

Dr. Parker currently serves as the Department Chair, Supply Chain Management, Contracting and Acquisition (SCA) within the School of Business. He serves as an adjunct faculty for various universities around the world. Dr. Parker is a native of Temple, Texas, a certified Inspector General by the Association of Inspector Generals, and a proud member of professional organizations advancing knowledge and professionalism, such as the Association of Supply Chain Management and the National Naval Officers Association.

Dr. Parker is a published author, inspirational speaker, consummate entrepreneur, and consultant who speaks worldwide on diversity, inclusion, and leadership. He holds a Ph.D. in organization and management from Capella University, a MBA from Liberty University, and a B.A. in history from Wittenberg University. Dr. Parker has a long history of passion and interest in local communities and is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Learn more about Dr. Parker by visiting Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr. Inspires.

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