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Building a small business while balancing student life isn’t easy, but it’s definitely rewarding.

Finding time to work a job during college can be difficult, but making some extra pocket cash is essential; there’s no denying that college is expensive. Cramming in hours at a low-paying gig doesn’t sound enticing, but setting your own schedule, working when you want and controlling how much cash you bring in sure sounds like a better alternative.

By opening and managing your own small business in college, you’ll have the chance to network amongst a diverse pool of clientele from around the country, be in charge of your work schedule, set your earning goals and build skills working your business that will also make you a boss in the classroom. It doesn’t have to be complicated either: You can start up a business partnership or form your own LLC. There are plenty of guides to LLC operating agreements on the internet to help get you started.

I opened a Mary Kay cosmetic business the summer before my sophomore year and brought my products and supplies to school in hopes of expanding. After being a consultant for a little over a year now, I’ve learned valuable skills about scheduling, organization, rewarding myself and rewarding clients for their loyalty through great service and personal connections.

Friends With Benefits

Though it sounds a bit corny, the people that you meet and build relationships with are the best part of building your own little business. Friends are great candidates for recruiting to try out products and help you practice your sales-pitching. Since you already have established relationships with friends, they are great for practicing continued customer service with, because you can be comfortable when reaching out to them to get feedback on products, or about how you’re doing as a consultant.

Friends can also help introduce you to others who may be interested in becoming clients or potential team members in your business. Treat your friends/clients like the superstars that they are, because without them, getting a business off the ground is not fun, which defeats the purpose of starting one in the first place!

Being in a college environment brings an unusual pool of potential customers. Beyond peers, there are a variety of other potential clients that students interact with every day. Professors, librarians, dining hall staff, custodians: They are all people who may benefit from your products. Besides, these are people that make your college experience special, and getting to know them is a good thing, regardless of whether or not they wish to become clients.

I had been chatting with the bus driver about makeup every morning for a month before I realized I should mention that I sell Mary Kay products. I offered to bring her a catalogue and asked what kinds of products she was looking to add to her collection; she asked for recommendations and I circled the things I thought she may like in the book that I brought on board the next morning. She bought everything I had recommended the following day. I brought catalogues to a woman in the mailroom and we communicated about products through my mailbox; the barista in the dining hall asked if I would do her makeup for a wedding, after which she wanted to buy everything that I used to create the look.

Business opportunity is nestled into your everyday life as a student, waiting to be recognized and optimized. It’s efficient for you to do business with people you see daily, and it’s efficient for them as customers because they don’t need to schedule time outside work to get in touch with you. Not only will your business be growing, your days will become twice as fulfilling knowing that you’re forming meaningful relationships and making clients happy with the personal service you’re able to offer.

The Office: Organization & Prioritization

Running your own business is a dream in terms of scheduling, because you can essentially work whenever you want to. Being in charge of your own time table affords the option to work when you feel like it, and take the day off when you’re not on your boss game. Prioritizing classes is no problem because you’re able to block off more time to do business things when your workload is light and back off during high-stress times like midterms and finals.

The trick is actually making time for work-related stuff. Every student knows the madness of managing a college schedule; combine this with the commitment necessary to make a business flourish, and the ensuing planner will be filled by the half hour. Even still, the mere flexibility of being able to decide that the only extra half hour you have in a day you’d like to spend working makes managing a hectic student-boss life less frazzling.

The key to effectively dictating school time, social time, chill time and #badassboss time is organization and prioritization. Organizing your schedule so that you allow enough hours each day or week to feasibly get some grind time in, and still do everything else, will keep you balanced and successful. Yet, you have the freedom to decide what your priorities are, and therefore, how you want to spend your time. If your class load is light, you can spend more hours promoting your business. If you’re crammed for time but value extra jingle in your pocket more than the episodes of Netflix you’re behind on, you can swap your relaxation time for some live action of “The Office” and catch up on your boss to-do list.

Organization is an integral part in the care and keeping of your business, in addition to your calendar. You’ll need to manage inventory, track orders, document client info and product lists, stay up to date on your business entity obligations like registered agent duties (unless you hire an online service), keep up with new product releases and handle your earnings responsibly. Prioritization works the same way, even in aspects as trivial as deciding to offer a discount to clients and determining what is most important for you to get from your business. You are the one and only boss of your business and you must make all of the decisions, which means having the power to create a business that suits you and your goals.

Student Gains

The organizational talent and pro-prioritizing ability you cultivate as a business owner won’t go to waste. The skills you gain from grinding the small business life have big payoffs, making you a boss in the classroom, too. Like cross training at the gym, you’ll be making gains at work that will bulk up your school performance and vice-versa.

Business owners garner ambition as their efforts become rewards. Academically, this motivation translates to asking more questions, pushing through big projects or papers and taking risks to learn. Networking with friends and clientele improve communication skills, as earning new clients takes creativity and resourcefulness, things that are academically beneficial.

Through operating your own business while in school, you’re able to gain valuable traits and skills that benefit your first job, as a student, while maintaining a lively and flexible schedule and making extra cash on the side. My experience being my own boss has shaped me into a more well-rounded student, and the sense of accomplishment I get from helping women feel their best motivates me to continue to grow.

Writer Profile

Abby Wolfe

Colgate University

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