Student start-ups: The secret to making money your own way

 

If you find yourself poring over prospectuses for obscure MAs or still can’t decide whether your position as vice-president of the knitting society is a legitimate CV point, it may be that you’re in need of further options. Grad schemes are eluding you and the third year fear has finally set in. But have you considered creating your own graduate job? If the idea of being your own boss sounds appealing, here’s what you need to know.

Make sure there’s a gap in the market

A cliché yes, but crucial to the success of your start-up. It helps to think of your business idea as the solution to a problem. Anna Gray wrote her business plan for student modelling agency, Model Students, in her final year studying Business Management at the University of Nottingham. She says: "I modelled myself whilst I was at uni and my agency wasn't always that flexible or understanding about my university commitments so I came up with the idea of setting up an agency specifically for students."

Make the most of your spare time

Although it may not feel like it when you’re in the library at four am with Pro Plus-induced shakes, university offers the most free time you’ll have pre-retirement. With real life and true financial responsibility only faintly visible in the distant future, now is the perfect time to explore your passions.

Brothers Rob and Mart Drake-Knight set up their eco-fashion brand Rapanui with £200 each when Mart was still a student. Six years later, they employ 15 young people at their own factory on the Isle of Wight, where they grew up. Mart says: "I had a lot of spare time in my first year and I was learning a lot about climate change. The pattern was that it’s not that people don’t care about it, they just don’t know. We could have launched a charity or pressure group but, for me, it’s clear that the big changes in the world come from business."

Take advantage of the support on offer at uni

Many universities have schemes in place to support aspiring entrepreneurs. The University of Nottingham offers all students the chance to apply for grants of between one and two thousand pounds to develop a business idea.

The enterprise and employability development officer at the University of East Anglia, Finbarr Carter, advises: "Find out what support is available from your university as most offer a range of support including workshops, mentoring and grants."

There’s no need to be put off by your paltry student loan either. Finbarr adds: "There are a huge range of competitions run annually to get involved in that target university level students."

Be prepared for a slog

Even if you have a unique idea and manage to secure funding, there are still no guarantees. If you’re hoping to get rich overnight, you may be better off investing in a lottery ticket. Anna Gray says: "I had to work alongside running the company initially to have an income until the company was making enough to pay me. I would always be very envious of my friends who had graduate jobs as they had much bigger incomes than me."

But Anna maintains that persevering is worth it: "It is so important to stick with it though because after four years of hard work I am finally starting to see the rewards of having my own company and doing what I love."

Mart Drake-Knight found balancing business with books challenging. He says: "Sometimes it feels like I will never recover fully from starting the business alongside my degree! But I found that you overestimate what you can achieve in a year but underestimate where you’ll be in five – stick at it."

Use the uni environment to your advantage

Trying to make money living in a bubble with thousands of other debt-ridden young people may not seem ideal, but there are advantages to growing a business in the student environment. Finbarr suggests: "If you are looking for specific skills and experiences to tap, you are situated in a hotbed of talent to tap into both amongst staff and students; if you want to test your product or service you have a huge audience to pilot and gauge demand."

Student media can also provide easy opportunities to bring your business to a wider audience. Creating a network of contacts in a close student community can be much simpler than starting from scratch.

It may not be all expensive suits and swivel chairs but running your own business can be incredibly rewarding. And you may never have to write another toe-curlingly arrogant cover letter ever again.

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Data Analyst - Essex - £25,000

£23500 - £25000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Data analyst/Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Account Manager

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Account Manager is r...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Manager / Sales Executive

£18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Account Man...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea