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How to become a student entrepreneur

Six tips for students who want to turn their passion into cash.

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Just because you’re a strapped-for-cash student living off of student loans, dollar store pens and the $10 pitchers available in a dingy basement bar doesn’t mean you can’t start a business. In fact, that’s exactly why you should start a business.

Sure, you could apply to a job working 15 hours a week folding sweaters at the local mall, mixing up frothy, icy coffee drinks at the neighbourhood coffee shop or chasing around little kids during the summer, but why would you want to?

Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) thinks you should stop being a minimum wage zombie and take steps to become an entrepreneur. Sean Peters, an entrepreneur student and project co-ordinator for the DMZ, says you don’t have to be a “business person” to start your own business. Rather, you have to have a passion for something, take some calculated risks and figure out a way to make it pay.

For example, if you’re a writer, start freelancing. If you know a lot about business, do what Peters did and start a consulting firm that advises start-ups and small businesses. If you’re great at math, start a tutoring company. There are lots of parents who will pay for their little Jimmy to understand long division better.

What if your only passion is zoning out while listening to your iPod for hours? No problem. Consider what Peters did in his first year of university and start a painting business. You’ll have plenty of time to listen to Son Lux’s new album as you paint the walls in the home of the couple that just moved into your ‘hood. It’s not as scary as it seems.

DMZ gives six tips to help you turn your passion into cash:

  • Take calculated risks. Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
  • Don’t worry so much about failing. Everyone starts from somewhere.
  • Spot opportunities everywhere you go. Look around your dorm. Do you see a void that’s not being filled? Friday night LCBO delivery, for example? (That’s an idea I just thought up and it’s not half bad. Hmm…)
  • Sell yourself. Don’t be shy and don’t trust that your work speaks for itself. Make sure you’re communicating your ideas well.
  • If you’re serious about it, you need a plan. This involves milestones, assumptions and tasks to keep you on track.
  • Get support. Begin by getting to know other student entrepreneurs by joining an entrepreneurial student group and learn how to turn your idea into reality.