Startup Business Ideas for Students
Some of the most successful startups in history were created by students. Even if you are only looking for a little side-hustle income while you study, an innovative concept will undoubtedly set you apart from the get-go. Here are some of the best startup ideas for students we've sourced.
Are you proficient in a specific subject or do you have a unique skill? If yes, you can help other students by starting your own tutoring business. Any subject in which you excel — like math, English, or science — can provide a potential tutoring opportunity.
Tutoring businesses can charge by the session or the hour. You can easily market this type of business within your school, at the public library, or in community centers. Best of all, this startup idea has virtually no startup costs.
2. App Development
While it might seem like there’s already an app for everything, the potential to create millions of apps for entertainment purposes or to solve everyday problems still exists. This startup idea can ideally suit tech-savvy students, but anyone can create a popular app with the right support during production and a great idea.
If you don’t currently have an app idea, don’t worry. Start brainstorming ideas by conducting an audit of daily tasks or problems an app could simplify or solve. Many of the most popular apps solve a common problem, making them more likely to have widespread appeal.
3. Freelance Writing
If you’re a skilled or talented writer, freelance writing might provide a great way for you to make money as you pursue your education. Freelance writers of all kinds are in demand by businesses and publications looking for temporary employees to write blog posts, articles, and other content.
One of the biggest benefits of freelance writing at a younger age is that you’ll gain experience that can help you later on as you establish a career. Sites like Upwork® and Writer Access® provide a secure platform for businesses and freelancers to connect.
Next up on our list of business ideas for students is podcasting. As the popularity of podcasts continues to grow, it’s an ideal time to start a podcast of your own. In fact, the podcast industry was valued at $18.52 billion in 2022. The most successful podcasts feature engaging hosts and a specific topic that can attract interested listeners. You also must feel comfortable with interviewing and public speaking before you start a podcast.
Moreover, it’s best to choose a topic for which you have a passion and can see yourself dedicating a good amount of time to researching. For example, if you’re passionate about sustainability, your podcast could focus on interviewing other entrepreneurs who currently work to fight climate change.
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5. Tech Support
Do you have a knack for solving technical problems? If so, you may want to consider launching a tech support startup. You can run these types of online businesses entirely from your home and market it by posting flyers at schools, coffee shops, and libraries. You just need a phone, a website, and some technical experience. You also can charge by the job, the hour, or the type of device.
In this type of business, customers typically call or email with a technical issue and you, the tech support person, walk them through how to fix that issue. Alternatively, you can request your customers drop their computers off so you can take a first-hand look.
Check out our full list of tech startup ideas.
6. Digital Textbook
Digital textbooks are educational ebooks that provide a much-needed alternative to traditional textbooks in terms of both price and sustainability. With the introduction of ereaders and other devices, the market for digital alternatives to educational materials continues to grow. Whether you plan to write a digital textbook or start a website that’ll house popular digital textbooks, this startup idea can enable you to earn a profit while you provide a service to students and the educational system.
Online learning continued to gain popularity in the past year. Providing additional tools for students — or people who just want to brush up on a subject — by developing an educational technology (edtech) startup can make education more accessible to a larger fraction of society. Startup costs for this business idea can range from $12 to $27,209, depending on the business model.
Whether you plan to develop an app, create online courses, or build an online tutoring resource for students, you must first identify your target subject and platform. Additionally, successful edtech startups tend to offer a product that’s both effective and intuitive. Remember to consider those criteria during your product development process.
See our interview below with the co-founders of edtech startup Trashbots!
8. Meal Delivery Service
Faced with fewer dine-in options, people increasingly turned to food delivery services in the past year. In fact, the market is expected to experience a 14.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2023 to 2032. Starting your own meal delivery service can help small local businesses meet delivery demand, enable customers to enjoy their favorite restaurants, and provide a business opportunity that’ll work with your busy schedule.
To compete with the big names in meal delivery, connect with your local restaurant owners. Many popular food delivery apps and websites charge a substantial fee to deliver for restaurants. Your business can gain a competitive edge by offering quick delivery times and lower fees.
Check out our full list of startup ideas for food lovers.
9. College Care Package Business
Going away to college often represents an exciting adventure. For families and friends seeking to support their favorite college students, a college care package business can take the guesswork out of what to send them with thoughtfully curated packages.
One benefit of starting this type of business is that you can operate it completely online. That’ll reduce your overhead costs and give you more freedom for your busy schedule. Offering a variety of packages for different types of students with customizable options will set your college care package business apart from the competition.
10. Ebook Writing
Today, you can accomplish almost everything virtually — even publishing a book. Ebooks provide an alternative to traditional publishing, making them cheaper for both authors and readers. Moreover, ebooks are far more sustainable than paper books.
To get started, you’ll need writing experience and a topic idea for your ebook. Whether you choose to write a novel or a cookbook, the ebook market offers a huge profit potential while requiring minimal startup and overhead costs. Especially considering that ebooks made up over 10% of book sales in 2022. That makes this type of business a great choice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
11. Social Media Influencer
A successful social media influencer almost always understands how to create and effectively market a brand. If you think you’re up to the challenge, this can make a lucrative and exciting startup idea. Social media influencers with between 10,000 and 25,000 followers make $100-$250 per post, on average.
Influencers earn money through brand deals. Because every industry has influencers, you’re more likely to generate a large viewership and build a strong brand if you focus on a specific industry or niche for which you have a passion. In addition, you’ll need to feel comfortable with public speaking and connecting with your audience in order to attract brands that want to work with you.
