Small Business ideas for college students

College tuition is too expensive for unpaid internships. Get real-world experience and income from these startup ideas.

June 20, 2012

Let's face it: summer internships aren't the best route for all students. Some with an entrepreneurial side and a business-savvy mindset just need more—both in terms of real-life experience and dollars. For students who want a high return, low barrier to entry, freedom to be their own boss and something that will look great on an MBA application, here are nine low-cost starter businesses that college students can start.

Food cart. There are only three things you need to create a food cart: a cart/kiosk, a license to sell and food to cook. Sites like offer food carts for rent across the U.S., or you could set up your own table. The key is to finding a good location such as near a college campus or shopping area. Permits range depending on the location. For instance, a permit in Philadelphia is $150, while a permit for New York City is $200. Hot dogs, baked goods and tacos sell well due to low-cost supplies and minimal labor.

Avon sales rep. If you're good with sales and you want to be your own boss without the added costs of starting your own business, being a sales rep for Avon is a good bet. With just $10, you're on the way to getting things started and unlike other direct sales companies, the starter kit is included in this fee. Set your own hours, a space for yourself in your house and run your business as you please.

SAT tutoring. No one is more qualified to tutor prospective college students on the SATs than a college student who did well on it. SAT prep books cost between $20 and $30. Set aside money for advertising in your local paper and put up your own ads in public places. Set your hourly rate at a reasonable price. TestMagic charges $85 per hour while others go as high as $200 per hour.

T-shirt company. Raymond Lei, creator of ooShirts, created his own custom T-shirt business while in college. If you've got a funny sense of humor or great design style, starting your own shirt company is a great venture. After you've drafted a few ideas, the next step is to find a printer. Depending on how many shirts you're printing, costs can run high, but as long as the demand is even higher, you'll continue to be profitable. Think about getting a stand at a local flea market or street festival to boost sales.

Moving service. All you need to begin your own moving services is a moving truck, a valid license and some brawny friends. U-Haul trucks typically between $20 to 40 per day (plus mileage) and most movers charge about $200 to $400 for a local move. Advertise your "man with a van" service on Craigslist and on public bulletin boards. Also use the Web by posting on Facebook and Foursquare, as well as asking friends or clients to review your business on Yelp. You can also find dollies, hand-trucks, blankets, and other moving supplies on Craigslist.

Childcare. Starting your own babysitting service can be easy, as long as you invest in the proper resources and become qualified. First, obtain a childcare license which can cost up to $100. You should be first aid and CPR trained, and these certificates cost about $50 (though some places, like the Red Cross, offer this for free). Advertise your service locally, or on trusted babysitter websites such as and Your best chance of success is by having a flexible schedule, such as availability on evenings and weekends. Parents will be especially impressed with students majoring in education, child psychology or art therapy.

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2011-08-16 10:14:59 by GoldenApollo

Restructure your business.

After a year, you should have a good idea of how to price your wares and still afford the costs of running a business, including hiring a professional to take photos.
That said, it's a sucky economy and many aspiring small businesses are struggling.
Few ideas:
Contact a local liberal arts or community college and see if they have a photography program. Maybe there are students who are interested in product photography and can use some portfolio material and cash. You should definitely pay for their services - don't expect it for free. You likely will also have to figure out how to provide the space they need to photograph these gowns properly

2007-12-08 21:05:03 by Swizylstik

Quick Ideas

I have my own homebased business which evolved just from doing what I do and using what I know.
Now I don't know you, but when I read your post I immediately thought that someone with your background might be able to do any of the following for additional income:
Here's what I know; you're a student, you're studying to be a nurse, you have admin & CS experience. I'm immediately thinking the following:
Pharmaceutical sales
Medical marketing
How about offering typing or proofreading services to fellow students?
Maybe the college has some need for admin work at home
Contact some medical-related not-for-profit businesses and see if there is any admin/marketing/cs type jobs you can do from home

2002-08-07 11:02:27 by IHire


I recruit nationally and I own a small Portland based firm. I will be moving business to Vancouver. In good years (not this year) I get killed by Oregon Income tax, Portland, Multnomah and Metro. But you want new ideas. Oregon needs to 'get real'. Our Universities are second rate at best and third rate for engineer/research. My daughter in school in Wa and son in Calif. (spending $) A state this size needs 1 great school and 1 OK college rather than 3 plus that are OK. But to answer your question. Portland needs to re-recruit current employers. Hell, if Vera can't keep Columbia Spt how the XXXX can she expect to get new companies

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