5 Tips For Dorm Room Startup Success

1 May 2012 | Andrianes Pinantoan | tweet feedback to @honestcollege

Get your own startup going and you could make it to Silicon Valley too.

Just 50 years ago, it was rare to hear about so called “dorm room” entrepreneurs. Today, however, it seems like everyone is starting a business.

But did you know that, depending on where you reside, up 70% of all businesses fail in the first 4 years? If businesses with a full-time team and millions of dollars in venture fund fail, what are your chances?

Fret not. Being a dorm room startup, believe it or not, is actually a benefit. And as for your weaknesses, there are a few things you can do to overcome that.

Here are 5 tips to get you started.

1. Appear Larger Than You Are
Nobody likes to deal with a shoddy one-man show. What if they pay you and you disappear tomorrow?

The good news is, in the digital age, you can appear larger than you are. Here are 3 ways to do that:

  • Enlist your friends to contribute in any small way (eg: blogging) and feature them on your “about” page. You can easily make it look like you have 20 employees.
  • Get a 1800 number with your mobile phone, for cheaper than you think. Services like Grasshopper lets you do that for just $24 a month.
  • Create multiple email addresses (based on your domain) for sales, support, customer service, etc.

And guess what? Even though you appear big, your actual size allows you to provide the intimate one-on-one service that customers crave for these days. Use that to your advantage.

2. Focus
College students have a tendency to assume that they can achieve gazillion things before they graduate. I should know… I was one of them.

If you’re starting a business, and you want to give it the best chance of succeeding, drop everything optional. For example, running to be president of a club, competing in college sport, taking on extra credit, etc.

Business alone is a full-time job. You’re doing it while studying full-time. You don’t need the extra distraction.

3. Leverage Your University
You’re paying them a couple thousand dollars anyway, why not take some back?

You don’t need an office: use a spare room in college, or your dorm, for that matter. Use your student email for your business because an email that comes from a .edu domain carries with it a certain authority.

And if you have a student blog, feature your business on your blog. The purpose is not to get publicity. The purpose is to be able to brag that your business is “featured on” your university’s website.

4. Use Your Lower Cost To Your Advantage
Initially, when you have no customer testimonials or experience, you’ll have no choice but to compete on price. So don’t be greedy when setting your price.

The good news is, you also don’t have employees and millions of dollars of overhead expenses. Done right, it’s almost impossible for you to NOT be able to undercut your competitors.

The goal is to break-even when you’re starting.

5. Do Something Outrageous
Nobody depends on you for their livelihoods, so why not do something outrageous? Shake up the industry like Facebook did.

Even if you fail, it’s a great learning opportunity. In Silicon Valley, startup failure is like a badge of honor. But if you’re doing the same-old stuff others are doing, you won’t get much out of the experience.

This article was written by Andrianes Pinantoan, who is part of the team behind an online courses provider called Open Colleges. When not working, he can be found with a camera on hand.

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