Starting a Business While in College

By Roger Bryan

 

How to Start a Business While in College

Recently a user for YE asked me How to Start a Business While in College and in particular selling online.    With his permission we are going to move the conversation from Facebook to my Blog so that everyone can read what we’ve talked about.  I think you’ll find that a lot of people have the same questions.  I’m not sure they all have the same motivation as Michael G. but hopefully you’ll find some use for all this.

How to Start a Business While in College Conversation

First Message sent 2-2-2011

Hey you’re the Roger Bryan from youngentrepreneur.com correct? If so I was wondering if I could just ask you a couple of questions if you don’t mind. Thanks

My Response sent 2-2-2011

Sure.. You can send them on FB or you can call me when you have time 440-821-4332

I’m now going to move the conversation to comment threads so I can give Michael G. the opportunity to edit his posts for information he would like to keep private.

I do encourage everyone else to join in on the conversation.  Learning How to Start a Business While in College can be intimidating especially when you pile on a full college workload on top of that.  My goal here is to help as much as I can so that everyone can enjoy the possibility of success.

Hopefull if you are looking to learn How to Start a Business While in College you’ll find this thread useful!

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28 Comments to “Starting a Business While in College”

  1. Michael G. says:

    Alright thanks. Well right now I’m in the library studying for a test I have Friday so I’ll message you right now. Anyways I’m Michael, and I’m a freshman at The University of Tennessee. For over a year I’ve been getting more and more interested in starting my own business and being an entrepreneur myself. Me and a buddy of mine at school are always bouncing ideas off each other, but they’re meaningless until we finally do something about one of them. We were thinking about an Ebay/Amazon business a while back and just a little bit ago I saw your post on the youngentrepreneur forums about how much you like using Amazon for your website. So I just had a couple questions for you and was wondering if you could maybe broadly explain it all for me. Being that I’m in college, I don’t have a lot of space so I probably wouldn’t be able to hold too big of an inventory for the time being. I could probably rent one of those storage pods though. I was wondering how you got started in your Amazon business, how many people work with you or if its just yourself, where you hold all the books you sell, and whatever else you can and feel like telling me. Thanks a lot.

  2. Roger Bryan says:

    When it comes to selling online I had used eBay for about 10 years before I put my first item on Amazon. With that being said roughly 65% of the 160,000 books I sold last year we sold on Amazon.

    I now have a 9000′ warehouse in Washington, DC that houses my bookstore and I just opened up a 2500′ warehouse in Ohio for my consumer goods business.

    I started selling books online in 2008. I had met a guy the year earlier that was running a decent business out of his basement which caught my attention. I almost invested with him to expand his business but we never reached terms. A year later I was at a convention in Colorado Springs and my booth (I do non-profit fund-raising) was set-up next to a software company that specialized in online bookstores. Once I had the software I was ready to open my store.

    The trick is supply. Anyone can sell online. It’s all about having access to enough supply and supply at the right price. I do know a lot of people that started selling online using a pod or a storage unit for their business. It’s a great idea and a great way to get started cheap.

    What you all need to do is to make a list of 10 things you would have fun selling. Then research where you can buy them in bulk. Once you’ve got that info go onto Amazon and see what people are selling those items for. Do a little math to see if you can make money. If you can then invest a little bit.

    I will say this I almost went broke the first year I opened my bookstore. This just happened to be right when the economy fell off the face of the earth so I’ll blame that (not my skills of course.. jk).

    Anytime you have a question I’ll be happy to help as much as I can.

    If you want you can check out my blog http://rcbryan.com/ or you can email me rogercbryan@gmail.com

    Best of luck!

  3. Michael G. says:

    Thanks so much. I’m going to do the Amazon selling. I looked at your blog and youtube videos some already and got a lot out of that so I’m going to keep checking in with those. I also saw your bathbombs website and liked that a lot. Should I download a program to make shipping labels for me? Or should I just write my own labels for now

  4. Roger Bryan says:

    Roger Bryan February 3 at 11:09am
    My developer was supposed to change out that bar and my slide over a week ago. My sites are constantly evolving so thanks for the heads up. When you are first getting started keep it simple. Once you start making some money you can look into shipping software and equipment. There are also systems that rate shop for you. Start by getting your Amazon Seller Account set-up and getting your first couple items listed. Send me a link to your storefront on Amazon once its up.

  5. Michael G. says:

    I’m a little confused on what to do because I know there are a couple of ways of making money through Amazon. Should I find a good wholesaler, buy from them, and list those items on Amazon at a price around what others are offering? Because I know they have an affiliate program, but I don’t have enough web design experience to make my own site.

