Is there a perfect time to launch a startup?
College students with an entrepreneurial spirit may be eager for the day they can leave the confines of their cramped dorm rooms, move into a spacious office and launch the business 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; Michael Dell of Dell; Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy of Snapchat; and Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little of WordPress.
Witty, the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks, knows something about launching a business in the most meager surroundings.
It wasn’t a dorm room, but he did start his now 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 and mission 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 perhaps even be the inspiration behind the business you launch. Witty’s mentor was Pat Williams, a motivational speaker and senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Williams told Witty that every motivational speaker needs a book, but most don’t have one. In cases where speakers did have a book, it was often self-published and of poor quality. It was Williams who suggested that Witty start a publishing company for people like him 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, among many others. 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 says that beyond a company brand, 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 says. “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.” This may be a challenge for a college student, but by getting yourself and your name in front of as many people as possible, you will be on your way to building trust with your intended clientele.
- Make use of social media. If you’re worried about how to pay for next semester’s textbooks, it’s unlikely you have a massive marketing budget. What you do have, though, are social media accounts that cost you nothing. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram all can help you spread your message, build your authority and connect with potential customers or clients, Witty says.
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 says. What metrics will you use? Will you set as a goal a certain number of leads each month? A certain number of sales or new clients?
“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?”
Adam Witty, co-author with Rusty Shelton of “Authority Marketing: How to Leverage 7 Pillars of Thought Leadership to Make Competition Irrelevant,” is the CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks. Witty started Advantage in 2005 in a spare bedroom of his home. The company helps busy professionals become the authority in their field through publishing and marketing. In 2016, Advantage launched a partnership with Forbes to create ForbesBooks, a business book publisher for top business leaders. Witty is the author of seven books, and is also a sought-after speaker, teacher and consultant on marketing and business growth techniques for entrepreneurs and authors. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily and USA Today, and has appeared on ABC and Fox.