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How to Start a Business While in College

Feeling entrepreneurial? You don't have to be an MBA student to start a business in college. Read on for some tips and tricks on launching your new venture.

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Dorm Room Entrepreneurship

If you have a great business idea, you don't have to wait until graduation to get started. Some of today's biggest companies were launched by college students, including Google, Facebook, Dell and Time Magazine. While the following tips may not give you the secret to that kind of success, they can help you get your business running smoothly from the comfort of your dorm.

Planning

Here's what you get to apply all those research and organization skills you learned in class to the real world. The first step to launching your new business is creating a solid plan. Do a lot of research into your prospective industry, including successful (and unsuccessful) existing business models.

It may also be helpful to pick up some business planning software. These applications can be costly, but they will guide you through the logistics of opening a new business and offer valuable strategies and tools. Search for ones that are specific to current students.

Financing

Although the Web makes starting a business cheaper than ever before, even the smallest business will have some overhead. Write out all of your costs, making sure to include even the smallest things like web hosting and transaction fees, and note which items are startup costs and which will be regular expenses. Once you've tallied them up, you'll know what both your startup and base overhead will be.

Some students may have the resources to cover these costs, but most will need to seek outside financing. Many students go to parents and family members for investment. Others may look for small business loans or grant programs aimed at young entrepreneurs. If you can't find financing, consider seeking out a day job and waiting until you've saved up enough to cover startup costs and a year's worth of regular expenses before you launch your new business.

Marketing

Once you've got your plan and financing in place, it's time to get clients. Think about who would pay for your product or service, then work to get the word out directly to those people. The Internet makes it a lot easier to specifically target niche communities, but it also makes it easier to get lost in the shuffle. Make sure that the people who are most likely to become customers are hearing about you.

It's also important to harness the power of word of mouth. Many consumers make decisions based on the recommendations of friends, family or websites like Yelp. Encourage people you know to spread the word and ask all your satisfied new clients to write you positive reviews.

Maintenance

A lot of hard work is involved in getting a new business off the ground, and the responsibilities can seem overwhelming when you're also in school. If you find yourself flooded with work, considering enlisting a peer to join your business.

If things aren't getting off the ground right away, don't be discouraged. Find out if your school or a local organization offers small business seminars, or pick up a book on running a business. There are many resources available to help you get on track.

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