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If you’ve just graduated from college, you might have entrepreneurship on your mind. Some millennials dread the prospect of typing up resumes and attending lengthy interviews, so they carve their own path to success. There are business venture options that exist for college grads. But you’ll need a strategic approach if you want to make your start up profitable.
Leverage your college network
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Some of your greatest resources exist on your college campus. Right before or after you graduate, let your fellow scholars know that you’re starting a business. Find out what they plan to do with their lives now that they’ve set out on their own. You might even find a business partner or other entrepreneurs with whom you can do business.
Talk with your college adviser as well. Let them know that you’re thinking about starting a business and ask for advice. You don’t have to take every nugget of wisdom they offer, but you might get compelling insight into the world of business.
You might also want to turn to social media. Have you connected with your college pals on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram? If not, do so now. If you help others start their careers, they might return the favor. Plus, networking offers an excellent resource for referrals, references, and endorsements. Just make sure to upload a professional photo to each social media account and to fill out your profiles carefully.
Embrace your creativity
As a college graduate, you’re likely bursting with hope, optimism, and creativity. Use those assets to your advantage. Research your industry of choice and figure out where the gaps lie. What doesn’t exist that should? How can you build an audience around a product or service? What does the industry need?
In Melinda Price’s article for Muse, she profiles entrepreneur and recent grad Kelsey Fish, who did exactly that. She found a need that wasn’t served in her community, and she built a business around it. Today, Fish consults with businesses that don’t have websites or other online footprints.
Try a part-time gig
Price recommends starting a business part-time until you learn the ropes and get the mistakes out-of-the-way. You might need to work for another company full- or part-time to finance your new business, and the experience can teach you how to lead employees, manage administrative functions, and talk to customers.
While starting a business with more hopes and dreams than money might sound romantic, it can also lead to business failure. Every company needs cash flow to survive, and unless you have outside funding, you need a source of revenue until your venture turns a profit.
You have multiple options to secure financing for your business, but some might not become available to you during these early stages. Venture capitalists, for instance, tend to invest in more established firms. They want to know that they’ll get their money back before they write a check. Similarly, angel investors often balk at the possibility of investing in a start up run by a recent college graduate. They worry that the business owner doesn’t have sufficient experience.
You might want to consider a working capital loan. Factoring and advances can prove particularly valuable for start ups run by recent graduates. Essentially, you get short-term loans based on the money you’re foretasted to earn. It works best when your business runs on the credit you extend to your customers. Other working capital options include accounts receivable loans, which offer money based on what you’re owed by customers or clients on credit, and secured business loans, which require some form of collateral.
While you can always raise money from friends and family or by starting a Kickstarter campaign, you might want to be careful about how and when you accept money, especially when you’re dealing with people you know. There’s no reason to spill bad blood into the water when you start your own business.
Develop brand and employment marketing strategies
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After you start a business, begin branding it immediately. What makes you special? How do you differ from the competition? A brand makes you recognizable based on your company’s message, voice, and culture. Once you define it, make sure you embody it in every decision you make.
Entrepreneurs also need employment marketing strategies. How will you attract top talent to your start up? You might not be able to offer high salaries when you first start, but you can provide other benefits. Flexible work hours, casual dress codes, dog-friendly work environments, and other perks don’t have to cost you a dime.
While your business might not become successful overnight, you don’t have to wait 10 years to become an entrepreneur. After graduation, get the gears running on your business, even if you have to work other jobs concurrently. You’ll thank yourself later when your business finally runs into the black.
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