A Guide to Acing Your Student Startup

Alexandra Greenhalgh
19.03.21 – 03 Mins Read

A guest blog by graduate, Lily Harris

There’s no better time to start a business than when you’re a student. You have a ton of excellent ideas, fewer financial responsibilities, and far more free time on your hands to make it a success.

Thanks to continual technological innovation, it’s also easier than ever to bring your side hustle or business idea to life.

So how can you follow the success of Microsoft, Facebook and Reddit and build a successful startup whilst you’re still a student? What is the secret to building a sustainable business? Let’s take a look.

1. Get clear on your idea

Coming up with a solid business idea can be challenging. But once you’ve come up with something exciting, you must get clear on what your business can offer and whether it could potentially generate a profit. By doing this, you’ll also find it easier to stay focused through the early stages and provide exactly what the world needs.

Ask yourself:

●     What am I trying to do?

●     What problem am I trying to solve?

●     Who will be my target audience?

●     Why am I the right person for this? What can I offer that others don’t?

●     Are there people who are willing to pay for this? Can they afford to pay?

●     Can the business make money?

●     Is there room for growth?

2. Do your research

When you have a brilliant business idea, it can be tempting to dive in head-first, convinced that it’s going to work. However, this isn’t always the case. Even the best of ideas can lead to failure, especially if you haven’t done your market research first.

Take a scientific approach and think of your idea as a hypothesis that you need to test for potential growth and sustainability. Then gather your data. As well as finding out whether you have an idea that could work, you could get useful preliminary insight into the market.

Great market research tools include Facebook, Amazon, Reddit, Google Keyword Planner, Survey Monkey and specialist groups and organisations.

3. Check out your competition

Understanding who your competitors are and what they offer is key when it comes to starting a profit-generating business. Do your research here and you’ll be able to decide whether your idea could work and how you could potentially stand out. Great questions to ask include:

●     Who are our competitors?

●     What risk could they pose?

●     How can we differentiate ourselves?

●     What strategies are our competitors using?

A word of warning- don’t think that a lack of competitors is a positive thing. Many niches have already been discovered so this could point to a lack of demand.


Writing a business plan may feel like a pain, but it can help get clear on your idea, spot any potential problems and outline your business goals. Even if you’re not applying for funding or grants, you can use this document for your own reference and ensure you stay focused on your primary aim. You’ll also be more likely to take your startup idea seriously and
more likely to make it a success.

The Startup Loans Company suggests that you include the following:

●     Your business idea, with your goals broken down clearly

●     Your skills and experience, as relevant to the idea

●     Your target customers, audience and competition

●     Your sales and marketing plan

●     Your financial information


As Chris Guillebeau’s classic 2021 book “The $100 Startup” demonstrates, not every business needs a huge investment to get started. But you do need to consider your finances before you get started.

At a bare minimum, you are likely to need a website. You may also need to register your company with the UK Government, buy insurance cover, get stock, and so on. Get clear on how much you need, then look for sources of funding. Depending on the size and type of your business, you could use your savings, ask family and friends to help or apply for a business grant or loan. The Princes Trust is a great place to start if you’re aged between 18-30 years old as they offer advice and a range of funding options.


When it comes to launching a profitable startup, it’s not enough just to have a flash of inspiration. You need to do your research, get clear on your idea and check out your competition first, before you look into business plan and funding. This will help ensure that you create a successful business with potential.