  6. Roger Bryan says:

    I laid out the steps in my one of my other responses.

    1- Make a list of 10 products you would enjoy selling
    2- Find out what it will cost to either make them or buy them in bulk
    3- Research what they sell for on Amazon
    4- Do your break even analysis to see what it will cost you to get started and what your sales volume will need to be to support a break even
    5- Buy a small batch and do a test run
    6- Evaluate your system to see if you can grow it

    Getting started on Amazon isn’t easy. People don’t like to buy from new sellers. You’ll need to run a loss leaders campaign to get some feedback. You can do that by having 20 of your friends buy and pay for items (you’ll never ship them – just send them a check for what they spent). Then offer your item at a deep discount so you can get used to shipping and feedback.

    The whole start up process including your research should take about 90 days.

    Don’t skip a step! I’ve sold over $1,000,000 in items on Amazon in the last 24 months. My system works. It’s up to you if you want to work it right.

    R

  7. Michael G. says:

    Ok well I’m going to definitely be doing my research on products and I’ll have to build up a good rating using my friends like you said, but for example would this work.
    1. Here’s the product being sold from the companies website for $29.95 each
    http://www.powerbalance.com/silicone-wristband-226.html

    2. I looked up a wholesaler and found I could buy 100 of these power balance bracelets for $1.31 each on this website
    http://www.dhgate.com/fedex-or-dhl-shipping-100-500pcs-lot-power/p-ff8080812c9c4fad012cc42284ef02a0.html#rev-6

    3. And then I looked them up on Amazon and saw they were selling for anywhere from about $3.50-$10.00 each depending on the size.
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dsporting&field-keywords=power+balance&x=0&y=0

    Now would selling these on Amazon work you think? I’m not saying I’d sell these, but it just seems ideal for the small amount of space 100 wristbands would take in a dorm room, and the profit that could be made off 100.

    Buying: 100x$1.31=$131.00 +free shipping from wholesaler

    Selling: 100x$3.50=$350.00+shipping paid for by customer.
    100x$10.00=$1,000.00+shipping paid for by customer.

    Am I missing something or looking at a scam wholesaler site? It just looks like it would be too good to be true. To get at least 3.5 times my money back? Also do I have to pay taxes on the profit I would be making?

  8. Roger Bryan says:

    Be real careful when you look up pricing on these. I see some listed for $0.67 each… http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B003VD5EUO/ref=sr_1_4_olp?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1296851358&sr=1-4&condition=new

    This is where it gets tricky..

  9. Michael G. says:

    Whoa… Good call. Now how do they do that? Do they buy in extreme bulk? And how do they get such cheap shipping. I looked it up and like a 0.4 lb box shipped by fedex from me in TN to NJ would be $7.50 at the cheapest which is 3 business days.

  10. Roger Bryan says:

    Most Amazon Sellers use USPS which is typically the cheapest. Volume sellers get a discount from USPS as well. I’m currently getting 22% off my shipping fees (but I spent $250,000 on postage in 2010).

    The key in buying wholesale is to buy direct from the source and not another wholesaler. I would wager to say the person with the super cheap item is either buying from China or they are selling a cheaper (knock-off) version.

    Getting started isn’t easy but it only takes a few products to get you going.

  11. Michael G. says:

    Alright. Yeah i figured looking at one of the first 10 results for “wholesaler” on google wouldn’t be the best because of how easily its found. So I need to really look around for stuff. Now do you advise I use Amazon’s Fulfillment Program or write the labels myself and ship them myself?

  12. Roger Bryan says:

    FBA is an entirely different program. Most of the sellers that I know have had nothing but problems with that.

    Did you make your list of 10 items you would enjoy selling or did you just Google ‘wholesaler’?

    I’m telling you there is a method to my madness. When you list the 10 items that you would like to sell you’ll have a much easier time doing your supply research.

  13. Michael G. says:

    Well I made one now. Before I was just using the balance bands as examples. I tried to choose things small enough for easier storage.

    1. Books (I know you do that and thats your thing but I just put it being that I’m in college and textbooks was the first thing that came to mind
    2. Sneakers
    3. Posters
    4. Watches
    5. Headphones
    6. Ipods
    7. Hats
    8. Perfumes/Colognes
    9. Sunglasses
    10. Jackets (like Northface)

  14. Roger Bryan says:

    Roger Bryan February 8 at 9:14am
    A few of these have great potential. I met a guy from Indiana who was a Junior in College and started a business selling text books for his friends on Amazon. Started making a bunch of money and last year had expanded out of his dorm room and into a warehouse. I haven’t talked to him in a while but he found a niche that is under served.

