18 Business Ideas for College Students to Consider and Pursue

business ideas for college students

For many, college is a time of learning and growth. Yet, it’s also an ideal period to explore business ideas for college students.

The drive to earn extra money and the entrepreneurial spirit can align perfectly in these years. Starting a business during this phase can significantly expand opportunities and empower students to immediately apply what they’ve learned.

Read on to discover some prime ideas tailored for those eager to embark on college business ventures.

Here’s a word from Adam Erhart about the “7 Best Businesses for Beginners to Start in 2023.” Some will look familiar, like pet sitting, but the ones like honeybee and goat rental services are truly unique! It’s a good watch and supplement to the article:

Why Should College Students Start a Business?

If you’re a college student, here are some benefits you can obtain by starting your own business:

  • Earn extra money: What college student couldn’t earn extra money? Starting a business can help you cover tuition, books, or living expenses. With a particularly profitable business idea, you could even save serious money for graduation when you’re on your own.
  • Get a head start on your career: Many people start their careers once they’ve graduated from college. But if your dream is to start a business, jumping into entrepreneurship during college means you’re even closer to your goals upon graduating.
  • Build an impressive resume: If you’re interested in a more traditional career path, acting on startup ideas during college still holds many benefits. Potential employers may notice your ambition, creativity, and leadership, giving you a better chance of scoring your dream job.
  • Take advantage of networking opportunities: You have access to lots of help while in school, from other students and teachers to business centers and student organizations. Connect with others who have connections to your industry to share ideas or partner on a new venture.
  • Start in a low-risk environment: Many college students have loans or parental assistance covering living expenses during college. Once you graduate, you may have extra expenses, a mortgage, or a family that makes you risk-averse. Starting young allows you to really jump in without doing any major harm to your future.

Read more: A College Student’s Guide to Launching a Startup

business ideas for college students

Our Methodology: The Best Business Ideas for College Students

In guiding college students towards successful entrepreneurial endeavors, we employ a specific set of criteria tailored to their unique needs and constraints. Each criterion is rated on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 denotes the least importance and 5 indicates the highest importance in our review process:

  1. Low Start-up Costs
    • Importance: 5
    • We prioritize business ideas that require minimal initial investment, considering the budget constraints typical for college students.
  2. Flexibility and Time Commitment
    • Importance: 5
    • The business should offer flexibility to accommodate a student’s class schedule and academic commitments. Ideas that require less time commitment or allow for variable working hours are preferred.
  3. Potential for Skill Development and Resume Building
    • Importance: 4
    • Business ideas that provide students with valuable skills and experience, contributing to their resume and professional growth, are highly valued.
  4. Scalability and Growth Potential
    • Importance: 3
    • We assess whether the business idea has the potential for growth and scalability, either during the college years or after graduation.
  5. Market Demand and Feasibility
    • Importance: 4
    • The idea should cater to a genuine market need or demand, and it should be feasible for a student to implement with limited resources.
  6. Profitability and Revenue Generation
    • Importance: 4
    • The business idea should have a clear path to generating income, even if it might not be immediate, to ensure it’s financially worthwhile for the student.
  7. Compatibility with Digital Platforms
    • Importance: 3
    • Given the digital proficiency and online engagement of most college students, business ideas that leverage digital platforms or online marketplaces are considered advantageous.
  8. Ethical Considerations and Social Impact
    • Importance: 2
    • Ideas that incorporate ethical practices and potentially provide a positive social impact resonate well with the values of many college students.

By applying these criteria, we aim to help college students identify business ideas that are not only feasible and flexible for their unique lifestyle but also provide opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Ideas for Local Businesses Founded by College Students

There are many startup business ideas you can run in your college town. If you’re looking to serve others in person as a university student, here are some small business options.

1. Tutoring Business

If you excel in a particular subject, help your fellow students as a tutor. You can charge for Expanding your knowledge is a great way to both help others and earn. If you’re proficient in a particular subject, why not share your expertise?

By offering tutoring sessions, you can charge either per session or establish packages for longer periods. Don’t limit yourself to just college peers; high school students can also benefit from your insights, broadening your client base. This business has a low startup cost and can be a great way to help others.

2. Cleaning Business

business ideas for college students - cleaning business

Every space, whether a home or an office, requires regular cleaning. If you’re seeking a venture that’s evergreen, a cleaning business might be your answer.

Start by investing in essential cleaning equipment, and then promote your services to homeowners and businesses in your locality. With consistent service quality, you can establish a steady client roster and scale over time.

3. Essay Writing

For the eloquent writers out there, a business opportunity awaits. Students constantly face challenges in crafting the perfect essay. While you shouldn’t write assignments for them, providing templates, outlines, or even just guidance can be invaluable.

Moreover, offering editing services ensures their work is polished and ready for submission, adding another potential revenue stream. There’s almost no startup cost, and you can scale with additional services.

