What kind of business should I start?

There are lots of options out there for students who want to become self-employed or run a business.


How to come up with a business idea

If you’ve already spent time building up skills and contacts in a certain area of expertise (Arts, Law, English etc.), it’s natural to use expertise you’ve already developed in your own business ideas. Ask yourself what the world will look like this time next year. What about in five years’ time? Use industry media and read experts’ blogs to second-guess the future and try to develop ideas in line with trends so you can develop a product or service and cash in when they happen.

Bounce ideas off friends and family, or come and see us at HIVE. Create a collective with a group of like-minded people to help you come up with ideas, there is an Enterprise Society [1] at the University of Kent that was created for this very reason. Don’t forget to protect your idea if you are discussing it with other people. You will need to look at Non-Disclosure Agreements and copyright/patenting.

Don’t be afraid to look at other people’s ideas for inspiration. There’s nothing wrong with copying someone else’s idea (unless, of course, it’s protected by copyright law), as long as your business does something to distinguish itself by building and improving on that idea. Hundreds of good business ideas have come when their creators have looked for a solution to an everyday problem. Use a technique such as mind-mapping or play a word-association game with yourself to come up with ideas.


Places to find inspiration

  • Social media – people are forever complaining about life’s problems on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc.
  • Read magazines/newspapers/catalogues/ideas blogs
  • Improve on other people’s ideas
  • Go to the supermarket and browse the shelves- how would you improve the products you see?
  • Create discussion groups on internet forums
  • Attend networking events, trade shows and exhibitions
  • Go to a seminar, take an evening course or learn a new skill
  • Visit the university’s website or even take a walk around its campus. What are students there talking about?
  • Do some volunteer work – what would make a charity worker’s life easier?


Start a part-time business while studying

It’s easy to start a part-time business and you can do it easily and cheaply whilst you study. Below is a list of examples of what you could do for a part time business.

  • Trade on eBay – Figure out what’s selling on eBay, then invest in setting up a professional-looking eBay shop from £14.99 a month. There are some fantastic tips for selling your things on eBay at http://www.smarta.com/advice/web/website-management/how-to-set-up-an-ebay-shop/ [2]
  • Sell stock photography – Sell good quality digital photos to sites like istock.com, shutterpoint.com and fotolia.com. But be warned: this is quite the slow-burner
  • Virtual assistant – Use Google to find online companies that can help you get started. Invest in a secretarial or touch typing course to give you an edge over other candidates.
  • Beauty – dab hand at painting nails or plucking eyebrows? Why not sell your services to others for a small fee? Make sure you are covered by the right insurance to deliver any beauty services.
  • Walking and bike tours – Armed with nothing more than a map and a book on local history, you can guide tours around your local towns and share insight into the history of Canterbury for a small charge.
  • Gift Baskets- making ribbon-adorned wicker baskets brimming with jams, cakes and fruit is relatively cheap, but you can charge a premium.
  • Event and party planning – Perfect if you’ve got a natural knack for organisation. Establishing cut-price deals with catering companies, florists, wine suppliers and the like will ensure you offer a competitive service.
  • Social Media Assistant- More and more small businesses are latching onto the fact social media can help them, so offer to maintain accounts for them for a small fee – you can keep business ticking over while still doing your studies. Tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite will help hugely.
  • Tutor – If you’ve already got a degree, or good A-level results, you can offer to help out other students with their learning.
  • Second-hand clothes stall – Create your own retro clothes market, armed with piles of 70s, 80s and 90s clothes from charity shops, and you’ll find you can charge anything from £5 to £50 an item. Ask the local council about renting a stall.


HIVE offers free business advice sessions to all students, staff and graduates of the University to help them develop and progress their business ideas. These 1-1 session are completely confidential and free of charge.

Business advice sessions can be booked by contacting the HIVE team on 01227 (82)4641 or emailing hive@kent.ac.uk [3].

One response to “What kind of business should I start?

  1. Or just do the Steve Jobs way, go India and meditate for 8 hrs straight for a week. Perhaps come up with the next “uber”

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