Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

5 Businesses to Start from your College Dorm Room

The following post is from Samuel Sternweiler ’17, founder of JEWELv, a spring 2016 hatchery business.

Samuel Sternweiler '17, founder of JEWELv

Samuel Sternweiler ’17, founder of JEWELv

College is a magical time filled with new experiences, exploring yourself, making lifelong friendships, joining a billion clubs, and doing homework into the early AM hours. But one detail that often gets overlooked is how a student might pay for those memorable outings with friends or Spring Break trips to Cabo if mommy and daddy don’t want to front the bill. Of course there’s always the option to work a few hours here and there with a part time job but often those pay peanuts and don’t contribute any tangible skills that will be intriguing to employers later on. Now my recommendations below are not for everyone, as you should be warned that starting a business is typically hard work and takes a good amount of time and focus. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee for income when starting your own small business, but the potential for higher income figures is more probable than the crappy desk job you’re dreading to go to on a Saturday morning after your wild Friday night.

Below I’ve recommended 5 businesses that almost anyone can start from their college dorm room with minimal monetary commitments and limited resources:

  • Freelance Services – With websites such as fiverr, upwork, peopleperhour, and freelancer, it’s never been easier to be a well-publicized freelancer. For this to work try to play on what you already are naturally talented at. If you can draw, offer illustration services, if you can write offer copywriting or blog writing services, if you have coding skills offer to create websites or apps. There’s basically a job for anyone if you have any kind of skill or even if you don’t there are plenty of people paying for virtual assistants. Freelancing can be a great use of your free time and can be very successful if you get repeat customers. Also, good reviews can spawn tons of extra business.

Starter Tip: Price your services at 5-15% under the standard rate on whichever websites you decide to start with. This way you can gain initial customers and hopefully good reviews. Once you have an adequate amount of positive reviews, gradually increase your prices as your services become more popular.

  • Dorm Cleaning – Not sure about you, but my dorm room could often times be confused with a scene out of Hoarders, and I don’t believe that I’m alone. As college students, we often keep some messy rooms cause we’re either so busy with our activities to spend time cleaning or we just don’t give a care. If you’re willing to get your hands dirty a bit, there could be a very lucrative business opportunity that wouldn’t even require you to leave your building. Charge by the hour or the room, and you’ll be cleaning all the way to the bank.

Starter Tip: Post flyers around campus, slip them under doors, and post on your college’s online communities. These are cheap and easy ways to get people to see the services you’re offering. Make sure to include your contact information on your advertisements and how students can obtain your services.

  • Delivery Services – Many students on campus do not have a car at their disposal which makes acquiring products from off campus extremely difficult. In addition, many students are very busy when it comes to mid-term or finals season where they might not have time to go out for certain things. This allows an opportunity for any student with some time to offer delivery services. If you have a car then you can get the order from a student, go pick it up, deliver the product, and get paid to do it. You can even get a business phone number for your mobile phone, if you’d rather keep your personal line private.

Alternative: If your campus doesn’t allow cars or you just don’t own one, you can always offer an on campus only delivery service. From coffee in the morning to late night snacks, students are willing to pay a few dollars just to get some extra time when it’s inconvenient.

  • Selling Used Textbooks – Every semester I end up accumulating more textbooks that I will never open again. Furthermore, every time I glance at them laying there, it depresses me to know I spent over a hundred dollars for a large paperweight. An easy solution to this college life problem would be if someone would purchase my textbooks throughout the year and sell them to students in need at the beginning of the semesters. This is a common buy low and sell high business, and one where you can very easily predict the demand based upon the most popular classes at your college.

Starter Tip: This is something to easily start informally selling your own extra textbooks and maybe your roommates if they’ll let you. If you’re looking to formalize the business a bit more, you can easily create an e-commerce website for about twenty dollars a month. Although with a website you’re going to want to carry a lot more inventory then just your own books.

  • Laundry Services – Everyone wears clothes, which means everyone is going to have to wash them eventually too. Many of your fellow students likely have either never done their own laundry or would rather use a laundry service. This can be an easy money maker by setting up scheduled times for you to come and grab their laundry, very similarly to a subscription service. They’ll save time and you’ll make money.

Starter Tip: In addition to offering typical washing and drying laundry services, offer upsells such as ironing or steaming services too. College students often times do not have access to such equipment so they’ll be happy to pay a premium to get these specialty services done right on campus.

These five businesses and many more are possible with the right attitude and some dedicated time. Having your own small business while in college can prove not only profitable but a great way to learn from your own trial and errors. This experience will provide you with the stepping stone business skills necessary to transfer to any other company after college.