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Berry College President Stephen Briggs presenting a large, promotional check to a female student
March 27, 2024

3 Tips for Starting a Business in College

So, you think you want to start a business while in school? That’s great! However, balancing the demands of a new venture with your studies can be challenging. Being passionate, smart and hardworking alone won’t ensure success. You need to have a fully developed idea. Why are you starting a company? Do you have an idea, or are you just interested in being an entrepreneur? Here are three ways to get started whether you have a dream or a concrete idea.

1. Set Your Goals

If you’re interested in entrepreneurship but don’t have a venture in mind, work on building a well-rounded skill set. College is an opportunity to learn what entrepreneurship entails. Dana Professor of Management & Entrepreneurship and Academic Director of Berry’s Entrepreneurship Program Paula Englis points out that liberal arts colleges are ideal because they take a comprehensive approach to education that can be beneficial for budding entrepreneurs.

“Entrepreneurs need to know how to market their company, how to put a business plan together, how to approach a bank about a loan and how to get investors,” says Englis. “Because different areas of expertise are required, a liberal arts degree acts as a great foundation.”

If you do have a business in mind, start by setting specific short-term and long-term goals. Is this a side business to earn money during college, or is this something you plan to continue post-graduation? It could be tempting to drop out of college to spend time on your idea. However, research on entrepreneurship points to a link between successful ventures and completing a college degree. Here are questions to get your priorities on track while juggling school and a start-up.

Choosing the Right Major

Ask yourself how your business connects with what you’re studying. If it doesn’t align, talk with your advisor and make sure you’re in the right major and classes. Make your education work for you.

Juggling Competing Priorities

Figure out how your college classes can support the work you need to do for your business. Identify your in-class work and out-of-class priorities to get your business going. If your class work isn't related to your business, figure out how much extra time your business will require and adjust your schedule. Build your business responsibilities into your daily routine. Like a job or a hobby, your venture will need to hold time in your college schedule.

2. Utilize Campus Resources

Secure Capital

Once you set goals and cast a vision for your new company, the most important part of a launch is securing your capital. You can use your savings, seek funding from investors, crowdfund or take out small business loans. However, one of the best parts of starting a business in college is many schools offer funding like Pitch Competitions and resources to entrepreneurs.

For example, Berry College provides two different types of funded experiences for inspiring innovators. The Berry Student Enterprises Program gives students the chance to try out an entrepreneurship ‘laboratory’ where they run small businesses and experience different positions and responsibilities required in the small business market without investing financially. The Center for Student Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Development at Berry offers three ways for students to compete for funding for their own new enterprise.


Leveraged Coursework

Many professors will let you use your business as for-credit projects and homework. For example, you could conduct market research for a class, such as building a landing page to direct traffic through digital ads to gauge interest. Similarly, you could test a product in a design class by building a prototype and receiving feedback. Faculty advisors, the career center and mentors often offer excellent support and advice. Sometimes, you can even design a for-credit independent study related to your business that will benefit your degree and business simultaneously.

Extra-curricular Support

During college you have access to resources that would otherwise come at a cost after graduation. For example, at the library, you will find available research tools, makerspace design labs, and a variety of printing and software materials that are free to college students. Many schools even have equipment such as photography and video gear that you can rent at no charge.

If you can’t find something you’re looking for, ask your librarian. If it’s not a library-specific resource, they will point you to other places on campus where you can access those resources. For example, Berry allocated a separate space for Hackberry Lab, the on-campus makerspace. This decision enables the lab to run independently with flexible hours and a dedicated team of trained lab assistants.

Networking and Mentors

Colleges want to see you succeed, and because they are invested in your future, there will be mentors ready to advise you through the beginning of a start-up. Beyond faculty and the career center, take advantage of the companies attending conferences and career events on campus. Get to know alumni who have successfully built businesses or who work in similar fields. Cultivating professional connections, even informal ones, will help you lay relational groundwork that can support your company for years to come.

3. Build A Foundation

Ultimately, starting a business during your college career is an ambitious and commendable endeavor, but it requires strategic planning. Solidify your idea, set your goals, leverage your campus resources and get cracking on the foundational elements of your endeavor. Soon, your business to-do list will include concrete actions like these:

  • Choosing a business structure
  • Creating a business plan
  • Registering your business
  • Obtaining state and federal tax IDs
  • Getting necessary licenses and permits
  • Filing for relevant intellectual property protection
  • Hiring team members

Summing it up, entrepreneur and Berry alum Leroy Hite offers this advice to student entrepreneurs: “Continually strive for perfection and improvement. Be willing to be uncomfortable and to take risks, and as you push yourself, you become more capable, and your goal lines move.”

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