College students may be eager to leave the confines of their cramped dorm rooms, move into spacious offices and launch the businesses of their dreams. But why wait?
“There are plenty of examples of college students who were still living in their dorms when they started what became very successful businesses,” said Adam Witty, co-author with Rusty Shelton of “Authority Marketing: How to Leverage 7 Pillars of Thought Leadership to Make Competition Irrelevant.”
Just to name a few: Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook; Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy of Snapchat; and Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little of WordPress.
Witty, the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks, started his multimillion-dollar company in 2005 in a spare bedroom of his house when he was just two years out of college. Confined by the four walls but not by his vision, Witty mapped out a plan that would see him become the leader of a growing company.
Witty offers a few tips for college students who have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug:
Find a mentor. A good mentor, such as a professor or local business person, can provide valuable advice, help with networking and serve as the inspiration behind your business. Witty’s mentor was Pat Williams, an executive with the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Williams told Witty that every motivational speaker needs a book, but most don’t have one. Williams suggested Witty start a publishing company for people who could use the book as a marketing tool.
Think of yourself as a brand. College students are well aware of such brands as Nike, Netflix, Apple and Starbucks. They recognize and maybe even trust these brands, and naturally will think in terms of the corporate brand for whatever business they want to launch. But Witty said it’s also valuable to promote your personal brand. “Regardless of what service or product you plan to offer, it’s important for you to build your visibility and credibility in your field,” he said. “This is especially true when you’re going up against established businesses that have years or decades head start on you in terms of brand awareness.”
Make use of social media. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram can all help you spread your message, build your authority and connect with potential customers or clients without a massive marketing budget, Witty said.
Even before you begin, whether you’re starting your business in a dorm room or an office park, you will want to know how you will measure your success, Witty said. What metrics will you use? Will you set as a goal a certain number of leads, sales or new clients each month?
“You have to know what success looks like and where you want to end up,” Witty said. “If you don’t, how will you know you’re happy with the results?”