4. Delivery Service

business ideas for college students - scooter with food backpack for delivery on back

The modern world thrives on convenience, and delivery services are in vogue. If you have access to a car or even a bicycle, start your own delivery business, with high market demand in many areas.

Deliver meals, groceries, or essential items around the campus or the local town. While apps can be useful partners, a more personalized approach with posters and word-of-mouth can also yield customers.

5. Plan Local Events

For those who find joy in bringing people together and orchestrating memorable events, an event planning service is a viable business. From birthdays to corporate gatherings, events are numerous and varied.

While much of your organizational work might be digital, being present on the ground, especially on event days, ensures everything aligns with your vision.

6. Personal Trainer

Physical well-being is on everyone’s list, making personal training a sought-after service. If you’re passionate about fitness and health, leverage that to help others in their fitness journey.

By collaborating with local gyms or offering specialized sessions at clients’ homes, you can craft unique workout plans catering to individual needs.

business ideas for college students

7. Photography Business

The world of photography is vast and constantly evolving. If you possess a quality camera and have a knack for capturing moments, this business might be for you.

Whether it’s covering local events, offering portrait sessions, or even landscape photography, the possibilities are vast. Additionally, the digital space provides avenues like online galleries or stock photo platforms to monetize your work further.

8. Food Delivery Services

business ideas for college students - food delivery service

In today’s fast-paced world, convenience is a key selling point, and food delivery taps into this need. If you wish to zero in on this niche, establish collaborations with local eateries that lack a delivery component.

Instead of just being the middleman, establish a business framework, either contracting with the restaurants directly or setting up a personalized delivery service where you charge customers a specific fee per delivery. There’s tons of demand for this service, and many digital platforms can support your growth.

9. Sports Coach

Sports play a pivotal role in many students’ lives, providing both physical fitness and discipline. If you possess athletic skills and a knack for teaching, consider venturing into coaching.

Local schools often seek skilled individuals to enhance their teams. Alternatively, offering private coaching sessions to student-athletes can provide a more tailored experience, improving their skill set significantly.

10. Pet Sitting Business

Pets are cherished family members for many, and ensuring their well-being is paramount, especially when owners are away. If you share a deep affinity for animals, this business avenue can be both emotionally and financially rewarding.

By providing a trustworthy and loving environment, you can watch over dogs, cats, or other pets in the comfort of their homes, providing owners with peace of mind during their travels. There are even digital platforms you can use to market this service and connect with clients.

business idea for college students

Summary Table

This table provides a concise summary of local college business ideas:

Business IdeaBrief DescriptionInitial InvestmentTarget Market
Tutoring BusinessAssisting students with academic topics; sessions can be per hour or packages.LowCollege & High School Students
Cleaning BusinessOffering cleaning services for homes and offices.ModerateHomeowners & Local Businesses
Essay WritingProviding essay templates, outlines, and guidance.LowCollege Students
Delivery ServicePersonalized deliveries of meals, groceries, or items.Low to ModerateLocal Residents & Students
Plan Local EventsOrganizing and executing events from birthdays to corporate functions.ModerateLocal Businesses & Residents
Personal TrainerCrafting individualized workout plans and sessions.Low to ModerateFitness Enthusiasts
Photography BusinessOffering event coverage, portrait sessions, and selling photos online.ModerateAnyone & Local Businesses
Food Delivery ServicesPartnering with local eateries to provide food delivery.Low to ModerateLocal Residents
Sports CoachCoaching student-athletes in specific sports; can be group or individual sessions.LowStudent Athletes & Schools
Pet Sitting BusinessTaking care of pets when their owners are away.LowPet

Initial Investment:

  • Low: Minimal financial outlay (like just promoting services online or using skills and tools you already have).
  • Moderate: Some investment is needed for equipment, renting space, or initial inventory.

Target Market: A general classification of the primary audience that the business aims to serve.

Online Business Ideas for College Students

Online small businesses often allow college students to serve a niche market for a low initial investment. Here are some opportunities to consider if you’d like to start a business online.

11. Develop Online Courses

The e-learning industry is booming, with many individuals seeking knowledge online. If you have expertise in a particular subject or skill, consider structuring it into an online course.

Whether you’re conducting live classes or creating pre-recorded modules, the flexibility allows students globally to benefit at their convenience, all while you generate revenue.

12. Social Media Platform

The power of social media is undeniable in today’s interconnected world. If you possess technical skills, consider developing a niche social platform tailored for your university or a specific interest group.

Such a platform could operate on subscription models or rely on advertising, depending on your target audience and the value proposition.

13. Web Design

business ideas for college students - web design

In this digital age, a strong online presence is crucial for businesses and individuals alike. If you have a flair for design combined with technical prowess, web design can be a lucrative avenue.

