Let's face it: summer internships aren't the best route for all students. Some with an entrepreneurial side and a business-savvy mindset just need more—both in terms of real-life experience and dollars. For students who want a high return, low barrier to entry, freedom to be their own boss and something that will look great on an MBA application, here are nine low-cost starter businesses that college students can start.
There are only three things you need to create a food cart: a cart/kiosk, a license to sell and food to cook. Sites like GigMasters.com offer food carts for rent across the U.S., or you could set up your own table. The key is to finding a good location such as near a college campus or shopping area. Permits range depending on the location. For instance, a permit in Philadelphia is $150, while a permit for New York City is $200. Hot dogs, baked goods and tacos sell well due to low-cost supplies and minimal labor.
Avon Sales Rep
If you're good with sales and you want to be your own boss without the added costs of starting your own business, being a sales rep for Avon is a good bet. With just $10, you're on the way to getting things started and unlike other direct sales companies, the starter kit is included in this fee. Set your own hours, a space for yourself in your house and run your business as you please.
No one is more qualified to tutor prospective college students on the SATs than a college student who did well on it. SAT prep books cost between $20 and $30. Set aside money for advertising in your local paper and put up your own ads in public places. Set your hourly rate at a reasonable price. TestMagic charges $85 per hour while others go as high as $200 per hour.
Raymond Lei, creator of ooShirts, created his own custom T-shirt business while in college. If you've got a funny sense of humor or great design style, starting your own shirt company is a great venture. After you've drafted a few ideas, the next step is to find a printer. Depending on how many shirts you're printing, costs can run high, but as long as the demand is even higher, you'll continue to be profitable. Think about getting a stand at a local flea market or street festival to boost sales.
All you need to begin your own moving services is a moving truck, a valid license and some brawny friends. U-Haul trucks typically between $20 to 40 per day (plus mileage) and most movers charge about $200 to $400 for a local move. Advertise your "man with a van" service on Craigslist and on public bulletin boards. Also use the Web by posting on Facebook and Foursquare, as well as asking friends or clients to review your business on Yelp. You can also find dollies, hand-trucks, blankets, and other moving supplies on Craigslist.
Starting your own babysitting service can be easy, as long as you invest in the proper resources and become qualified. First, obtain a childcare license which can cost up to $100. You should be first aid and CPR trained, and these certificates cost about $50 (though some places, like the Red Cross, offer this for free). Advertise your service locally, or on trusted babysitter websites such as Sittercity.com and Care.com. Your best chance of success is by having a flexible schedule, such as availability on evenings and weekends. Parents will be especially impressed with students majoring in education, child psychology or art therapy.
Arts and Crafts
If you're an artist, selling your work can be the perfect entrepreneurial venture for you. You can set up a profile on Etsy and sell your work there, as well as at arts and crafts festivals and school campuses. It might be helpful to have a website you can direct people to for photos of your work and contact information. Look at the most popular items on Etsy and at craft fairs, such as jewelry, hats, clothing and other objects. And to keep costs low, look for materials that can be repurposed (and possibly even donated by local businesses—"reclaimed" is hot these days).
Almost every small business wishes it had a better website. If you have skills and experience with HTML, WordPress, Flash or other site-building platforms (and some graphic design chops), you can freelance your work for a hefty profit. If you want a simple projects, logos can be sold for over $300 apiece. Create packages in which you offer bundled services, such as revamping a site and starting a blog for a flat fee. Build a portfolio of mock-up home pages and bring your iPad to prospect meetings to show it off.
Did you have an enterprise to raise money for college?
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