Published on October 19, 2020, at 3:15 p.m.
by Caroline Ladd.
In the early stages of the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of college students in the U.S. were sent home for the remainder of spring semester. When classes were moved online, some students had more time to pursue other hobbies of interest that usually would not be feasible with in-person school.
Many undergraduate students started to develop entrepreneurial initiatives utilizing the skills they learned from classes they previously took, their own hobbies and their use of marketing platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook to begin a small business.
According to Entrepreneur, there are many benefits to starting a business in college, such as taking advantage of campus resources, accessibility to customers and career building. There is also a low risk for a potentially high reward. Starting a business while in college proves to future employers that a student is proactive, creative and driven, which will be beneficial when applying to jobs.
Janie Creighton, senior public relations student at The University of Alabama, and Annie Beth Immel, senior advertising and art student at The University of Alabama, are two of many college students who took advantage of COVID-19 restrictions to start their own small businesses. Both attributed their knowledge and skills to the classes they have taken at Alabama, which was recently named as having the number one public relations program in the country by PRWeek.
When Creighton started her small clothing and jewelry business, Bolt, she thought about the experiences she had throughout her last few years as an undergraduate in order to help her company succeed. She realized how important her classes were when it comes to transitioning into the real world. While discussing her classes, such as Basic Principles of Design and Concepting and Implementation, she expressed that developing “an effective and efficient brand” came naturally to her because of the skills she has acquired in school. Online Magazine Writing also allowed her to “be more comfortable with having my work produced online — I became more confident in my own personal work, and I believe this contributed to Bolt as well.”
Immel stated that when starting Annie Beth Immel Designs, she wanted a “creative outlet” to express her love for design in a fun way. She has always made invitations and stationery for her friends and family — pushing her to feel confident in making her work public. As an art student with a concentration in digital media, she noted one of the most beneficial skill sets she has attained is computer-aided design using Adobe Creative Cloud programs, such as Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. Her advertising classes have also given her the basic skill set she needs in order to market herself to her demographic.
Joining associations on campus such as Capstone Agency has also greatly benefitted Immel, allowing her to experience real-life situations that people typically have after college. Being the agency’s art director has influenced her career path and pushed her to step out of her comfort zone when it comes to designing, developing her skill set to be even stronger than it was before.
Both of these students agreed that even though school is essential in their knowledge to starting a company, there is only so much to learn and achieve in a classroom. Creighton believes “Bolt will open opportunities to jobs, networking and internships” because of the work she has put into it and the real-world experience it provided her.
College students are a great audience to start with as an undergraduate. According to Entrepreneur, a college student’s strongest support group is their peers. They are easy to connect with, which makes them more accessible.
There are many resources a college campus has to offer when it comes to needing advice while starting a business. A student is surrounded by professors, who are experts in the skills that they need to attain in order to succeed. The best part about seeking professors’ advice is that their consultations will be free.
Failure is also something that people tend to fear. However, college students do not need to fear the possibility of their business ideas failing because of the available resources and time they have to make something new. Without trying, a student is less likely to get the experience they are looking for when opening their own business.
While in the COVID-19 era, there is no better time for a student to step out of their comfort zone and start their own career. Finding employment is more difficult in 2020, so why should students not use the knowledge they gain at university to create their own path.