The University Graduate Guide to Starting a Business

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The University Graduate Guide to Starting a Business

The final semester of university is a time when many people start to consider what their life will be after university.

For some it’s getting a job doing what they’ve studied.

For others it’s a time to relax.

And for a small group, it’s a life of entrepreneurship and starting their own business doing what they love.

How to get your business started after university – the complete checklist

Do you know what steps you need to take to get your business off the ground? Don’t worry if you don’t know just yet, the below guide will help guide you through the steps to get your business started.

We’ve built this guide built on our own team’s experience starting businesses after university. This easy to follow guide will take you through the set-up process and help you set up your business for success.

Step 1. Have you got what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

Would You Be a Good Entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur takes courage, confidence and luck, and not everyone will be successful. Take this quiz to see if you have what it takes.

You might have what it takes

Being an entrepreneur, like being Liam Neeson, requires a very particular set of skills. You seem to have those skills, along with the knowledge and drive needed to be a successful entrepreneur and business owner. Head over to our look at successful graduate entrepreneurs to find out more successful graduates' stories.

Entrepreneurship probably isn't for you

Being an entrepreneur requires focus, drive and attention to get the business off the ground. You might not have the focus and drive to make the business a success - not many people do.

You're too interested in making money

Money should be a by-product of your business, not the reason for it. Focusing on the financial gain instead of the business means you might not have the focus to be a successful entrepreneur.

You're risk-averse

Starting a business is a big risk - one which you're probably not going to take. The majority of start-ups fail in the first few years, and you're too sensible to risk the odds. This might prove to be a wise decision.

You'd be good in a small business

You don't have the drive to create something truly innovative or different, however you're good at delegating and really want to be your own boss or weave your work around other commitments.

What was the main focus of your university years?

Having fun and partying

Doing university work to the highest standard

Trying to make money

Getting as much experience in your industry

How much time would you put into your business?

A couple of hours a day, around other commitments

Long, 12 hour days, but I'd still want to have my weekends off

Slightly shorter days, but six days a week

Every single hour possible

Do you like to take risks?

I hate risks

I don't like risks, and take as few as possible

I like to take risks fairly regularly, but only when I have to

I really enjoy taking risks, and do it whenever I can

What makes you want to start a business?

So I can make as much money as possible

To be my own boss and fit my work around my life

I hate being ordered around

So I can improve the world around me

What are your money skills like?

I'm terrible with money

If I have money then I spend it, but I know when to stop

I'm trying to save money

I take great care in managing my income and spending

How well do you deal with things going wrong?

I can't deal with things not going to plan

I find it tough, and hope it will go right eventually

I work harder to get through them

Setbacks are just new opportunities to improve

How good would your product or service be?

I want as much profit as possible, so I'll buy lower quality products

I want to be as good as everyone else

I want to make it better than the competition, but still have a big profit margin

I will settle for nothing less than the best, regardless of cost

How good are you at delegating?

I don't have to delegate

I'd rather do the job myself

Fairly good

Excellent - I understand how to give people jobs they'll do well at

If someone wanted to buy your business for a lot of money, what would you do?

Take the money and use it to retire early

Sell the business but stay on as a more senior employee

Sell the business and use the money to start a new business

Turn down the offer, because it's your business and you want to grow it

We’ve created a quiz to look at your personality, drive, and give you an idea of if you have what it takes to succeed. Take the quiz above and find out if you’re ready to take the step into entrepreneurship when you graduate.

Remember that many different types of people become entrepreneurs, and nobody starts off as the perfect businessperson!

Step 2. Have you checked your eligibility for graduate funding?

Yes I've spoken to my university about this


If you're looking for a loan to get started make sure you look at the Princes Trust and Virgin Startup Loans.

I haven't had a look yet, but I need some seed funding

Funding for university entrepreneurs

If you can't get a grant then bootstrap as much as you can.

From mentorship to graduate grants, your university should be one of your first ports of call when you’re starting up.


Yes I'm straight out of dissertations, so creating a business plan was easy


Always a good idea to ask your family or friends to read it to make sure they can easily grasp your plan

I still need to put together a plan

Creating a start-up business plan

Remember that your business plan should change organically.

Although sometimes seen as an outdated practice, creating a business plan will help you articulate exactly how you are going to make money. A business plan is essential if you are looking to secure funding.

Step 4. Have you chosen a name for your business?

Yes I've chosen a name for my creation


Add a ™ to alert the public to your claim of ownership of your name when creating your logo.

I still need to choose my name

How to choose a business name

Remember the name is only a small part of your success, so don't fret.

Deciding on a name for your business can be one of the most exciting parts of starting your business. Remember though that a name is only part of your success and a great name will not guarantee success so don’t worry too much about selecting an amazing name.

Step 5. Have you registered a domain name?

Yes I've registered my website address


Make sure you register several domain name extensions (.de, .fr, etc) for when you go global!

I need to register the domain name for my empire

Registering an available domain

With 20+ years of the internet, finding a domain name can be tricky.

Depending on the type of business you’re starting, selecting a name for your business might be intrinsically tied to being able to register an accompanying domain name. We’re now 25 years into registering domain names on the internet so this might mean you have to compromise on your domain name with either a unique domain extension like .co or by adding a word to your domain like my[yourdomain] or weare[yourdomain].

Step 6. Have you decided on a business structure?

Yes, I know which structure will benefit my business


Just make sure you understand the implications of all types.

I haven't decided yet

Choosing a business structure

What your business does can help you decide the structure

Sole trader, partnership, limited company or LLP? When you need to keep costs to a minimum there is a case to be made for being a sole trader initially and converting to a limited company later. However starting out as a limited company will make your company look more professional and is probably the way to go if you’re serious about growing the business.

Step 7. Have you had a logo designed for your business?

Yes, I've thought all about the logo and have had one made


Make sure the logo isn't infringing on any copyrights though.

I haven't thought about a logo yet

Designing a logo

Your logo should subtly represent your business' aims and identity

Once you’ve decided on your business name and secured your domain name, it’s time to get your logo designed. Prices can range from $5 on Fiverr or £150 on 99Designs all the way into the thousands. Our business was launched with a logo designed from 99Designs.

Step 8. Have you decided on your marketing plan?

Yes, I know how I'm going to market my business


Remember to make sure it suits the type of people you'll be marketing it to.

I don't know how I'm going to market it yet

Marketing your business

Marketing your business well will help people find out it exists

Efficiently and profitably finding paying customers will be critical to your success. How you will do this should be outlined in a marketing plan.

Step 9. Have you set up your record keeping?

Yes, my accounts and records are all sorted


Try to explore all the options before deciding - it might be easier to use an accountant

I haven't thought about accounts

Accounts and bookkeeping

Keeping good records will ensure you know where your business is at.

In the rush to get off the ground, bookkeeping often gets relegated to the bottom of the startup to do list. However with the right system in place you will be thankful further down the line that you have kept the books efficiently from the beginning.

Becoming an entrepreneur can be a great journey, learning about the world of business whilst being your own boss and following your own path. If you’d like to learn about other graduate entrepreneurs, you can read our interview with Greg McClarnon of Splaat Media, or read some more tips from four graduate business owners (including our own CMO Jonathan Russell.

Posted on March 03, 2016 |

By Jonathan Russell

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