Successful Businesses That Started in College: Start Your Own
Think you’re too busy to be an entrepreneur while in college? Think again. Some of the most successful businesses around today got started in a dorm room, frat house or college apartment.
Ever heard of Facebook? Mark Zuckerberg developed “thefacebook” (its original name) just for fellow classmates at Harvard. Less than 10 years later, Facebook is worth more than $67 billion, states Forbes. Matt Mullenweg, a freshman at the University of Houston, teamed up with Mike Little and developer Michel Valdrigh to create WordPress, one of the most-used blogging platforms today. If you’re a student, you could be making millions before you graduate.
Computers, FedEx and Donuts
Michael Dell started PC Limited with $1,000 while still a student at the University of Texas, Austin. That company is now known as Dell Computers, and Mr. Dell is worth an estimated $13.5 billion. FedEx founder Fred Smith famously wrote a paper while a student at Yale University detailing how the shipping industry would change due to advances in technology. Though his professor wasn’t impressed, writing the paper planted the seeds for Smith to eventually start the FedEx company, which now generates around $40 billion per year, says FastUpFront.com.
A business birthed while in college need not reinvent the wheel. Many successful college-born businesses are centered around everyday products and services. Simply Splendid Donuts was founded by Danny Klam at the University of Houston. A double-major in entrepreneurship and marketing, Klam starts his day at 3 a.m. at one of his three Simply Splendid Donuts and Ice Cream locations. Last year, the business grossed $750,000 and is on track to top $1.2 million this year, according to INC.com.
Hunks and Bellhops
Alan Ringvald began College Bellhop while a student at Brandeis University, along with Boston University’s Assaf Swissa. The company provides cleaning services, laundry and food delivery services to five college campuses. Omar Soliman started College Hunks Hauling Junk as a student at the University of Miami after winning a $10,000 Rothschild Entrepreneurship prize. He and business partner Nick Friedman of Pomona College have expanded the company nationwide, with 12 company-owned locations and 21 franchises, states INC.com.
It’s your turn to make history. The college years are among the most creative and dynamic times of your life. Here are five tips for parlaying some of that amazing energy into your very own business:
1. Do what you love. This is crucial. If you couldn’t care less about knives, don’t open a cutlery store. If physics bores you to tears, don’t become a science tutor. What’s your passion? Try and choose something you would do even without getting paid, and you’ll have boundless energy for it.
2. Go for flexibility. Since your free time as a student will vary each week, choose a business that’s at least somewhat flexible. Freelance writing, software coding or graphic design can allow you to pick up projects when your schedule is open.
3. Network. Once you’ve started your business, spread the word. Tell your friends and family all about it. Take out an ad in your college newspaper, and post flyers around campus. Create free business cards via Vistaprint.com, and distribute them everywhere. Leverage the Internet and social media for marketing and promotion.
4. Consider an online education. If you really want to do justice to both a business and your education, consider attending an online college to complete your degree. Online schools such as Penn Foster education offer access to excellent instruction and a flexible schedule for both homework and building your business.
5. Get support. You don’t have to go it alone. Start your business with a friend or two, or hire some buddies as employees. At the very least, cultivate relationships with supportive people you can turn to for feedback, or if you just want to vent.