    Everyone knows they should be able to get more money for their books then the bookstore offers to pay them. If you sell them and charge a 25% fee for doing so you’ll get your inventory on consignment (basically for free) so that you can start your company with minimal investment.

    Sneakers/ipods/perfumes/sunglasses/jackets – I’m not sure how easy it would be to find suppliers in these niches unless you are sitting on a lot of money. The people that make money in wholesale buying are the ones that can buy 1000 to 10,000 units at a time.

    Posters/watches/hats – If you can get into the collectors side this could be interesting. Not sure I know much more then that.

    I would now take your top five and look for supply. If you can find it then work out your B/E – Break Even Analysis. If you see an opportunity then you are ready to move!

  15. Kirk from YE says:

    Hello Roger and Company,

    My name is Kirk, and I am from Young Entrepreneurs.

    Very great posts Roger. I think this is incredibly awesome of you to be giving this advice!

    To your ‘students’. I have access to exports in China. If you are looking for something to import from China, let me know, and I will get prices for you.

    If you go with a certain product, I will take a very minimal % of the deal. I am not greedy. Me marking up a product 1% that sells a million times, is way better than me marking a product up 50% that sells ten times.

    Thanks,
    Kirk

  16. Roger Bryan says:

    @Kirk from YE, What types of products do you have access to? I’m personally looking for consumer bathing products and candles. I know it is sort of a strange category but they go with a business I just started.

  17. Kirk from YE says:

    Hey Roger,

    I have a guy that lives in China, so he has access to everything.

    He has a solid connection with the local manufacturers. He has export agencies, banking, international freight forwarding and human resource ready in China. He tells me “If the customer needs ‘to door’ service, we have that in place as well.”

    I have already sent him an e-mail looking for “consumer bathing products and candles.”

    Do you have details of what you are looking for specifically?

    Thanks,
    Kirk

  18. Roger Bryan says:

    @Kirk from YE, I’m looking to see what’s out there. I know right now my next product expansion will be into selling candles and gift sets that combine my products with candles and also CD’s of relaxing music. I would also be looking for gift baskets. If you can ask your guy about candles and gift baskets I’m almost ready to place a bulk order.

  19. Kirk from YE says:

    Hello Roger,

    He said he is on it right now.

    I will let you know when he tells me.

    Thanks,
    Kirk

  20. Roger Bryan says:

    @Kirk from YE, Thanks! Keep me updated.

  21. Michael G. says:

    …I haven’t bought the hats yet. I’m skeptical about buying them. The hats he has pictured are the ones I’m talking about, but is there anyway I can make sure its not some Chinese rip-off, and the image shown is what I’m actually getting? I know the Chinese do that with sneakers a lot.

  22. Roger Bryan says:

    @Michael G.,
    Roger Bryan February 17 at 1:45pm
    Unfortunately that is usually the case. The only other option is to buy bulk from the US Manufacturer. You would have to call them to find out what their min order is.

  23. Kirk from YE says:

    Hey Roger,

    Do you have a broker or customs clearance set up to receive bulk international trading goods in the US?

    If not, we will find this for you in your location.

    Thanks,
    Kirk

  24. Roger Bryan says:

    @Kirk from YE, Most likely not. Most of our International Business is outgoing.

  25. Kirk from YE says:

    The candle supplier takes OEM orders against clients’ samples. Do you have something in mind they can give you a price on?

    1. Picture of the sample
    2. Product specs(size, material, etc.)
    3. Special requirement for meeting industry, customs or government standard/regulation, if any
    4. Packaging requirement
    5. Order volume

    Thanks,
    Kirk

  26. Roger Bryan says:

    @Kirk from YE,
    I’ll have to work on putting that together. We’ve planned to add this to our product list but haven’t gone out and bought anything yet. I’ll probably have to buy locally and then put them up for sale so I’ll know what is profitable before I buy in bulk.

  27. Kirk from YE says:

    Floating candle as attached
    Size: 6x2cm
    Material: paraffin wax
    Weight: 25g

    1. Order qty: 5,000 (minimum)
    Lead time: 50 days, Unit price: $0.34
    Lead time: 27 days, Unit price: $0.44

    2. Order qty: 10,000
    Lead time: 60 days, Unit price: $0.28
    Lead time: 37 days, Unit price: $0.39

    The price is CIF Washington DC in USD and doesn’t include my points. Sales tax is not included, if any.

    I have a picture of the candle. It is a small green flower.

    Kirk

    • Roger Bryan says:

      For that type of quantity I would need variety. I wouldn’t want to warehouse 5000 of the exact same thing. Can you pots a link to a picture of the item?

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