College Grads Starting Their Own Business

During the holiday break, my daughter Caitlin was networking back home in San Diego in hopes of laying the groundwork for getting a job when she graduates in May.

One of the entrepreneurs whom Caitlin talked to suggested that she pursue her fledgling business – Something Sunny. With seed money from the state of Pennsylvania and Juniata College, Caitlin launched a business that sells picture frames, prints and note cards. Caitlin creates all the artwork and has had success selling her wares.

I suspect that Caitlin will ultimately find a full-time job and end up working on Something Sunny part-time, but her entrepreneurial instincts are shared by many young Americans who are graduating from college during one of the worst job markets ever.

The New York Times recently ran a story about young grads creating their own businesses:

No Jobs? Young Graduates Make Their Own

The NYT article mentioned The Young Entrepreneur Council, a resource for enterprising college grads that I’m going to pass on to Caitlin as a resource.

I also wanted to pass along some business tips from Zach Cutler a young college grad who started a public relations and business development firm in Washington DC. The Cutler Group clients include health care professionals, media groups and government agencies.

Entrepreneur Tips

Here are Cutler’s tips for college grads who dream of being their own bosses:

1. Register your company. Apply with your state government to become an LLC or Corporation. LLCs are much simpler and cheaper to set up, and they save you big on taxes.

2. Define specific goals for year one. It is crucial to map out 2-3 milestones fixed to defined calendar dates. This can include desired revenue, number of clients, and workforce size.

3. Specialize in one product or service. By perfecting a niche, your reputation and customer base will become rock solid and growth will follow. Remember, if you try to reach everyone in the beginning, you will reach no one.

4. Build a website. This is a must for your credibility. I recommend hiring a web developer who can send samples of their previous work. Around $500-1000 should be enough to get you a really nice site.

5. Network. Cold calling and aggressive marketing techniques are of the past. The smartest way to grow your company is to attend local events and join organizations (like your chamber of commerce). The new contacts you make will lead you to opportunities.

6. Learn from others. Read books, talk to friends and family, meet with professors, and visit Small Business Administration free counselors. To have a successful company, you must constantly seek feedback and increase knowledge of your industry.

7. Recruit part-time employees and interns from local universities. Universities are a great talent pool, and cheap too. Sometimes students will even intern for free. Their fresh perspective and classroom knowledge will add to your business.

8. Stick with it during the ups and downs. The first year of owning a business is the toughest. But if you hold on, word-of-mouth will cause your business to catapult in years two and three. It’s called the snowball effect.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller and a workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree. Follow her on Twitter.

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