How to hustle in college:
By Christian Durfee (Co-Owner of Save Our Livers)
Nowadays, there are so many resources for entrepreneurial endeavors. Some offer key takeaways that resonate to the beginning entrepreneur. Others are not the gurus that they claim to be. Myself, starting two companies in college including Save Our Livers, knows a few helpful insights to the college student/young adult that wants to start the entrepreneurial journey but might not know how to or have the confidence to. In this blog post, I’ll give you 14 helpful tips on how to start a business/side hustle in college to gain some capital for future endeavors:
- 1: Know what your main goal is
- 2: “But my schedule is too packed” (I promise, there is time)
- 3: Sacrifices
- 4: Networking is key
- 5: Start research and find a product
- 6: Envision a brand
- 7: Write up a solid plan
- 8: Create a website and social media
- 9: Fundraising
- 10: Test your products
- 11. Show your business to your friends (HINT: that’s where the first sales will come from)
- 12. Reevaluate KPIs and figure out where your business stands
- 13: Create a plan for the future and EXECUTE
- 14: NEVER GIVE UP AND KNOW YOU’LL MAKE IT
- Know what your main goal is:
A lot of times, people will jump into the entrepreneurial field without knowing what their true intentions are. Here’s the issue, if you are trying to start a business solely for the reason to get rich quick, it’s going to be a lot harder than you think. This is due to the fact that businesses need nurturing along with consistent learning and adaptation to the market. If you have the right mindset and intentions, you’ll be able to become successful in your endeavor. Also, make sure to ask yourself, where do you see your company in ten years and what do you want to accomplish in those ten years. After writing those goals down, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
- “But my schedule is too packed” (I promise, there is time):
Entrepreneurs have always been looked at as people who never have time for fun and are always busy with their work. The old saying (and I have been told this plenty of times in my life) is, “You’re going to have no free time at all if you start your own business”. I’m here to break that stigma and tell you that it’s not true….well partially. Sure, businesses take a lot of time at first in the nurturing stages to make sure that orders go out on time, finances are balanced, the marketing strategy is up to par and hitting the KPIs, and you’re doing whatever you can to help it grow. The key is automation. If you can figure out a way to automate each thing that has the option to be, you’ll be sitting golden. Let’s take social media marketing for example. If you grind out a few posts, captions, hashtags, and a message, you can throw it into Hootsuite or any other popular social media automation tool for free and sit back. The other thing to know is once you scale your business and get busier, you’ll be able to have a team and pay for automation tools. My goal has always been to end up being the conductor of the team rather than the horn player (I was pretty good in high school band by the way).
Piggybacking on the idea of free time being equivalent to automation, at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, there are going to be a few sacrifices that you might have to make. I remember when I started my journey, instead of going to parties on weekends, I would be finishing up a part of the website or looking into different product suppliers. With that being said, it’s not like you’re going to sacrifice your social life and become a hermit. Instead, try to talk about your business ideas and brainstorm with your friends or random people at a party; that way, you’re having fun and doing business at the same time!
- Networking is key:
In the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, Ferrazzi talks about networking as the key to business. In my experiences and talking to people who are very successful, this is absolutely correct. Networking can help in starting your own company and landing deals to help scale it up right away. How do you grow your network? Glad you asked! The first main way is social media. LinkedIn is a goldmine of leads in whatever industry you decide to start your business in. Just search a few keywords, join a group, and reach out to different profiles. Also look into Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They will all host profiles that will have a following in the niche you are trying to sell your products in. Another way is by joining groups at your college. These groups usually have a lot of different connections that might be tied to bigger and greater connections. You’ll never know who you’ll meet.
- Start research and find a product:
After talking to your network and brainstorming at least ten ideas for different business niches, start researching which niches align with your values, goals, and personality, as well as seeing how popular they are and what the market looks like. Some great tools to see analytics on different products are Google Trends and social media. Google Trends allows you to see what keywords were most searched when and where. With this information, you can figure out if there is a market, and if so, is it flooded with other companies. Finding what product niches you want to sell in may be a challenge but after this task is accomplished, pre-launch gets easier!
- Envision a brand:
Now that you have your product and know who you are selling to, it’s time to envision a brand. Really think about your target audience in this stage and come up with a company name, mission statement, and logo that would speak to them. This is the part where your creativity comes into play. You can design the logo in-house using Canva, Adobe, or other graphic design products. If you don’t feel up to the task or aren’t very creative (myself), there are a bunch of websites which offer logo and graphic design for a small fee. I encourage you to look into your network first for someone who is a graphic designer. 9 times out of 10, they are going to better work and you also get to financially support a person you know with their own company (karma is great).
- Write up a solid plan:
A map is no good if it doesn’t give directions. This is the same thing with a business plan. You have the product, you have the brand, you have the vision for the company, now is the time to plan everything about the company and map out where you want to go with it. Make sure to take time in writing your business plan and include key concepts like marketing, product development, supply chain, finances, and how you’re going to reach your goals. Always remember, a business plan isn’t set in stone, it can be flexible and change from time.
- Create a website and social media:
A website is your store front, however it is online. Customers aren’t going to use all of their senses like they would in a real storefront, this is why it is so important to make sure your website is the best part of your business. You usually have limited seconds of your customers attention once they click on your website, and if you don’t capture their attention in those seconds, you more than likely lose out on a sale. Make sure that your website looks and performs well. Nowadays, there’s tons of different website builder options including: Wix, Shopify, Squarespace, Wordpress, and others. Along with your website, most of your marketing will probably be done via social media. Find out which social media your target audience lives, create the account, make sure it’s set to business, and start building it to represent your brand. In the near future, we will put together survival blogs for social media marketing. Also note that once you have your website up, tie in your social media to your website. If the consumer goes on your site and doesn’t purchase anything, try to get a follow from them and put them into a sales funnel.
Most small startups, especially college side hustles, are financially supported with the owners personal bank account. If you need more funding and have a good idea, think about throwing it up on Kickstarter. You never know, you might get the funding you need.
- Test your products:
Once you make or get your products in stock, test them out with friends and family. Ask for honest feedback and change up the product based on their responses. Take it with a grain of salt as well, your parents might not be your target audience, however they might give you valuable feedback your target audience wouldn’t. If you’re feeling confident, try and find a few influencers in your product niche and send some product samples out to them. Not only will they give feedback, if they like your product they might shout it out for free.
- Show your business to your friends (HINT: that’s where the first sales will come from):
Launch day!!! Congratulations, you made it to launch. Time to get some sales. As Shopify states, the 10 sales are the hardest. Ease the burden by telling your friends about your company. More than likely, they will want to support you and will purchase a product from you. After they get the product, they will most likely tell their friends how amazing your product is and network about it...BOOM, you have organic growth and more opportunities for sales.
- Reevaluate KPIs and figure out where your business stands:
After a few weeks or months in business, take a step back and reevaluate where you are, where you thought you would be, and where you want to be. Make sure to look at these analytics in terms of KPIs. Readjust your KPIs to the growth you’ve seen in your company and start reaching for those goals.
- Create a plan for the future and EXECUTE:
This sort of ties in with the KPIs you’ve looked at, however this plan will tell you how to get to those new KPI goals. Be honest with yourself and map out a plan to continue growth. Most businesses that fail don’t write up a new and improved plan after launch and fail to adapt to what’s going wrong with their business. A lot of times, there’s going to be 1,000,000 things going wrong, instead of ignoring it and looking at the positives, focus on the negatives and find a way to turn them positive. This is where winners are made.
- NEVER GIVE UP AND KNOW YOU’LL MAKE IT:
Entrepreneurship is a hard task to be successful in and isn’t for everyone. Even just reading through this blog to get more knowledge on hustling in college shows that you are someone who is dedicated and ready to make another stream of income! My biggest piece of advice that I can give you is, be patient and never give up. Things (most of the time) don’t happen overnight, and if they do happen overnight, there’s months/years put into that company and it caught its big break. Keep grinding and envisioning the best, but at the same time know that you’ll make it. This helps take pressure off you while keeping in-tune with your energy and helping the business succeed.
Whatever you choose to do in college/post college, starting a side hustle/business is a great hobby and way to succeed in your personal and professional life. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be Amazon or Apple, you’ll learn so many things and grow your network which will help in future endeavors. May the force be with you!