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How to Become a Successful Student Entrepreneur

The names Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google are very familiar in the world of young entrepreneurs today.

One reason for that can be attributed to the astounding growth and dominance of their companies but another important reason that adds more spice to their story is that fact that they started all out as student entrepreneurs.

These three individuals share more than a few enviable accomplishments. They are all billionaires who made their fortunes in the technology industry while they were still students. It is also important to point out that they are seriously smart individuals.

These individuals have indeed distinguished themselves and are living proof that you need wait until after graduation from school to launch your own business and start your own company as long as you can solve an important problem in the society.

For those of us that are aware – the majority of us – in the case for Gates and Zuckerberg they didn’t have to graduate at all. To be clear on this, we are in no wise advocating dropping out.

Are you considering becoming a student entrepreneur? As in the case of any other endeavor you may undertake, you sure need to have a clear plan – by a clear plan, I do not mean anything like a haphazardly prepared term paper that was put together the night before the deadline for submission.

Your plan must be definite and achievable. Mind you, you can never have a perfect plan that will fit into all the uncertainties that life sometimes bring.

An important key to success as a student entrepreneur involves researching the steps needed to successfully start-up a business from your hostel or accommodation off-campus.

Here are six basic start-up steps you need to put into serious consideration while venturing as a student entrepreneur.

Glancing at these steps, they may look easy, but, as many student entrepreneurs like my humble self who have ventured into one thing or the other while in school will attest, it can be very challenging, especially while combining lectures and various course loads and demands:

  1. Assess your knowledge, skills and business goals.

From the process of planning to launching, starting a business is no longer at the luxury of seasoned professionals. Even students can start a business. You just need to start by evaluating and assessing your knowledge, skills and business goals.

According to entrepreneur.com, when it comes to university students, 10% of students have already started a business, 17% plan to start a business after graduation from school and 27% plan to pursue their business as a career after graduating.

Evaluate your skills and knowledge, your desired industry as well as how you want to work. Ideally, you’ll need some appropriate work experience in the area of business you want to pursue – but don’t be afraid to venture out into the unknown if you’re motivated enough.

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”– Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook.

  1. Find a good business idea.

An idea that identifies a need and then satisfies it is a good business idea. Here are a number of questions you can use to evaluate your business idea:

  • Does your idea satisfy a need or solve a problem?
  • Is your idea unique enough to differentiate you from your competitors?
  • Is there a demand for your service/product?
  • Can you identify your target market?
  • Will people be willing to pay for your service/product?
  • Are you aware of any possible drawbacks or limitations?
  • Is your service/product free from legal implications?

If you answer to the above questions is a ‘No’, then your offering is not strong enough and you’ll need to work on it or develop another.

If your answer is a ‘Yes’, then your service/product is good at least for now. Regularly test your idea to ensure that changing circumstances don’t render it obsolete.

  1. Study your competition and distinguish yourself.

Identify and understand you competitors. You can enter keywords online about your business, service or product into various search engines like Google. Companies or businesses with the highest rank will give you a good idea of who your main competitors are.

Check in print also. Advertisements or features placed in industry magazines and trade publications can help to reveal local or international competition.

You can also do your research in person. Attend trade shows. The largest and most successful of your competitors will likely have a presence at industry events.

Evaluate your competitors by asking the following questions:

  1. How are they perceived?
  2. How do they promote themselves?
  3. How do they work and sell their products?
  4. What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  5. What problems are they creating or not solving?

Use the answers to the following questions to determine how you can distinguish yourself from your competitors.

  1. Prepare a business plan.

A successful business plan will clarify your business idea, define your long-term objectives and provide a blueprint for running your business.

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” – Jack

Your business plan should include:

  • The business concept (Basic background of the industry, business structure and details of your product or service offering).
  • Market and competitors (Details of the customer demographic, any competing products or services and your competition).
  • Sales and marketing (Strategy defining how you’ll build your customer base).
  • Management team (Information about each person’s responsibilities, and what skills they bring to the table).
  • Financial requirements (Based on realistic projected financial statements).
  • Risk assessment (Any potential weaknesses which may affect the success of the business).
  1. Find an accommodating and experienced mentor.

Get advice from people in the industry, or see if you can find someone experienced to mentor you.

When seeking a mentor, look for someone with: a successful business you wish to emulate

  1. Register your business.

Registering your business keeps you on the right side of the law. You can register your business in Nigeria through the Corporate Affairs Commision (CAC).

Consider which type of business is best for you:

  • Sole trader or proprietor (only you own the business and you employ other people).
  • Limited company (you appoint directors to run the company).
  • Business partnership (you and between one to twenty persons own the business and share profits among one another).

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© 2015. Courtesy: Nigerian Scholars
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