Tag Archives | business

Starting a Business as a Student? Why You Should Have an Exit Plan

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A lot of entrepreneurs and successful startup employees swear by starting businesses while you’re still a student. The philosophy behind that idea is that you’re ready to leap off the ground the moment you finish your education. While this sometimes works, you can never quite predict what life is going to throw at you. Everyone needs a backup plan – especially when dealing with something as ambitious as starting a business.

You’re Dealing with Time Constraints

Students are at least as busy as (or even busier than) business owners. This is especially true as graduation approaches. If you’re already devoting massive amounts of time to your education and you have a side gig to make some cash, you’ll be lucky to ever sleep again if you start a business. Some people won’t face the same kind of workload, and actually have the necessary time to devote to starting a business. If that’s not you, you’ll need to be able to find the time to keep yourself sane and healthy.

If you’re worried about time, start by focusing on long term planning. Devote your spare time to planning what you’ll do in the future, rather than actually implementing your plans. You won’t need an exit strategy if you haven’t actually started your business – there’s a lot less pressure when you focus on preparing for your future rather than building one from the ground up.

Your Education Might Take You in a New Direction

You’ve started a business, and things are difficult. You graduate, and you get a job offer that you would never have conceived being offered. You really want to take it, but you’re tethered to another obligation. What are you going to do? You don’t know what’s going to happen a few years down the road, and you don’t want to miss an opportunity to live your dream.

If this happens, you’ll need to know you can safely leave the business. Co-founding your business with others might be your best bet. If one or more of you needs to leave, the business will still be able to survive. If things are going really well, you might even be able to find someone to buy you out. You’ll be free, and your former business might even wind up better because of it.

You Want to Be Careful With Costs

Being a student is expensive. You need to be able to keep your head above water while you’re finishing up your education. Student loan debt is very high in some parts of the world, and the financial juggling act that comes with learning can be a real nightmare. If running your business is costing you money or it isn’t as profitable as you need it to be, you have to be able to pull away quickly.

This is easy to do when you’re running a business like a profitable blog or an eCommerce service. You can always sell your website and walk away with some cash. You’ll be able to pay off what you need to pay off, or use that cash to carry you through until you land a stable and profitable position.

Hopefully, you’ll never need to use your exit strategy. If you consider every possibility before you start a business, you’re more likely to be able to prevent or quickly resolve any hang ups you might run into along the way. On the other hand, there’s no such thing as being too prepared. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into – you’ll have a much easier time.

This article was contributed by guest author Amber Brunning.

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How to Afford Starting a New Business Right After College

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For many college graduates, the first step on the employment ladder is either unappealing or non-forthcoming. Those with a burning business idea are tempted to go it alone and put their entrepreneurial spirit to the test.

However, a common stumbling block in getting a new business off the ground is the lack of funds available to a recently graduated student. You haven’t had decades of lucrative work topping up your bank balance. Instead, you’re pretty much broke after years of expensive accommodation and tuition fees with only low paid, part time jobs to see you through.

But don’t despair. Your brilliant business idea needn’t founder. Here are seven ways you can find the funds to make your dreams a reality and get that start-up off the ground.

Work on Your Business Part Time
Many recently graduated entrepreneurs don’t put all of their eggs in one basket. They work at temporary or freelance jobs on a part time basis and spend the rest of their time working on their business. With a little money coming in, you can afford to live modestly and, hopefully, invest in your enterprise without your finances running into the red.

Rent Out Your Space
Make use of any spare space you have at home before and after you finish college. This could mean offering a room to host tourists visiting your city or renting out disused space for storage using a site like Spacer. Maximising your resources in this way is a great opportunity to stump up a little extra cash.

Buy and Sell Second Hand
Textbooks can be expensive. Buy them second hand from past students or through online stores like Amazon. And don’t forget to sell them once your own course has ended. Buying second hand items and selling items you no longer use can save you lots of money – and it doesn’t have to end at your textbooks. Clothes, furniture, kitchen appliances and business equipment can all be found much cheaper second hand.

Make Use of the Sharing Economy
In these days of interconnectivity, it’s easy to find people with whom to share or exchange resources. A new business owner no longer needs to rent out an expensive office from the get go. Co-working spaces are a sociable and low-cost place to start. Some companies are also keen to maximise the return from their own resources and will be prepared to rent out equipment on an hourly basis, which saves you from spending lots of money in initial outlay.

Get A Bank Loan
With the right idea, a strong business plan and a receptive bank, you could loan the money you need to start your business. You’ll need to conduct thorough research into the market potential of your product or service idea and put together a comprehensive financial plan for projected loan repayments.

