Starting a business enterprise after graduating from college can present unique challenges. Exploring resources available to young entrepreneurs, creating a viable business plan, and securing funding for your business are crucial steps in the process.
According to a survey from Intelligent, 16% of the 2022 graduating class said they’re ‘definitely’ going to start their own business after graduation, while 27% are ‘considering’ starting their own business.
Of graduates who “definitely” intend to start their own small businesses, 28% intend to do so immediately after graduating college.
Even further, 43% of recent graduates surveyed want to create their businesses to pursue their passions.
Where to Start?
The first steps in starting a business are crafting a business plan, registering your business, and securing financing.
This will establish a roadmap to set you up for stability and success.
How to create a successful business plan
As a recent college graduate, coming up with a business plan that you’re passionate about may be difficult.
To create a business plan, young entrepreneurs can think about their passions, hobbies, and interests to help generate innovative ideas for a new business.
You should also consider how your business will stand apart from others in the market.
What will you do differently than your competitors? How does your experience and education position you to succeed?
According to the U.S. Small Business Association, most business plans fall into two common categories: traditional or lean startup.
- Traditional business plans are more formal and comprehensive, covering the goals of the business, the anticipated timeline, and how those goals will be achieved. This kind of business plan is most commonly requested by traditional lenders and investors.
- Lean startup business plans look at the business from a high level, acting more as a quick summary. These plans require less time to prepare. Keep in mind that some lenders and investors may ask for more information.
Research is critical to a good business plan, regardless of your chosen format.
Learning about the industry you’re entering, the competitors in the market, and your target audience can inform your business strategy.
Keeping up with the latest small business trends will also impact how your enterprise operates.
Remember that a business plan is not static; it’s an ever-changing document that can evolve as your business grows. Being open and prepared to change your plan is crucial to succeeding as a small business owner.
Register your business
Before you start making money, you will need to register your business. Depending on the state in which you live, the requirements for registering your business may differ.
Some of the things you need to do to register your business include:
- Choose your business structure: Whether you choose a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation can impact the steps you’ll need to take to register your business. When choosing a business structure, some things to consider include how you want the government to tax your business, your long-term business goals, and how much paperwork you need to deal with.
- Create a business name: Aim for a unique name that resonates with your target audience. With most businesses developing an online presence, it’s recommended that you check domain availability for any prospective names. You can also check with your state’s Secretary of State office for any businesses registered with the same name.
- Apply for an EIN: An employer identification number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, is a unique number assigned to your business by the IRS and acts similarly to a Social Security number. Applying is free and can be done online, by fax, mail, or over the phone.
Financing your business
Securing funds for your new business is no small task and can look different for everyone, depending on their financial situation and what kind of business they want to start.
Some options for financing your new business include:
- Applying for a small business loan. Prepare yourself for applying for a traditional small business loan by calculating how much you’ll need and looking at the annual percentage rate (APR) of the loans being offered.
- Appeal to venture capital firms or other investors. You can present your business plan and pitch to investors to secure financing.
- Crowdfunding. Raising funds from a large number of people, typically on the Internet, can help a small business get started. College grads can raise money by reaching out to family, friends, and people in their network.
Even after securing funding for their small business, it is imperative for young entrepreneurs to save money and be frugal whenever possible.
Finding a side gig or another low-risk way of earning extra income can help pay the bills as your business grows.
Do’s and Don’ts for Young Entrepreneurs
Write a good business plan
Educate yourself with online resources and continuing education courses
Be open to feedback from your customers and community
Start small and grow your business gradually
Don’t start without having a clear idea
Don’t ignore research on your industry or target audience
Don’t focus on too many goals at once
Don’t overspend; budget and plan accordingly
Resources for Young Entrepreneurs
There are multiple resources available to young entrepreneurs as they embark on starting their own businesses.
Entrepreneurship and brand management courses can build upon college graduates’ education and real-world experience in building a small business.
Recent graduates can also take advantage of mentoring programs. A mentor can guide and advise college graduates as they navigate the process of starting their own business.
Graduates can get connected to mentors through their university or college, being paired with an older alum.
Programs like SCORE are also available, which connect US-based small business owners to mentors free of charge.