By offering customized website solutions, either charging per project or on an hourly basis, you can cater to a wide array of clients, from local entrepreneurs to larger corporations.

14. Sell Online

E-commerce is a dynamic sector with immense growth potential. If you have unique products or can source them, establish an online storefront. Whether you’re leveraging existing marketplaces or designing your own website, ensure efficient inventory management.

For those with limited space, drop-shipping or partnering with print-on-demand services can streamline operations, letting you focus on marketing and customer service.

15. App Developer

With the proliferation of smartphones, apps have become an integral part of our daily lives, presenting an incredible business opportunity. If you have coding skills and a unique idea, consider developing your own app.

This can either be a standalone product where users pay a fee or a freemium model with in-app purchases. Always ensure that your app brings significant value to encourage users to invest.

For those who might not want to launch an independent app, there’s a thriving market where businesses seek developers to bring their digital visions to life through contractual arrangements.

business ideas college students

16. Market Research

In today’s competitive market landscape, businesses are in constant need of insights to tailor their strategies effectively.

By offering research services, you can assist them in gathering crucial data. This could range from online surveys that gauge consumer sentiment to in-depth focus groups that dive deep into product feedback or usability studies to optimize products.

Position yourself as a trusted intermediary between companies and the information they seek, and monetize this essential service.

17. Translation Services

business ideas for college students - man using smartphone and translation service app

In our globalized world, bridging language barriers is invaluable. If you’re proficient in multiple languages, leverage that skill by offering translation services. This could involve translating business documents, marketing materials, or even literary works.

As businesses expand internationally, there’s an increasing demand for professionals who can accurately and effectively communicate messages across diverse linguistic landscapes.

18. Transcription Services

The digital age has seen an explosion in audio and video content, from corporate webinars to podcast episodes. This surge has concurrently increased the demand for transcription services.

Whether for accessibility reasons, content repurposing, or detailed analysis, turning spoken words into written text is an invaluable service. If you possess keen listening skills and a fast typing speed, this venture could be a perfect match.

Ensure accuracy and timeliness in your transcriptions to build a reputation in this expanding sector.

business ideas for college students

Summary Table

This table provides a concise summary of online college business ideas:

Business IdeaBrief DescriptionInitial InvestmentTarget Market
Develop Online CoursesCreating and selling courses in a specific domain or skill.Low to ModerateGlobal Learners & Professionals
Social Media PlatformDeveloping a niche platform tailored for a specific audience or interest.Moderate to HighSpecific Interest Groups
Web DesignOffering tailored website designs for businesses and individuals.Low to ModerateLocal Businesses & Individuals
Sell OnlineE-commerce ventures, selling unique products, possibly through drop-shipping.Low to ModerateGlobal Consumers
App DeveloperDesigning apps, either standalone products or contractual development for businesses.Low to HighSmartphone Users & Businesses
Market ResearchProviding insights via online surveys, focus groups, or other research methods.Low to ModerateLocal & Global Businesses
Translation ServicesOffering language translation for documents, marketing materials, etc.LowGlobal Businesses & Authors
Transcription ServicesTranscribing audio and video content into written text.LowPodcasters, Businesses, Media

Initial Investment:

  • Low: Minimal costs, primarily relying on skills, online platforms, and minimal tools.
  • Moderate: Some investment in specialized tools, software, advertising, or initial inventory.
  • High: Significant financial outlay, particularly for development-heavy projects or infrastructure.

Target Market: Gives an overview of the primary potential clientele or user base for the specific business.

Local vs. Online Business Ideas for College Students

To assist college students in understanding the potential opportunities available, here’s a table showing the differences between local and online business ideas:

Business TypeLocal Business IdeasOnline Business Ideas
ServiceTutoring, Cleaning, Personal TrainingWeb Design, Transcription Services, Translation
Goods/ProductFood Delivery, PhotographySell Online, App Developer
Event-BasedEvent PlanningOnline Courses
Tech-RelatedDelivery Service (with an App)Social Media Platform, App Development
CreativePhotography, Event PlanningGraphic Design, YouTube Channel
EducationalTutoring, Sports CoachOnline Courses, Market Research
SpecializedPet Sitting, Essay WritingTranslation Services

What Business Idea is Best for College Students?

The best college business ideas vary based on each student’s skills and goals. However, some options that can be both fun and profitable include web design, managing social media platforms, tutoring younger students, and running a writing service.

Read more: Small Business Ideas for Beginners

What Business is Most Profitable for Students?

The profitability of a student business idea can vary widely based on the market, business plan, and startup costs.

However, online businesses tend to be inexpensive to start, and thus can be quite profitable. Popular ideas include digital marketing, graphic design, and running a YouTube channel.

Image: Envato Elements

More in:

Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 12 years. Annie covers feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Journalism and Marketing Communications.