Crowdfund
Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way to source funding for a new business and bypass the banks completely. You pitch your idea to hundreds of potential investors. They can then invest a lot or a little, giving you the financial support you need to get your idea up and running.

Get A Federal Grant
Small businesses within specified industries can sometimes be eligible for a federal grant. Government funds are allocated each year to support important causes, like medicine, education and social care, as well as new technologies. Grants.gov provides a directory of federal grant programs and details on how to apply for them.

Finding the funds for a new business can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle. There’s certainly a lot of hard work to do to find initial financial input for your company. The good news is there are plenty of avenues to explore. With the right idea, you’re sure to find the funds and make a success of your new business enterprise.

This article was contributed by guest author Emma Lewis.

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Degrees for Small-Business Minded Students

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According to a study by MarketWatch, 80% of US students have part-time jobs while they’re in school. Many of those jobs are in retail. Students are attracted to retail jobs for a whole slew of reasons – flexible scheduling and demand, for starters. But one of the things that makes many students fall in love with the work and pursue a future in small business is that there’s no formula for success. They have to learn to listen to their customers, observe their behaviors, anticipate their desires, and then buy, sell, and market accordingly. It’s not a multiple choice test; the work is delightfully nuanced. Small business success is all about instinct, education, and hard work. A little bit of good luck doesn’t hurt either.

There are two camps of students and/or prospective students who consider retail degrees as a part of their formal education: the novices and the seasoned business owners. Retail novices are those recently bitten by the retail bug and interested in pursuing it as a first career. The more seasoned variety are business managers and owners who are already actively involved in retail and want to improve the big-picture aspects of their work. People in both of these categories have unique needs and goals, and tend to be drawn to different area of study.

Retail Novices
These are the high school and college students who take a part-time job at a small business to help ease the burden of tuition, and fall in love with retail in the process. They are the indigo children of the retail world, the ones store owners secretly hope might want to take over someday in the distant future. They’re the ones who are innately skilled with Facebook marketing, selfie tickets, and naturally take cues from global tech trends like Pokemon Go.

An all-around retail business management degree can be extremely informative for early-career students like these men and women. A business degree helps train those who are inexperienced or less-experienced in a retail setting about things like how to manage a staff, decision-making, and merchandising.

While the coursework for a retail management degree might feel redundant for a seasoned retail employee, for a newbie it’s a fast-track to understanding the inner workings of a business and culture.

Seasoned Retailers
It goes without saying that in retail, experience goes a long, long way. If a lifetime shop owner attended a class about retail management, they’d likely spend most of it nodding their head, rolling their eyes, and silently muttering, “Yup, yup, true” and “Got it.”

For a person already succeeding as a retailer, an entry-level college course wouldn’t be much more than positive affirmation and a few new tips. Most small business associations can offer as much, often for free.

But that’s the thing about education: there’s always more to learn. One just has to get creative about the avenues.

Big retailers like REI and Whole Foods are known for hiring people with MPAs, Masters in Public Administration, because they have excellent minds for policy and managing the various aspects that keep a business running smoothly. Online MPA degrees are a popular choice among nontraditional students — like store managers who want to become owners but can’t stop working in the interim — because it’s an online degree offered by some of the most reputable higher education institutions around. Traditionally, MPAs were thought to be exclusive to those who wanted to work for the government or nonprofits, but the retail world has already benefited greatly from the expertise that comes from an MPA degree.

It makes perfect sense really. No matter the size of a shop, it’s always a bit of a microcosm of social wellbeing. If the public is thriving, more people spend money. If the public is stressed-out and riddled with anxiety, retailers will encounter more difficult customers than usual.

When it comes down to it, any form of education is a good thing. A degree in the arts, while not generally considered one of the top money making degrees, will greatly benefit a student by refining the way he or she sees and expresses him or herself in the world. And a unique voice is a huge asset to small business. Business degrees have modernized. Students, whether they’re traditional students or online students, now have more freedom than ever before. And small businesses around the nation are reaping the rewards.

This article was contributed by guest author Katie Kapro.

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4 Degrees for Students Interested in Civil Engineering

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Civil engineering is a competitive field. If you want to stand out from other applicants, you might think about obtaining a minor or double major in addition to your regular civil engineering degree. Here are just four other areas of study that will complement your current curriculum.

Business
Civil engineers rarely work alone. They coordinate with builders, architects, surveyors, accountants, insurers, risk assessment managers and many other professionals to ensure the safe and speedy completion of their projects. A business background will help you understand all of these areas instead of just one, and you’ll be better equipped to make the “big picture” decisions of your engineering endeavors. Consider a degree in business to make yourself a jack of all trades.

