Why university is the perfect place to start a business

Lots of time on your hands at university? Start your own business with our guide...


With university degrees more expensive than ever and graduate job prospects worse than they ever have been, many students are finding that starting their own business while studying is giving them a fantastic head start to their professional careers. It's not hard to see their inspiration, either; some of the planet's most well-known companies such as Facebook, Google, Time Magazine and Wordpress were founded while their creators were still waking up late for lectures and spending Tuesday evenings at cheesy club nights. If you are studying at the moment and you're worried about what you will do after the graduation robes have been packed away, this guide will give you some food for thought. We have compiled some of the reasons why you should consider following in the footsteps of the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, as well as the kinds of business usually started by students - and a brief overview of what it takes to get your idea off the ground!

Reasons why you should start a business at university

Students are often viewed by the general public as lackadaisical, feasting on instant noodles mixed with baked beans with a side of last night's pizza - all the while drinking only cheap vodka and kicking all of the neighbouring street's bins over on the way home from the pub. Obviously, this isn't completely true (not all the time anyway) as an increasing number of students are beginning to take the initiative and work for themselves.

The main reason why university is the perfect place to flex your entrepreneurial muscles is the unrivalled amount of free time you have available. Students have on average 13.9 hours contact time with tutors and lecturers, and most spend a similar amount doing independent study. That leaves the majority of the week free to work on business plans and take tentative steps into putting your plans into action. This level of free time is something most students will not experience again during their working lives. Coupled with the lack of real responsibility in the form of mortgages and family, and you basically have a period in your life where you have the freedom to make mistakes.

While your friends are propping up the Student Union bar, you could be out putting together your plans for world domination, testing your product or service on a ready-made market research group in the form of student cohorts.

So, which businesses lend themselves particularly well for a university start up?

The kinds of business started by students

Clearly, meticulous planning and dedication is useless if your idea does not stand up, so finding your business niche is pivotal to the success of the project. You also have to consider how you will fit it in alongside studies, while also making sure you can afford to get it off the ground - unfortunately most banks will be unlikely to invest until after you have at least graduated. With this in mind, here are a few of the best businesses to run while at university:

  • Online business

This is without doubt the easiest to get off the ground for a student. Start-up costs are very low, as you can run it from anywhere - be it the bedroom or the library - and if you don't have the necessary skills to build a site yourself, there is a very good chance you will know someone at university who is studying web design that is looking to add projects to their portfolio and test out their skills.

  • Promotion company

Everyone who has ever been at university has a particular club night they remember fondly - stories of clubs with sticky floors, cheap drinks and the best music of the time are commonplace. However, behind the majority of these memories is a driven student with a passion for music, lining their pockets with more cash than they could ever imagine earning while at university while others are paying for a watered-down vodka and cola with coppers. Many clubs will let you hire a room for next to nothing on a usually-quiet weeknight, and if your marketing powers are good enough to make a success of it, opportunities will arise to move to a weekend night and take advantage of more than just the university crowd.

  • Freelancing

If you have an abundance of free time, why not freelance? If you have a particular skill that is of worth to someone who doesn't have the time to do it - such as writing, coding or web designing for example - you could be paid handsomely. Freelancing is perfect for students too because you decide on your own workload, which means you can ease off a bit during exam time and take on as much as you can handle during quiet periods.

How to start a business while at university

Obviously, the process of starting a business while at university is the same as it is anywhere else: come up with an idea, decide if you are working solo or with a business partner to spread the workload (and profits), write a business plan, raise finance and begin to build your brand. For the unfamiliar, this website provides a great overview of what creating a business at university involves.

What is different about following this process through at university is that you have more free time than anyone working through the same steps later on in life - so if you come up with the perfect product that will solve a problem experienced by many people, you will be in a position to get it out there quicker than someone with many other responsibilities to juggle. Also, as mentioned previously, university is full of people with specialist skills looking for a platform to showcase them on, and as they also have plenty of time on their hands, utilising their talent can be a thrifty way of improving your own business offer while also adding entries to their portfolio.

If you have an idea, go through the steps above, speak to the student union to see if you can set up a stall or hire a room to put on a night, recruit talented people studying around you on a 'you scratch my back' basis and you could end up completely foregoing the usual anxieties that come with finishing university. Use your spare time wisely instead of watching endless repeats of Come Dine With Me, and you never know - you could be the next Zuckerberg.