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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Commercial Property Surveyor

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading firms of Cha...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Central London, Bank

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A keen Graduate Structural Engineer with...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Data & Delivery Guru

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Data & Delivery Guru is required to...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible