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College Student Entrepreneurs: Students Starting Businesses

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The current unstable job market is giving more and more Americans the confidence to take matters into their own hands and start their own businesses. Parents often decide that running a home-based company is the easiest way to care for their children while still contributing to the family’s income, but there’s another distinct group of entrepreneurs out there: college students.

A 2009 study performed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City, Missouri-based foundation whose vision is to foster “a society of economically independent individuals who are engaged citizens, contributing to the improvement of their communities” has found that college freshmen are showing increasing interest in entrepreneurship.

While most college students have enough trouble balancing classes, studying for exams, and drinking on the weekends, more and more of them are starting their own businesses while they’re still in school—somehow managing to maintain full course loads while taking on the role of business owner.

Entrepreneurship as a Major

Colleges and universities have noticed this new trend, and many are now starting to offer entrepreneurship programs, providing students with preparation to start their own companies. The study of entrepreneurship incorporates a traditional business curriculum while focusing on certain aspects that relate to the creation of new businesses.

Entrepreneurship students plan to start and manage their own business, whether during college or following graduation. They receive instruction in the traditional business disciplines such as accounting, finance, management and marketing. The major also emphasizes leadership skills that can be used to motivate people in a growing business environment, and the process of business planning. Other specific areas of study include idea-getting, opportunity recognition, feasibility studies, and new venture financing.

Entrepreneur magazine features a list of 25 undergraduate college programs in entrepreneurship, including the following:

  • Babson College, The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, Babson Park, MA
  • University of Houston, C.T. Bauer College of Business, Houston, TX
  • University of Arizona, McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, McGuire Entrepreneurship Program, Tucson, AZ
  • Baylor University, Baylor Entrepreneurship Program, Waco, TX
  • Temple University, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute, Philadelphia, PA

Facebook Founder’s Success Story Motivates College Entrepreneurs

Being a business owner is hot right now, and more and more young people are using the success story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as motivation to start their own business during college. Zuckerberg, who co-founded Facebook in his Harvard University dorm room in 2004, is still working full-time at his business—300 million users and $500 million later.

A 2009 ABC News piece reported that Zuckerberg’s success is just one reason students have been inspired to create their own companies:

“I think it’s a growing visibility,” said George Burman, professor of entrepreneurship at Syracuse’s Whitman School of Management. “The success of some of these significant entrepreneurs and this generation has watched that happen. They see it as both a viable alternative and an exciting one.”

Why Start a Business During College?

College is actually a great time to start a business for several reasons:

  • Living in a dorm means there’s no need to worry about making monthly rent and utility payments for the time being.
  • Students have easy access to professors, advisors, and mentors, most of whom have real-world business experience.
  • Internships may offer valuable information and experience which can be applied to the student’s own business plan.
  • Modern computer labs featuring new software and top-of-the-line technological equipment is at their fingertips.
  • Up-to-date resources such as books and periodicals are available in the school library.
  • Other college students are often willing to provide cheap labor when necessary.

Tips for College Student Entrepreneurs

A 2008 Wall Street Journal blog offers advice for students hoping to launch their own “dorm-based businesses” based upon the results of a dorm-based business competition held by StartUpNation.com

1. Embrace technology. Many students designed their own Web sites and conducted their marketing campaigns online.

2. Start early. Most of the students in the competition had business experience already – from high school. One, for example, started making money building Web sites as a teen.

3. Say ‘no’ to corporate work. Headlines of layoffs from big companies have turned off these youngsters to being a corporate employee. They’d rather make money their own way.

4. Be socially conscious. Contestants’ social responsibility is on the top of their business plans. Their mantra: You can’t succeed unless you help other people.

Although estimates show that nearly half of all new businesses fail, most college student entrepreneurs are hopeful enough to give it a shot anyway. Older people are often afraid of losing the security of a corporate job, and branching out onto their own and attempting to start their own business is too scary to ever become a reality. Starting your own business while still in college may be the ticket to your success. Hey, you never know … you might wind up creating the new Facebook.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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