Environmental Engineering
You’ll deal with a lot of environmental issues as you build bridges and dams. From soil tests to geological impact surveys, you’ll need to speak the language and understand the risks before you move forward with your civil projects. A minor in environmental engineering can help you with this. Not only will it broaden your knowledge of engineering in general, but it will also give you a strong foundation in subjects that are bound to come up in your everyday career.

Civil Engineering
An advanced degree in civil engineering will look better to hiring managers than a simple bachelor’s degree. The good news is that you can obtain an online civil engineering master’s degree with nothing but a web connection and a willingness to work hard, so even if you don’t have access to a brick-and-mortar school, you can still further your education and career prospects. Some programs will even accelerate your degree schedule so that you can join the workforce sooner.

Computer Science
As the world becomes increasingly digital, it pays to understand things like programming languages and database management. You might be asked to use a variety of software as you create, plan, alter, design and implement civil structures, and if you have a technical background in computers, you’ll find them a lot easier to utilize than the next person. A degree in computer science will also look attractive to hiring managers when paired with your already-intensive civil engineering studies.

These are just four potential degrees for civil engineers. There are many more, of course, but these ideas should be enough to get you started. Use them to obtain a well-rounded education that will open doors for you in the future.

This article was contributed by guest author Rachelle Wilber.

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How to Effectively Manage Your Online Business While Still in School

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In this day and age, the idea of becoming an entrepreneur is budding amongst even the youngest of college students. And, who can blame these full-hearted, ambitious, and inspired kids when the likes of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates have turned entrepreneurship into multi-million dollar success stories?

As parents everywhere shake with fear at the thought of their college-aged child not finishing their degree, and students everywhere seek out ways in which to make more money than any college education could prepare them for, I suggest finding a middle ground.

There is no doubt completing a college degree has many benefits. If anything, it provides students with lessons related to setting a goal and achieving it. Moreover, statistics continue to show that having a college education will yield almost twice the annual salary when compared to someone with just a high school diploma. However, that does not discount the advantages that running an online business during college can bring.

So, why not do both?

Being able to manage an online business and the demands of gaining a college degree is no easy feat. However, with enough determination and information about how to balance both, anyone can achieve the success they seek. That’s why today we are going to discuss some of the best ways to effectively manage an online business while still in college.

Find Your Priorities
Trying to excel at both your college education (e.g. securing a perfect GPA and attending all extracurricular activities) and your online business (e.g. making money!) is near impossible. While some may be able to do so (lucky them), the truth is that is extremely difficult. In the end, it is likely that both your grades and business will suffer and that is not the goal.

Deciding early on where you see your future career path going will dictate your overall priorities. If you see your college education garnering you a successful job position post-graduation, make your grades a priority and use your online business as a side hustle to earn extra cash. On the other hand, if you see it the other way around, and your online business is going to be what makes you the big bucks, use your college education as a building block to becoming a successful business owner by learning what you can, but don’t stress over every grade.

Want a bonus tip? Try integrating your business into your schoolwork. For example, take courses that will support your business goals and give you the expertise and knowledge needed to become a more successful business owner.

Make Time Management a Daily Task
As a college student, you will experience plenty of downtime. Whether that be when you are not physically in class, on the weekends, or even on summer vacation. The same is not true when you are attempting to run an online business while in school. Your business will not wait for the weekend to end. And, it will definitely not take summer vacations. As a college student managing an online business, you must dedicate a certain amount of time each and every day to your business if you wish to be successful and continue to grow a reputable brand.

Here are some great time management tips you can try:

• Design a schedule so you can focus on school or business at any given time
• Don’t try to work on both school and your business tasks at the same time
• Arrange your class schedule so you can have off days to focus solely on your business
• Put your social life in check
• But make sure you schedule breaks into your weekly schedule – see a movie, go out with friends, visit family
• Make sure you schedule enough time for rest

Utilize Campus Resources
As a college student, you will have access to a multitude of resources that might otherwise be unavailable to you.

