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April 28, 2012

Business Ideas for College Students

College is an amazing time in our lives when we are able to live on our own, make new friends, and try out new things. It is a time when all of the money we do have goes towards books, beer, tuition, and living expenses. It's often hard to find a descent paying job as you can't get a fulltime gig because you don't have the time for it. There's was a website called, Nachhilfe who currently offer affordable tuition for students of all ages! Or what if you could make good extra income on your own schedule? Would you give it a shot?

Looking back on my four years in college at the University of Nebraska, I had various businesses that kept me afloat. They were full time in the summer, and I was able to work them around classes during the school year. College can be a fantastic time to explore the economic and business industry. There are many business ideas and opportunities for college students that do not require a lot of immediate costs or time commitment.

In this article I will tell you about some of my favorite entrepreneur ideas for college students and what worked for me. Feel free to check out my resources page as well if you need some recommendations on helpful tools for running or starting up a business. Like tools for doing the books, making websites, selling stuff online, and so on.

1. Start a Niche Blog

Starting a Niche Blog can be a very rewarding and low cost business to start while in college. Find something you are passionate about and start writing and creating content. As your audience grows, you'll have the opportunity to start doing affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is essentially sending referrals or leads to other companies.


  • If you are passionate about fly fishing you could start a blog about the topic. Write content, create videos, start a facebook page, and so on. You can make money off of the site by doing affiliate marketing. You could write reviews on the site about fly fishing and recommend a certain type of fishing rod or a must see fly fishing video. You'd set up an affiliate account with the company – See this post for more information about setting up affiliate accounts. Once set up, you could recommend companies like Simms, Cabelas, REI and so on. You link the text in your posts to each product and if a reader clicks on it and eventually buys the product you will get a commission. Commissions can be pretty high for certain products. For instance, some of the products I am an affiliate for pay out as much as $100 / sale. Crazy! I'd highly recommend reading this article to learn more – Passive Income and Affiliate Marketing  When you are ready to get set up with a blog or site please use this link Bluehost – as it is my affiliate link for a hosting service I recommend… See how this works?
Here is a tutorial I created showing how to start a blog. If you have any questions shoot an email to [email protected] and I'll do my best to help you.

2. Car Detailing

Car detailing is a great way to make extra money in the summer or during the school year. Startup costs are low and profit potential is high. You need to be passionate about cars if you want to stick with this business. You'll need to be very meticulous and willing to clean a single car for 3-6 hours.

Car Detailing - How to start a car detailing business
Pete's Meticulous Detailing – My Summer College Business

Marketing: Make business cards and flyers. Drop flyers off at golf courses, wineries, classy restaurants, and other upscale areas in your town. Carry around flyers in your car, and every time you see a fancy car or truck take a flyer and put it under their windshield wiper. Tell your professors about your detailing service as well as friends and family. You'll also want to set up a basic website about your business. You can set up a website on the cheap by getting a domain and hosting through Blue Host, and then doing the one click integration with the free WordPress platform.

Space and tools: You will want access to a garage to clean the vehicles. As a freshman, I made friends with some juniors and seniors who lived off campus. Most let me use their garage for free, but sometimes I'd give them some money to rent it out for the week. Usually I'd operate more of a mobile detailing service, where I'd go to my customer for the detailing.

In addition to a space to detail, you'll need the following bigger ticket items:

1. A good shop vac with a long hose. Click here to see the shop vacuum I'd recommend. Cost: $85.00

2. Detailing attachments for the shop Vac. Click here. Cost: $18.00

3. Microfiber rags (Buy a large pack at Costco), and all the cleaning supplies.

4. Various other cleaning tools and supplies. Start small. You only need to spend a few hundred dollars to get this business started. Most items I used are pictured above.

Car Detailing business Idea - Ferarri
Three Ferarri's I detailed for a successful Entrepreneur in Lincoln, Nebraska

Below is a video I made for my detailing business website in 2006.


A Car Detailing business is a great entrepreneur idea for college students. You can charge between $100 to $300 per vehicle. Your material expenses are minimal and if you are a mobile detailer your overhead will be very little.

3. Computer Repair

Computer repair businesses are dirt cheap to start and pretty easy to get into. I started out fixing computers for my professors and before long the word spread.

Starting a computer repair business in college
Fixing Computers for Clients in Lincoln, Nebraska

Marketing: You'll want to print off business cards and flyers. Take a walk through some nice looking neighborhoods and drop flyers off at each doorstep. Include a few testimonials about your business. Make sure to include your website address so they can find more information about you. Set up a website cheaply and easily using WordPress and Bluehost.

Tools needed:

1. Your own computer. It's good to have your own computer to take with you to appointments. Often times computers will have viruses and you need to download or transfer data / files from one computer to another.

2. Hardrive backup tool: Often times you'll need to save information from a customers harddrive that their computer can't read. This converter tool allows you to remove the harddrive and hook it up to another computer's USB port. Click here.

3. Various software: Often times you'll need to recover passwords and re-install programs for customers. You'll have to purchase software from time to time.

Summary: If you are good with computers, fixing them is a great entrepreneur idea for college students. Just make sure to be polite, courteous, and helpful to your customers. Don't speak the typical geek computer lingo. Explain everything to your customer in laymen terms. They will be very glad you did.

ps: Don't forget to take your shoes off at the door and to write a thank you note to your customers!

