What It’s Really Like to Start a Business In College

January 26, 2016, 9:51 PM UTC
student computers classroom
College students studying at computers in classroom
Photograph by Getty Images

This piece originally appeared on Millennial.com.

Millennials have long been accused of being entitled and lazy, however people shouldn’t be so quick to give them such a bad rap. Many are actually interested in starting a business.

Amy Levin, founder of CollegeFashionista.com, started the now successful multi-thousand dollar company from the comfort of her apartment while attending Indiana University.

During her senior year Levin turned an IU-based blog into a reputable company that launched at five colleges by August 2009. Since then the site has grown to over 500 colleges worldwide with a network of 10,000 contributors.

Surveys show millennials are interested in starting a business

Sixty-seven percent of millennials have a desire to start their own business, according to a 2014 Gentley University survey. “It is now more socially acceptable to go off and start your own business than it was 50, 60, 70 years ago,” said Matt Rubin, associate director of The Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

Thirty-nine percent of millennials have had difficulty finding a traditional job according to a 2015 study by Elance-oDesk and Millennial Branding. But rather than let the startling unemployment rate decide their fate, millennials have been carving out their own professional path in entrepreneurship.

With the growing success of many young entrepreneurs such as Levin, here are the first three steps to starting a business while still a full-time student.

Be Resourceful

“At any stage in starting your business, find people ahead of you in the game,” Rubin said. “A wise person will make the assumption that someone else knows more than they do and will go out and find that person.” He said if something is taking more than three to five hours to figure out on your own, it’s time to ask for help.

Mark Long, senior lecturer of entrepreneurship and management at IU’s Kelley School of Business, said there are plenty of people out there willing to help you who have ‘been there, done that.’ Learn from others mistakes so that you can avoid making them, as well.

Matias De Rada, IU senior and owner of Matias De Rada Films, created his own videography company and frequently creates recruitment films for sororities.

De Rada utilized the editing room while at Golden Valley high school in his hometown of Santa Clarita, CA. He would observe the people editing films and pay attention to the terminology used.

In the beginning, De Rada would rent out equipment from borrowlenses.com. This was smart because it allowed him to provide great quality videos without spending thousands on equipment. Fortunately, he did very well last year and was able to buy all of his own equipment. Now every job he does is all for profit.

Don’t quit your day job

Rubin said students starting a business must understand discipline. For instance, how to develop an entrepreneurial venture, while still doing what you’re supposed to be doing—in this case, being a student.

“I always recommend they stay in school,” Rubin said. “One student approached me about dropping out of school to start their business and I told them if you drop out I will never speak to you again, but if you stay in school and work hard then I will coach you every step of the way.”

According to Long, potential investors place more value on a potential entrepreneur if they have a college degree. Investors don’t want to gamble on someone who has dropped out of school.

Leaving campus means that you cannot use your student ID to gain access to entitlements such as school property, computer labs and libraries. You also can’t use your school-generated email to seek access to resources or people that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.

Taking courses relevant to the business you want to start is another great advantage.

De Rada took a pre-production telecommunications class that taught the different phases of creating films and everything prior to the first day of shooting. “This course was extremely helpful,” he said. “If I hadn’t transferred as a sophomore and had more time I definitely would have taken more electives in telecommunications because it helped me with the basics and learn more about the terminology of video production.”

Show off your skills

Rubin said the most common student start up is the value-added skill start up. This is when students have a valuable skill that they market to other students who want this service and are willing to pay for it. For example, an informatics student that can make websites will charge other students to make websites for them.

This is the case for De Rada, who uses his innate video-making skills and turns it into a major-profit. Depending on how big the project is he makes between $150 and $5,000 per film.

As for Levin, she used her writing and photography skills to bring forward a successful site. Today, CollegeFashionista is not just a website but a company that mentors fashion students on how to break into the industry.

Historically, the average person may have thought if you don’t have a job at a big company then you’re not qualified. However, today it actually makes you look even more qualified if you’re able to successfully start your own business.

More from Millennial:

The New Demand For Pet Friendly Businesses

How Minimalism Can Create Freedom for Millennials

The Importance of Local Voting

Starting one’s own business can give students the opportunity to have unlimited income, freedom from a non-corporate environment and the ability to be one’s own boss, but make sure to first follow the steps above before venturing into an entrepreneurial career path.

“The sky’s the limit,” Long said.