Not sure what type of resources college can afford its students? Look here for some of the best one available at most universities:

Experienced faculty members. Those working for universities not only have a lot of first-hand experience with what it takes to be successful after college, they have access to all of the resources you could possibly need to help you learn the modern business models and make your grades count.
Advisors. Advisors are great for keeping you on track when it comes to graduating on time. They can also help guide you when it comes to choosing a major that coincides with your newly started business. This way you learn all of the necessary skills that will carry over into your online business.
The writing center. Starting an online business typically requires you to start a blog as well. After all, a blog is the best way to inform potential customers about your company, products you sell, and overall valuable information about your niche. In addition, it’s a great way to encourage people to make purchases. Becoming a strong writer is necessary when it comes to online blogging. Utilizing your school’s writing center is just another way to achieve success with your business.
The career center. Your campus’ career center can help you determine a major, seek out internships, and practice networking and interviewing skills. All of these things are welcome because you never know far your online business might take you. Being able to function in the real world as well as behind your computer is a necessity.
Student Organizations. Without overextending yourself with too many activities (remember time management is key), there are college organizations that can introduce you to like-minded people. In fact, some universities hold business-plan competitions that you can enter that give out prize money or even invest in your idea. This may be something that comes in handy depending on what your online business is.

Become Proficient with Online Websites
One of the easiest ways to manage going to school and running your online business is to become proficient and knowledgeable about online websites. For starters, it is important to choose a well-established content management system (CMS) to build your website on. For instance, the popular WordPress platform is currently used by 58.5% of all websites worldwide. Plus, WordPress offers the following advantages:

• It’s free to download, install, use, and modify
• No experience needed – it’s easy to use
• Thousands of free and premium themes and plugins make it extendable
• It is SEO friendly
• The built-in updater makes it easy to manage
• It is safe and secure from outside threats
• It can handle multiple media types – images, video, and audio content

In addition, WordPress works for all different types of websites. This includes blogs, online shops, portfolios, galleries, a rating and review website, membership sites, and much more.

After deciding which CMS to use, the next most important thing to do is become familiar with the different web hosting providers. Finding the best solution will depend on the various features you are prioritizing as the most important – bandwidth, custom support, speed, security, feature set, and of course cost.

Altogether, if you learn about even the basics behind starting and building a website, you will find managing your online business and school much more doable.

Final Thoughts
In the end, balancing both an online business and school can be a demanding process. However, by implementing some of the above-mentioned tips, you will find managing your business and college degree is easier than you thought. All it takes is a little extra thought when it comes to your priorities, time management, and available resources.

Have you started an online business while attending college? What are some of the best management tips you can share with fellow entrepreneurs? I would love to hear all about it in the comments below!

This article was contributed by guest author Dev.

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Companies that Deserve A’s in Ethics

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Image by John Benson, Flickr

Large companies are always in the news, but recently the coverage has been highlighting negative events related to their businesses. Rarely are the ethical companies discussed, and even more rare is if their deeds get the recognition they deserve. In a time where many companies are purely seeking profit, it’s important to recognize the companies that are being both ethical and fair in their dealings. Brands that are socially and environmentally conscious and going out of their way to make a difference should be recognized for their contributions.

SurveyMonkey has worked with almost every Fortune 500 company, and is one that has put in the effort to create a socially aware part of their brand through their charity donations. For each survey taken via SurveyMonkey, the company donates fifty cents to the charity of your choice. Through all these donations they’ve managed to donate over $5 million – impressive!

Warby Parker is a similar online based company which sells glasses, and incorporates a program called Buy a Pair, Give a Pair into their business model. Based on the number of glasses sold each month, they make a glasses donation to a nonprofit company. In additon, Warby Parker’s Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program trains individuals in developing countries on how to give basic eye exams and sell glasses within their communities.

Tesla Motors is another company that has emerged in recent years, offering electric cars with qualities equal to that of gasoline cars. Tesla cars are also equipped with many of the latest automobile tech advances and are some of the most beautiful looking cars on the market. Add in the fact that they’re eco-friendly, and this company is sure to make a lasting impact on the market for years to come.

Google has been around for years promoting many ideas that reflect their commitment to ethics and the future. Students have been a primary focus for Google, and they’ve created many resources for students such as the Summer of Code, Google Students, and Google Scholar. Google’s website also includes a list that highlights their philosophical values, an investor code of conduct and Google Crisis Response.

Microsoft, similarly to Google, has been recognized as an ethical company from the tech sector. Their website lists core principles which employees are expected to follow, and how they expect partners to act. Like Google, they have enforced their core principles strictly and have created a long overview of their core values.

Companies are striving to create a work culture that revolves around a core set of values. As companies are becoming more and more transparent, their practices are being called into question if they don’t adhere to regulations. Companies that have already been practicing fair treatment are one step ahead of the curve. I believe that many companies in the future will increasingly strive to promote their ethical and socially conscious side as businesses move towards both a profitable and ethical model.

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