4. T-shirt Printing

You may be in an organization, Greek House, or planning committee that will need to order shirts. In addition to what you are involved in, there probably are all sorts of campus organizations that order shirts on a regular basis. You may be thinking you need to go get a printing press and all sorts of printing supplies. But I wouldn't recommend it. I bought my own equipment, printed out of a garage, and had many long nights getting t-shirt orders out. I wouldn't waste your time or money buying equipment. I would outsource screen printing from day one. If you didn't fancy making T-shirts, you could make hoodies, mugs or even custom beer coasters!! The possibilities are endless.

Screen Printing - Outsourcing to Contract Printer
Screen Printing – Started own shop but I would recommend outsourcing from DAY ONE!

Here's what you'll need to get started outsourcing your t-shirt business. Why outsource? Let me explain.

1. Screen printing is a frustrating and tedious task. You always need to buy new materials and equipment.

2. Outsourcing allows you to be the middle man, but you can still easily compete with other printers. Not to mention, the only time involved is doing sales, marketing, and putting in orders. No manufacturing!

How to get started:

1. Setup an LLC or Sole Propietorship – Go to your secretary of state's website to find the paperwork.

2. Get a Tax ID number (FEIN: Federal Employee Identification Number) – Find on the IRS website.

3. Find a contract screen printer that will drop ship and setup an account with them.

4. Get an account with a shirt supplier. You'll order shirts from the supplier and have them shipped to the printer. The printer will then drop ship shirts with your business name on them anywhere in the country.

5. Sell Sell Sell!

6. If you need help getting started contact us. We provide consulting to get you started on a budget! We'll let you know the best suppliers and printers guaranteed.

5. DJ Service

Campus events are always in need of a DJ Service. You'll also be able to target weddings, business events, and anniversaries. You will need to invest a few thousand dollars to get started. Paul started as a DJ during college. He got involved with the Fraternities and Sororities and was commonly booked solid for events Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. To look into the costs of DJ Equipment click here.

Paul Churchill – Owner at Bozeman DJ

Fun note: In addition to being a DJ, Paul found out that the Greek system often needed to rent shuttles to get to off campus events. So, Paul and a friend bought a used school bus and started their own shuttle service. Paul's DJ service can be found at www.bozemandj.com.

6. Buying and Selling

Entrepreneur ideas for College Students - Buy and Sell on Craigslist

Buying and selling is an excellent way to make money in college. Craigslist is perfect for getting started. You might know a lot about computers, vehicles, dresses, or antiques. Continuously watch the classifieds to find good deals on these items. Often times, you'll be able to get the product so cheap that you can resell it and make a good profit. I'd highly recommend downloading the Craigslist App to your phone to keep you updated on all the latest deals in your area.

7. Mowing and Lawn Care

Lawn businesses are good profitable summer business to start that require little capital. I'd recommend checking out craigslist to find a push mower, weed wacker, and possibly a riding mower. You may need to find a used trailer to haul around your equipment.

8. Cleaning Service or Window Washing Business

If you enjoy cleaning, this may be the business for you. You'll need a vacuum and various cleaning supplies.

9. Software Training / Computer Training

Many college students are great with design programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Final Cut, and so on. Did you know there are lots of people in your community looking to learn how to use these programs? Advertise on craigslist, create a website, and tell everyone about your business.

10. Website Design and App Creation

In my opinion every company should have a website. Yet, you'd be surprised that many don't! Learn how to create websites using WordPress. The brilliant thing about WordPress is that the client can do much of the editing once it is setup. Plus, WordPress is a free open source platform. Check out our podcast below or subscribe via iTunes to learn how Jeet Banerjee (a college entrepreneur) and other entrepreneurs have found success at a very young age.

Episode 4 – Interview with Jeet Banerjee – 20 year old Tech Entrepreneur

[powerpress url=”http://traffic.libsyn.com/thinkentrepreneurship/Episode4.mp3″]

Jeet Banerjee

111. Videos

Online videos are becoming an excellent way to show off your products or services. There are a lot of companies that don't have the time or equipment needed to make a simple Youtube video. Get a video camera, editing software, and some lighting. (Click here to see a post about how videos can help small businesses.) Learn what your customer needs and help them get seen online!

Here is an example of a video I made during college for my car detailing business.

A couple Notes:

Depending on the business, you may want to look into getting a business license, business insurance, and a legal entity (LLC, Sole Proprietorship, etc) set up. If you have questions about these steps research the internet for answers or send us an email. We know that looking for the cheapest auto insurance for college students is very difficult to find now-a-days but with some good research you can get you and your business there. We love to help college students get started in business, and all related topics.


You'll want to create a website for just about any business you decide to start. I use WordPress (free) and Bluehost to set up the website. Bluehost makes it a one step process to integrate hosting and a domain name with your WordPress website. If you do use Bluehost please click on one of the Bluehost links when you are ready to get set up. I get a small commission for recommending companies that I truly believe in.

Student Involvement for Entrepreneurs

SIFE – STUDENTS IN FREE ENTERPRISE is a great entrepreneurship organization with active chapters at many universities. For more information visit www.sife.org.

My 2007 SIFE Team at a Contest in Denver

Please Leave a Comment Below!

There are so many great entrepreneur ideas for college students out there in addition to the list we created. Please let us know what college business you had or are currently working on. Post below, we'd love to hear about it! Like our Facebook page if you are an entrepreneur!

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