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Steps to successful student start-ups
December 1, 2014, 12:59 pm

Through market research conducted while at college, Grant Ridley discovered that while companies had an increasing need for marketing, the amount of money they had to spend on it was declining.

This gave him an idea, and his company – GR Marketing – was born. By concentrating on guerrilla marketing stunts to gain media attention, Ridley created a low-cost alternative to traditional marketing that helped him build a healthy client list.

Ridley kept his own marketing costs low by using the buzz around start-ups to gain media attention. “I also market my business through social media, attending business events, and word of mouth,” he says. “I spend little money on marketing, yet gain a high impact.”

But Ridley says that running a business while at university is not without its challenges: “I have to select carefully who I work with, as my university work has to take priority.”

If you think that starting a business while studying is for you, here are some simple things you can do to give you the best chance of success:

Plan meticulously: You cannot be over-prepared. Look at every angle both internally and externally. Take advantage of the plethora of business tools online to help in groundwork and leave no stone unturned.

Be prepared for failure:  The media is full of start-up success stories – but remember that many start-ups fail too. Have contingency plans, and know when to walk away. Do not put your future in doubt for an idea that just is not working.

Do not overload: Stress can have an impact on your overall health and wellbeing, so creating a balance is vital. If the pressure is getting to you, step back and take a break. Look at what is causing the problem and make changes accordingly.

Learn from the best (and the worst): Study what successful entrepreneurs, equally, research failed start-ups to see where they went wrong. Build your own comprehensive dos and don’ts list.

Ridley was not the first student to take on the start-up market while studying. At just 17, George Burgess created the studying and revision app Gojimo. This app educated and prepared students for exams, as well as feeding their Smartphone addiction by ‘gamifying’ the process.

The app gained the attention of educational giants such as the multinational publishing company Pearson, who formed partnerships with Burgess. These are where he gains most of his revenue: publishers sell textbooks and additional resources as in-app purchases, and Burgess earns a commission.

Burgess says your student days are the perfect time to start a business. “Students have less to lose. They usually have no mortgage or family to worry about.”

“Most students think there’s something stopping them, when in reality nothing stands in their way,” says Burgess.

Burgess dropped out of Stanford University in California to focus entirely on his company. Quitting university might seem an unlikely route to success, but with Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates doing the same, Burgess is in good company.

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