Entrepreneur Resource Guide
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Whether you aspire to someday run your own business or you're ready to launch a business now, the following resources can help you prepare for life as an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs enjoy freedom and flexibility in their professional lives as they chart a unique career. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, business is the most popular academic discipline; 60% more students graduate with bachelor's or master's business degrees than the next most popular discipline. However, taking the initial plunge into entrepreneurship can be daunting, especially when it means taking calculated risks.
This page explores the many support services and resources available for Americans interested in entrepreneurial careers who lack the necessary support, knowledge, and confidence to get started.
Financial Resources for Entrepreneurs
Securing the necessary finances is one of the most important and difficult steps when starting a business. Entrepreneurs need to know how to figure out how much they need, where to look for funding, and what materials they need to prepare before a pitch meeting. After they land adequate funding, they also need the financial literacy and management skills to put that money to work successfully.
The following section highlights some of the best financial resources available to help guide entrepreneurs through this process, including information about how and where to find funding opportunities.
- Your College: Many colleges offer startup funding programs for promising students or recently graduated entrepreneurs. Interested candidates should visit the business or entrepreneurship sections of their school's websites for more information.
- Incubators: Incubator programs and organizations provide innovative startups with mentoring services and access to funding resources. Entrepreneurs can find developmental-stage incubator opportunities through their local government, higher education institutions, and economic development organizations.
- Crowdfunding Platforms: Crowdfunding platforms, such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo, allow startups to solicit funding from online users who are interested in their product or service, usually in return for perks. Entrepreneurs can then use these donations or investments to launch their businesses. Investment-seekers should be clear on the legal and financial ramifications of their approach, whereas donation-seekers need a clear marketing strategy to reach funding goals.
- Angel Investors: These investors are typically high-net-worth individuals who fund early-stage startups. Websites like Gust help connect entrepreneurs with prospective angel investors, and they may also provide additional startup support services.
- Venture Capital: Venture capital funding typically comes from large organizations, such as financial or insurance institutions, and provides relatively short-term investments for promising startups with strong valuations. Entrepreneurs interested in this path need a strong pitch, must clearly communicate their financial details, and should search for VC opportunities within their specific industry.
- Gig Work: Picking up a side job for additional money or networking purposes allows entrepreneurs to build up launch funds and interest in their product. This route is especially common for one-person operations. Sites like Fiverr and TaskRabbit can help when finding gigs.
- Loans and Lines of Credit: Entrepreneurs can always fall back on traditional funding options, approaching banks and other lenders to acquire loans or lines of credit to cover startup costs. However, most banks require assets to borrow against, and defaulting on a loan can result in serious long-term consequences.
Human Resources for Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs rarely work alone. They often hire employees, work with clients and customers, and develop networking contacts. Managing these relationships is integral to the success of any business. Human resources departments help managers maintain a safe environment and develop an inclusive workplace.
However, many entrepreneurs don't have enough resources to hire a whole HR department by themselves. The HR resources below and the services they provide can help entrepreneurs better staff their businesses and get a headstart on creating their ideal business environment.
- Your College: Colleges and universities offer access to some of the brightest minds, best resources, and strongest support groups available. Aspiring entrepreneurs can receive help from their peers, advice from professors, and industry insights from faculty to help launch their businesses.
- Gig Work: The online gig economy puts countless talented individuals within close and affordable reach of business owners. Entrepreneurs can outsource projects and short-term contracts to build their startups before securing more permanent staff.
- Recruiting Platforms: When seeking longer-term personnel, entrepreneurs can use online talent recruiting platforms, such as Indeed or LinkedIn. These websites streamline the networking, communicating, and hiring processes, helping entrepreneurs find qualified candidates.
- Society for Human Resource Management:SHRM offers leadership and support for managers and human resource professionals. This organization helps student entrepreneurs manage their staff more effectively, build better work environments, and develop lasting professional networks.
Educational Resources for Entrepreneurs
For many entrepreneurs, the learning curve can seem steep and overwhelming. Launching a business requires strong business acumen, financial literacy, and field expertise, along with a quality product, service, and delivery system. While pursuing business school may be the most direct pathway for small business owners, they can also consider other educational options.
Prospective entrepreneurs can learn about their chosen field, what it takes to start a business, and how to manage and operate a startup effectively from the following sources.
- Your College: Beyond the classroom, learners can find internship or campus community opportunities that can strengthen their resumes and skill sets. In particular, students can develop administrative and leadership skills through participation in student organizations.
- Online Learning Sites: Learning opportunities outside of traditional classrooms are powerful tools for entrepreneurs looking to gain practical knowledge in specific fields. For example, online learning platforms like Codecademy, Udemy, and Moz allow learners to develop skills in coding, web development, and search engine optimization.
