Updated: Apr 14
Starting your own business can be a daunting prospect, especially for a college student with countless other responsibilities. Entrepreneurship is exciting and overwhelming, but taking the risk can become a highly rewarding experience. Just getting started is really the hardest part, but by following this startup outline you will get off your feet in no time!
Step One: Assess your personal skills and interests
A successful business is born from passion. It is essential to understand your own intrinsic motivation for creating something. Whether you are talented and making art, providing a service, or just making money, there is always a demand for something you can provide. Entrepreneurship is a path of self discovery, so even if you do not know what unique skills you can provide, this is a great opportunity to learn. Think deep into what really motivates you- is it helping others, creating social change, or expressing yourself? By finding the root of what you truly desire, you can ideate business solutions that you will be passionate to work on. Remember that your business does not need to be perfect, and any progress you make is good enough.
Step Two: Differentiate yourself and provide unique value
While it can be helpful to take inspiration from an already successful business model, every person is different and has a unique skill set. Every person has special aspects that they bring to the table. It is a great start to look to another business for inspiration, but realistically, you will need to differentiate your business from the competition to be successful. Ask yourself, “why would someone want to buy from me?”, “what sets me apart from similar businesses?”. Your business mission statement and value proposition should be based upon these aspects.
Step Three: Create a business plan and assess your goals
When just getting started with your first business, it can be helpful to map out your motivations, goals, and operations. A general business plan can start with the mission statement, S.M.A.R.T. goals, an overview of current operations, a value chain, financial plans, and marketing objectives. Additionally, tracking your current goals and operations will give you a baseline for improvement. It is helpful to reassess your business plan every six months to a year.
Step Four: Look at your finances
Starting a business can be risky, and deciding how much money you want to invest in starting up should be considered with your return on investment in mind. General startup costs include cost for product production, a website domain, marketing costs, and operational expenses. You should never have to pour all your life savings into your first business, and you might not need to spend any money at all! You should create a monthly budget tracking all your expenses and income. Your gross income and net profit margins are great indicators of the success of your business.
Step Five: Develop marketing solutions
Your marketing goals should align directly with your business objectives. Are you trying to gain brand recognition, generate more sales, or collect more clients? First you need to get to the essence of your business values, as well as research your target market. Perform a S.W.O.T. analysis of your business and consider what your ideal customer wants from you. This information will feed your branding and your marketing strategy. It is important to choose marketing channels that will best serve your customers. For example, if you are selling to elderly people, you will not be posting ads on TikTok. Having a social media presence on platforms that resonate with your target audience is essential and free. If you are selling around campus, it can be helpful to post physical fliers or do word of mouth marketing. Remember, marketing does not need to be difficult or time consuming, it is about making the marketing work for you.
Step Six: Learning when to stop or pivot your business
Entrepreneurship is all about ideation and innovation, as every business has its own lifecycle. To prevent stagnation or loss, sometimes the best decision is knowing when to stop or change your business. Our world is constantly changing, and adaptation will make you the most successful entrepreneur. Most entrepreneurs will have multiple, or countless, businesses in their career. Failure and making mistakes is essential to the learning process and to perfect your craft. Having a proper mindset that is accepting and confident will aid you during this process. Success is whatever you determine it, so never feel like you should permanently give up when things don't work out perfectly. Entrepreneurship is cyclical, and even if your business is going perfectly, you should always be looking for areas to improve or ideate.
A Message From the Author: Natalie Ward
As an entrepreneurship student at Clark University, I have started multiple businesses, consulted other businesses, and am currently an intern for the department. Through my experiences, I have learned so much about myself through entrepreneurship. I have beaten my need for perfectionism and gained confidence I never knew I had. I highly encourage anyone who is considering a business venture to just try and start. With these simple six steps, anyone can start something and be successful.