Tips for Budding College Entrepreneurs

COVID-19 has caused unemployment rates to soar across the nation. Many have been left feeling helpless and unsure about the next chapter of their lives. However, even in the midst of this pandemic, Black women have taken control of their careers and turned to entrepreneurship. From 2007 to 2018, Black women-owned businesses grew by 164%, which was about 3x more than the average for a woman which was 58%.

Though unconventional, now is the perfect time for many, especially college students to start a business. As a recent college graduate and the owner of a own small business, I am here to help. Read below for my tips and ideas on how to build a business and navigate life as a budding entrepreneur.

The Beginning Stages

The Summer of 2018 is when I took the plunge and started my own business Iced Out Cosmetics. Prior to starting my own business, I gained management experience working for a variety of small businesses ranging in industry from loungewear to children’s software. Using the skills I learned along the way, I was able to create my brand.

When planning a new business venture, it’s often easiest to think of an opportunity in an industry where your interest lie. For example, Iced Out Cosmetics was founded due to my love of makeup and the issue that current cosmetic brands have with a lack of diversity, especially in terms of the inclusion of Black women and members of the LGBTQIA community.

Research and Customer Discovery

Arguably the most important step in building a business is researching your market and conducting customer discovery. Interview potential customers to receive feedback on different ideas. Ask open-ended questions to ensure that you are crafting something the customers want to buy and not just something you wish to sell.

First Impressions

The universal saying is true, you only get one first impression. And in this case, your business launch is the first impression. Effective marketing is key to a successful business launch. Utilize social media and other forms of marketing like email blast to keep customers engaged and informed. Remember the online presence of the company should be aligned with the brand. Word of mouth is also a powerful marketing tool as most consumers trust referrals more than marketing ads.

Getting To The Money: Securing Funding & Resources

Funding is one of the most important parts of growing a business. Receiving venture capital can be difficult for business owners, especially Black and Latinx women. Women of color entrepreneurs often fund their businesses through brilliant but unconventional ways. Uniquely as a student entrepreneur, I was able to fund my business with funds received from my tuition refund.  There are also pitch competitions and grants given to small businesses.

No Pain No Gain

In conclusion, being a student entrepreneur is hard but can be extremely rewarding.  There are many ways to start a successful business, there is no one formula to make it to the top. The most important takeaway is to love with what you do and the customers will follow.

Isha Kamara

Isha is a Communications Intern at Walkers Legacy. She also owns her own brand Iced Out Cosmetics that launched in 2018, which she uses to uplift WOC and LGBT members by using makeup as a tool for diversity. Through Iced Out Cosmetics, Isha has been a member of UMD's Startup Shell Xi Batch, Terp Startup 2019 Cohort, and Do Good Spring Fellowship for Spring 2020.

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Walker's Legacy is a growing global women in business collective founded to establish networks of empowerment and access for women of color in business.