- Online Certification Platforms: Entrepreneurs seeking credentials in specific fields for education, marketing, or networking purposes can use online certification platforms. Sites like Coursera and Learning Tree International provide access to training programs and certifications in a flexible and condensed schedule while also allowing students to meet like-minded people.
- Professional Consulting: Professional consultants provide entrepreneurs with useful advice and recommendations. Aspiring startups can hire one-on-one guidance from industry experts or they can join group sessions.
- Podcasts: Entrepreneurial and business-minded podcasts, like the Tim Ferriss Show and How I Built This, can be great resources for useful, insightful, and affordable business advice. Entrepreneurs learn about professional development simply by listening in and engaging with the hosts and other listeners.
- Books: Books written by successful entrepreneurs, industry and financial professionals, and educators can provide insight into how to grow early-stage startups and what to expect during the process.
- Your Local Library: While the internet is great for finding large swaths of information, public libraries offer free access to more reliable, in-depth materials, including textbooks and business planning guides. Talking to a local librarian can also help with in-depth research.
Government and Organizational Resources for Entrepreneurs
Developing the bones of a startup is only the first step on the entrepreneurial journey. For example, entrepreneurs may also need to secure funding or federal contracts, which can present new challenges. Government agencies and industry organizations provide resources to support new and growing businesses as they navigate these cumbersome processes.
The following resources are just some of the organizations that provide support for entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses. Through these organizations, entrepreneurs can find training workshops, mentoring programs, and learning materials to help them make strong decisions and tackle startup challenges.
SBA provides small business owners with access to business support resources, learning materials, and funding opportunities. Entrepreneurs can receive consultations and find information on federal contracts to improve their business plans.
Funded in part by SBA, SCORE offers free access to its library of resources, online training materials, and mentoring network of volunteer professionals. Members can also access workshops or group events through local chapters.
This network of business assistance professionals offers consulting and training for both new and experienced entrepreneurs. Members can access supportive resources and networking events. Individual SBDCs work locally, so they can advice entrepreneurs about local business resources.
Supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce, MBDA serves minority business owners and entrepreneurs, connecting them to funding opportunities, marketplaces, and business contracts. Members benefit from the agency's national and local chapter training, mentoring, and networking opportunities.
IEEE supports electrical and electronics engineers in their entrepreneurial pursuits, assisting them in establishing standards, policies, and ethical frameworks.
GRANTS.GOV is a centralized hub of federal funding opportunities and information for entrepreneurs and business owners. The site connects users directly with federal funding organizations and grants and offers support resources for applicants.
College Entrepreneur Ideas
Colleges and universities often encourage creativity, innovation, and business ideas in their students. When developing a business plan, student entrepreneurs should always first consider their own interests and skills and then look outward to identify opportunities.
The following list of college entrepreneur ideas is not exhaustive, but it's a good jumping off place to get your creativity flowing.
According to Pew Research Center, 70% of Americans use social media for news, networking, and entertainment. The social media landscape provides abundant professional opportunities, but making the most of it requires training and knowledge. While in school, students can begin by networking, building their brands, and familiarize themselves with the core concepts of managing social media accounts for businesses.
Reselling or upcycling is an easy way for students to raise capital, gain retail and design experience, or just start a small business in hopes of growing it into something larger after school. Learners can create small, manageable businesses by selling things like textbooks, refurbished furniture, clothing, or other items with little or no overhead.
When brainstorming business ideas or ways to generate capital, student entrepreneurs should first examine their own skill sets and consider selling them as a service. Budding entrepreneurs can build experience through tutoring, language skills, sports training, or creative mentoring.
Students can use their free time to offer help through personal assistance, pet services, or tutoring. An entrepreneurial-minded person could later expand these services by hiring additional personnel, developing marketing to reach a larger client base, or adding group options in addition to one-on-one services.
Technologically capable student entrepreneurs in particular have money-making and business options available, including building apps and computer programs. If successful, this type of project can launch a future startup or help students build practical experience, making them a great internship alternative.
Frequently Asked Questions
Colleges and universities provide many entrepreneurial pathways for enrollees. School projects often develop into business ideas, and degree-seekers can complete online bachelor's degrees in entrepreneurship to get college credit for those ideas. Many schools also offer free advice and support for student startups, making colleges and universities one of the best business development settings available.
There are really no limits to what type of business a student can start. Finding a good idea is the first hurdle, but another major challenge for student entrepreneurs typically lies in securing adequate funding. The more money a business needs, the greater the challenge.
Many entrepreneurs go to college to develop their business and financial foundations. These skills help with the management aspect of business ownership after their projects begin to flourish.
A bachelor's degree in a business discipline, like business management or entrepreneurship, can provide students with fundamental skills necessary for running a business. For more complex business and management needs, students may also consider pursuing an MBA in entrepreneurship.
Header Image Credit: Tomas Rodriguez | Getty Images
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