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Starting a business while at university

Starting a business whilst at uni may be daunting but it can be the perfect time to earn money and build a business for when you finish. Here’s how Naomi Stevens did it.

Naomi StevensI have always felt that education, despite being challenging and interesting, never inspired me to become anything in particular until I stumbled by chance on my business idea and then I found what made me tick! I enjoyed the thrill of coming back from my uni lectures to see that not only had I earned money, I also gained an industry contact and that person would become a yearly renewal. I now work from home with the flexible lifestyle I have always dreamed of thanks to starting my business whilst studying at uni. Here’s my story – I hope I can inspire you to go for it and be your own boss no matter where you are in your life!

Snapping out of my zombie-like existence

It all started when I was applying to universities. I didn’t get into my first choice of subject at uni despite getting 2 A’s and 2 B’s at A level (universities really want blood these days). For some reason I applied to do dentistry – I don’t know what made me possess this idea; it probably had something to do with my mum telling me I would make a great engineer so naturally I lent the other way. However, much to mum’s joy; I ended up doing a medical engineering degree. I have to say I hated uni with a passion, it just wasn’t for me but when I was at school it was the “done thing” or you won’t get anywhere. Now looking back this is a big pile of rubbish: success comes from the person not from their qualifications! Qualifications do help if you want to do a particular profession or to help support your dream business, but for me it wasn’t needed.

One day whilst dreading going to my next lecture I decided to change my life and snap out of this zombie-like existence. I asked myself 3 vital questions: What was I good at and enjoyed? What did I already know? How was I going to use this knowledge to create a business? My answers to the following were: I enjoyed all things wedding related and was good at understanding what brides wanted – I had worked at wedding since the age of 14 yrs so I had seen many dream and not-so-dreamy weddings. My solution: Create a wedding directory for Devon that was easy to use, empty of that clutter you get with most directories and one that showcased my advertisers in the best way possible. In 2011 Devon Wedding Guide was created.

Balancing business with uni

DWG was a learning curve for me; I had to quickly learn every aspect of business (except hiring and firing). It took months of hard work to even get one paid advertiser despite offering rock bottom prices. Note: if you charge too little people lose confidence in you and you attract the wrong clients so make sure you do your homework on what your competitors charge. It was also important not to let my uni work slip whilst I was focusing on DWG – although I didn’t want to be at uni, I equally didn’t want to fail.

Another major factor that I had to learn quickly was search engine optimisation – I was pretty clueless to begin with but it was vital to ensure DWG was going to succeed, especially seeing that DWG was an online directory! Convincing people to part with their hard earned cash when they can’t find you on Google is ridiculous. I have now learnt detailed SEO – so much so I have a side line business helping local businesses with their own SEO campaigns.

Now out of uni I love working for myself, especially when the sun pops its head out and I can sit outside with the dog with a cuppa for a moment. I try to stick to the mantra that if you start work early you can knock off work early!

My top tips

If you need any more convincing here are my 3 main reasons why you should start today whilst you are at uni:

  1. It is very low risk – You risk low amounts of money and if your business idea doesn’t work you have your education to fall back on.
  2. You gain motivation – your time is very precious and fitting around school work it is vital that you are focused – the limited time is great for concentration and motivation.
  3. Every business starts small – so when you leave education your business will already be at the stage where you can get a healthy income without needing to get a job.

Good Luck creating your dream business.

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