Launching a Startup in College

With everything that goes on while you’re away at college—trying to nab a B in ECON 101, making time for friends on the weekends, figuring out how you’re going to afford this week’s meal, and spending half your time in the library—launching a startup doesn’t seem like the most practical thing. But as CEO and Founder of HeadbandsOfHope.org Jessica Ekstrom points out in her article “Student Startup: Why College is the Perfect time to Launch a Business,” college might be the perfect time to start down an entrepreneurial path.

1. You have access to tons of resources

Just head over to your university’s business school and you’ll find countless professors who not only have the know-how to start you on your startup career, but want to help you succeed. Some schools, such as UNC, even offer an entrepreneurship minor. You can also find local startup accelerators like 1789 Venture Lab or Launch Chapel Hill to aid you in building your startup. Best of all, it’s all free!

FreshSpire co-founder Hannah Sloan says that the resources available to college students—especially those at large research institutions—are extremely helpful.

“Opportunities for seeking start-up capital, mentorship, pro-bono creative work, etc. are also much more easily accessible in an institutionalized setting like college,” she said. 

“What is more, universities are great places to take your ideas and make them malleable: while there are a wealth of constructive mentors, there's practically always someone who will critique and dismember your idea; these people are vital to the success of the idea in the long run because they point out critical flaws or spur a shift in group focus. “

2. Like-minded peers

When you’re away at college, you have the opportunity to connect with countless other students with the same level of ambition as you. This not only fuels you to do your best, but introduces you to several potential business partners.

You can even enter competitions with fellow student entrepreneurs that not only help you hone your skills, but network as well. If you’re at UNC, check out Carolina Challenge, where you’ll have the chance to win seed funding for your early-stage idea.

“People starting their own startups need to be able to create a collaborative group that are willing to go outside their comfort zones,” said Morgan Howell, co-creator of the app Appetite.

“Connect those people and bring them together to create the best products.”

3. All the support you need

Speaking of your college peers, they’re always there to support you, whether that be by joining your startup team or helping you spread the word. Make sure to take advantage of social media and have your friends share, retweet and favorite everything you post. 

4. It could help you land a job post-grad

Of course, the dream is to have your startup take off (think Facebook), but even if it doesn’t, running a startup while in college gives you plenty of experience to put on your resume when you begin looking for a job.

When asked why he decided to build his startup Appetite, Howell said, “I’m always looking for business ideas and things to add to my portfolio. It’s also a great learning experience, because there are some things that you just can’t learn in a class.”

“Being a software developer is pretty competitive today, so I’m glad to have Appetite to add to my portfolio.”

5. It’s okay to be selfish 

Sure, while you’re in college, you have to worry about getting to class and getting your essays turned in on time, but these responsibilities are relatively small compared to what awaits you after graduation.

Hypestarter Co-Founder and CEO Ryan Bregier points out that while in college, his housing was covered, he wasn’t expected to be working a job, and he had lots of free time. 

Now out of school, things are different for Bregier in terms of running his startup.

“Everything changes. In college, the focus is on the idea, concept, product development, possibly testing for traction. Afterwards, it becomes about running a business, growing a user or customer base, sales, and developing partnerships with other organizations.” 

It’s important to note that while you may have lots of free time, college can be a pretty busy time, especially for young entrepreneurs, so it’s important to stay organized and manage your time well. 

“Everything is so busy! Priorities are hard. Working on a startup is often really contingent on momentum and being able to dedicate so much of your time and energy to the project,” said Sloan.

“You really have to take advantage of opportunities when you get them and said opportunities rarely come at convenient times.” 

6. Failure is an option 

When you’re in the “real world” and your startup is your full-time job, failure is definitely not cool. But when you have the safety net of college, one or two mistakes aren’t the end of the world.

Now is the perfect time to learn and grow, and you’ll never be in a better environment to do so.