Business Ideas for College Students and Recent Grads

Business people celebrating in an office

If you've been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, it can be tough to wait until after you've graduated to get started building your own business. (Or, if you're a recent graduate, it can be hard to wait to pursue your business ideas until after you've picked up some work experience.) Although a completed degree and relevant work experience can certainly be helpful, there are certain types of business ideas for college students and recent grads that don’t necessarily require those credentials.

When embarking on any type of business venture, it’s important to do your due diligence. Research your selected type of business carefully, figure out a feasible business model, and identify what you’ll need to get started. Consider pursuing one of the following small business ideas for college students and new grads.

In This Article:

Businesses To Start in College: What Types Are Ideal?

No matter which type of business you select, you should make sure that it will fit your current life circumstances, abilities and resources. For example, it may not make sense to try to invest in a franchise at this point in your life, since they can require considerable start-up expenses and other resources.

Instead, look for businesses to start in college and after graduation that fit the following criteria:

  • Low start-up costs
  • Flexible scheduling (e.g., part time or semi-absentee)
  • Little to no inventory (and little to no inventory storage)
  • No premises required to lease or purchase (in other words, no physical storefront needed)

You may have additional criteria to meet based on factors unique to your life, abilities and resources. Write down your requirements and then carefully compare each possible business idea to see how it might align with your needs.

How To Develop Business Ideas After Graduation (and Before)

Now that you have a feel for the general criteria of small business ideas for college students and grads, you can follow a general business idea incubation process.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  1. Identify a need or a problem that you can fulfill or solve.
  2. Figure out whether your solution aligns with your current abilities and resources.
  3. Identify your target demographic (i.e., fellow college students). Is there a demand or a need for your product or service? How much might your target demographic be willing to pay for it? (Research current market rates for similar businesses.)
  4. Research your competitors and consider how your business might offer an improved alternative compared to their products or services.
  5. If you’re a current student, consider consulting your business class professors during office hours to discuss your business idea and get feedback on it.
  6. Evaluate whether your business checks all the legal boxes. For example, do you need to register it? Do you need a license or permit?
  7. Develop a business plan, which should include your intended marketing strategies and whether you need to hire a team — or intend to run your business solo.

Top 9 Business Ideas for College Students and Grads

Now that you understand the basic process of starting a small business, let’s take a look at some top business ideas after graduation or while you’re still in college.

1. Electronics Repair Business

If you have a knack for repairing smartphones, laptops and other small electronic items, you might consider starting an electronics repair business. Other than marketing, necessary tools and a few supplies, you may not need to invest much into the initial start-up.

Your target demographic might include fellow students or recent grads who are highly budget-conscious and may not want to spend a lot of money to replace damaged or malfunctioning electronics. A target audience may also include eco-conscious individuals who prefer to use items for as long as possible to lessen their environmental impact.

2. Event Entertainment

If you love all things musical, why not turn your passion into a small business? It’s likely that many of the events you can book will take place after school hours, which may allow you to fit your business around your class schedule. Plus, you may be able to take advantage of daily rentals of speakers, subwoofers and other necessary equipment while you save up the cash to purchase your own.

3. Graphic Design

If you possess and know how to use graphic design and photo editing software, you might consider starting a graphic design business. This can be a great small business idea for college students and grads who enjoy flexing their creativity. Plus, your business need not be limited to the local area; you can complete designs remotely for clients located virtually anywhere.

4. Photography

If you love taking pictures, you might consider starting a photography business. You may benefit from having a professional-grade DSLR camera, although some smartphones offer high-quality, high-resolution image capabilities as well. You can sell your photos to stock photo libraries online.

5. Handmade Crafts

Do you love all things arts and crafts? If you know how to make jewelry, use a pottery wheel or create other artistic handmade goods, you might consider starting a small crafts business. You can sell handmade goods online at your own online storefront or an already-established site like Etsy.

For this type of business, it’s important to consider your sweat equity — that is, how long does it take to create each item? You’ll need to create your items fast enough and price them in a way that will allow you to turn a profit.

6. Create Instructional Videos for Online Courses

If you’ve mastered a particular skill — like playing the piano or scrapbooking — you might consider becoming a skill-specific teacher. Although it might not be practical (or all that safe) to invite your students to your dorm room for lessons, there are alternative options. For example, you can create instructional videos to upload either to your own website (generating ad revenue) or to instructional websites like Udemy.

7. Become a Tutor

If you excel academically, you might consider advertising your tutoring services. You could meet elementary or high school students at the local public library for your tutoring sessions. To expand your service offerings beyond academic subjects, consider doing sessions geared toward teaching students good study habits or tips for scoring well on college entrance exams.

8. Become a Local Guide Online

If you live in an area frequented by tourists or corporate travelers, you might consider developing your own website that offers local knowledge to travelers. This is a particularly good option for college students and grads who love trying different restaurants, checking out various shops and visiting local attractions. You can write and publish your own reviews, guides and local tips on your website and profit from digital ad revenue.

9. Digitize Old Photos

Yes, there really was a time when photographs were not digital. Many people have old family photos they treasure but are prone to damage from the effects of time and sun exposure. In addition, adult siblings may sometimes have disputes over ownership of treasured family photos when their parents pass on.

The solution is to digitize these old photos so they are protected and can be shared among different branches of the family. However, this can be a time-consuming process, and not everyone has the technical knowledge or equipment to handle it. If you have a high-quality scanner and the right software (or can purchase these items), then you might consider setting up shop to digitize old family photos.

Foster Startup Ideas With a Degree From GCU

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, Grand Canyon University has a degree program well suited to you. In addition to degrees that focus on entrepreneurship, you may consider enrolling in the Bachelor of Science in Business Management degree program, which teaches competencies in key areas such as finance, marketing and organizational management. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about joining our Christian learning community.

Approved by the senior associate dean of the Colangelo College of Business on March 26, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.