The pandemic has disrupted the traditional college experience, while remote learning has left many students behind. What makes the news less often is how some students managed to channel their lockdown boredom into starting small businesses.
Because of the coronavirus, many have lost their part-time jobs as the tourism and hospitality industries got shut down. But most students now have more time at their disposal. Some choose to use it to work on turning their side hustles into full-time businesses.
Such aspiring entrepreneurs don’t just manage to make their pastime into a profitable activity. They also juggle studies and work, whether on their own or with the help of ‘proofread my essay‘ services. What’s more, these young people are the driving force behind a boom in the number of newly registered small enterprises in the U.S.
So, what businesses are thriving thanks to the enterprising youth? Here are 4 business ideas that U.S. students turned into profitable ventures.
Students with a knack for DIY can channel their passion into making products for sale. The sky’s the limit here: it can be anything from custom jewelry and tote bags to knitted scarves and embroidery.
These days, platforms like Instagram and Etsy have made it easy for any DIY-er to reach their potential clientele. They essentially democratized the market. Launching an Instagram account is free (although you may need to invest in ads), while an Etsy listing comes at just a $0.2 fee.
Success stories are abundant. Morganne Halpin, a George Washington University student, set out to sell handmade bracelets in summer 2020. Her friends were the first clients, but now she runs her own brand on Instagram, Morganne’s Knots.
Knitting is another trendy handmade choice. For instance, the KnitterzAnonymous founder, another GWU student Jessica Zhao, sells knitted scarves and pillows via her Etsy store. Seaver College student Kendall Ross has opted for Instagram to launch her ‘I’d Knit That’ brand and capitalize on her knitting passion, too.
Although restaurants remain limited in their activities, home delivery and takeout are soaring. So, students with a knack for baking (or cooking in general) shouldn’t dismiss the idea of turning it into a business.
If you need inspiration, let the story of Macaron Man be it. RJ Tare, a Bismarck college student, learned to bake macarons during the lockdown. What was just a small obsession and a hobby at first quickly transformed into a home-based enterprise with a loyal customer base.
This is another creative outlet on the list. If you’ve been keeping your drawings and paintings to yourself for years, now could be the time for this to change. You can sell them on Etsy or Instagram – or charge for commissions, like Emily Marin from California State University, Long Beach does.
You can combine your artistic drive with other mediums, too. Take the example of Sarah Burch and her ‘Kicks and canvas’ brand. She started personalizing shoes by painting custom designs on them during the pandemic. Now, she sells such shoes on her Instagram page.
It wouldn’t be a ‘pandemic’ list without sanitizers on it. The demand for them remains at its highest, and these two student-owned businesses decided to jump that train.
First, we have the story of a Duke student Yahya Remtulla who was inspired by his professor’s seminar on how crises create business opportunities. He joined forces with engineers and health experts at his alma mater. Together, they designed the Doctor’s Choice UV Sterilizer, a device that can sterilize items like smartphones and keys.
Kristen Carter, a Marquette University student, set out to make hand sanitizing more convenient, instead. Her wristband, Krisband, allows having hand sanitizer always with you. No more forgetting it at home or having to dig through your backpack’s contents.
4 Steps Towards Your Own Business
Do you have a hobby or an idea that begs to be turned into a small business? Here’s an overview of 4 key steps to help you map out the beginning of this journey.
1. Ask Yourself These Questions
Don’t hop onto the idea of becoming an entrepreneur just because being one is the new black. Approach it carefully. It comes with substantial responsibilities, and it’ll take a lot of your time before you earn more than the price of a cup of coffee from it. Ask yourself:
- What am I great at? In other words, what are my strengths and skills?
- What do I enjoy doing?
- What expertise do I have?
- Why am I adamant about starting my own business?
- How much time/energy/money am I willing to invest in it?
2. Settle On One Idea
Just because you enjoy doing something doesn’t mean it’s a viable business idea. You’ll need to make sure there’s a demand for what you have to sell. Here are 5 questions to help you with the market research:
- Is there a sufficient amount of demand for your product or service?
- What need does it satisfy?
- Who are your potential clients?
- Does it have any direct or indirect competition?
- What are your competitive advantages and unique selling point? What market niche can you occupy?
Read next: 5 Questions to Ask When Buying a Business
3. Consider Future Expenses vs Revenues
Factor in all the associated costs that are unavoidable before your first sale:
- Raw materials;
- Production tools;
- Marketing costs (for example, Instagram ads or Etsy listings fees);
- Business registration fees (if there are any).
The trickier part is figuring out what price tag to put on your products or services. To avoid underselling them, calculate how much time it takes you to paint that commission or bake that macaron, add the cost of raw materials, and charge accordingly.
Finally, compare your expenses to expected revenues. Would your business be profitable?
4. Do Your Research & Paperwork
Unless you want the IRS knocking at your door for tax evasion, prepare to get bogged down in research and, probably, some paperwork. If the venture has to be registered, you’ll need to:
- Choose the business structure;
- Settle on its official name;
- Check what permits or licenses you need;
- Understand how much in taxes you’ll have to pay;
- Determine which authorities you need to submit your application to.
Luckily enough, registering a small business can be as easy as registering your venture’s name with the state or local authorities.