12. Mobile Coffee Cart
Many students work in coffee shops and cafes while pursuing their education. A mobile coffee cart offers a flexible schedule and the opportunity to network within your community. It also provides a relatively low-cost alternative to opening a brick-and-mortar cafe with many mobile coffee carts costing between $2,000-$5,000 to start.
Customers typically hire mobile coffee carts to work events like corporate retreats, school events, and even weddings. Make your business stand out by offering a customizable drink menu that can complement customers’ event themes.
Feeling inspired? Learn how to launch your own company with our guide on how to start a startup.
13. YouTube Channel
Launching a YouTube channel is next up on our list of startup business ideas for students. YouTube has billions of subscribers worldwide, which means the platform offers a great opportunity for new channels and video content. Starting your own video channel can represent another form of blogging (called “vlogging”) or provide a space for you to teach a skill or share a hobby. If you have a passion for ceramics, for example, you could start an entire channel about your process from clay to kiln.
Social media platforms focus on making connections, and YouTube is no exception. Every industry or hobby has the potential to connect with thousands of YouTube subscribers, which you could parlay into a lucrative business venture. Especially considering the average YouTuber in the US makes $33 per hour on average.
14. Review Website
Like most people, you probably search online for reviews before you spend your money at an unfamiliar business. Review websites hold businesses accountable by giving people insights about them so potential customers can make an informed decision.
You can easily start and manage this kind of website with a minimal budget, making it perfect for student entrepreneurs. In order to run a successful review website, you’ll need to gain credibility with customers and differentiate your site from larger review sites like Yelp.
15. Social Media Platform
Many social media users seek new platforms to explore so they can connect with others. Starting your own social media platform can provide a space to foster a sense of community as well as a potentially lucrative business venture. Moreover, it offers a flexible schedule — especially during the initial stages of operating your site.
To entice users to join your social media platform, focus on developing ideas that’ll make your site feel distinct from other platforms. For example, you could opt to cater to a specific demographic like gamers or musicians.
If you already spend a lot of time playing video games, why not make it a business venture? Livestreaming essentially involves broadcasting live footage of your game as you play, using a platform like Twitch or Smashcast. Once you obtain the minimum number of followers (e.g., 500 on TWITCH), you can become a partner of the livestreaming site and begin to make money based on the traffic your streams generate.
17. Graphic Design
Many businesses and organizations need graphic designers to create visual branding for use on everything from signage to marketing materials. Because graphic design is a fairly broad industry, having a multifaceted skill set can prove extremely beneficial. For example, proficiency in logo design as well as typography or web design can help you book more clients and build your portfolio.
If you like the idea of an ecommerce startup but don’t have the room to store items to sell, dropshipping could be the perfect solution. Dropshipping startups simply take customer’s orders online, but instead of filling orders themselves, they are sent to a third-party retailer for fulfillment. Essentially, your startup consists of customer experience management, marketing, and curating items for your dropshipping business. On average, dropshippers make $3,414 per month, according to ZipRecruiter.
19. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a popular side hustle, but it can be a profitable business idea if you do it right. Through affiliate marketing, you will earn a commission on sales you drive for brands you partner with. What makes this idea particularly good for college students is that there is a relatively low barrier to entry. Be sure to pick products you're already known for, associated with, and to which you have market access.
20. Website Development
Building websites can be a great way to make money as a student, particularly if you're studying something related. Almost everyone, from businesses to individual entrepreneurs, needs a website, and if you do a great job on the first few projects, you'll start getting business through word of mouth. This is another space with a pretty low barrier to entry as there are many open source tools available for developers.
21. Virtual Assistant
You don’t have to be in an office to help businesses and fellow entrepreneurs get organized. A virtual assistant startup is a great business idea for organized, task-oriented individuals. If this sounds like you, it is easy to get started by utilizing sites that can help you find work you’re interested in. Get a competitive edge by diversifying your skill set to make yourself eligible for a litany of job opportunities. Plus, this flexible position brings in $24 per hour on average in the US, according to ZipRecruiter.
22. Web Design
Web designers focus predominantly on the user experience aspect of web pages. If your field of study relates to design (or even if this is just a passion for you), a web design startup might be your best bet for a student business. To really hook the clients, pair up with a friend in the development space and offer your services as a package.
23. Handcrafted Products
Handmade, artisanal goods never go out of style. Plus, the market for handmade goods is expected to see moderate growth from 2023 to 2030 at a CAGR of 4.7%. Selling handcrafted products offers you the flexibility of selling your goods online, in established retailers, or at local markets. The first step involves determining the product(s) you’ll make. This could include food products, pet toys, wooden furniture, or many other items. To successfully sell handcrafted products, remember to focus on product quality and cater to the right niche market.
24. Cleaning Services
Next on our list of the best business ideas for students is cleaning services. You can start a successful cleaning startup in several ways. For example, you could start a house-cleaning business, an office-cleaning business, or a graffiti-cleaning business, among others.
This type of startup has low initial costs and flexible hours. You can schedule as many clients as you can manage based on your availability. Overhead costs for cleaning services include marketing materials, cleaning supplies, and vehicle expenses, which means it'll cost very little to launch your cleaning startup. Notably, in the US, cleaning business owners make $127,973 per year on average, making this a lucrative business for students.
25. Moving Company
If you ask people if they enjoy moving, most will answer with a firm “no.” That can make a moving company startup a potentially lucrative business idea. Not to mention, the industry has grown by 11.4% in 2022, meaning the demand for moving companies is increasing. You’ll need to hire a team and purchase a vehicle large enough to move furniture so this type of business has higher startup costs than other business ideas. But, that initial investment can pay off once you start booking jobs and generating positive reviews.
26. Planner and Journal Business
The right planner or journal can help even the most disorganized people manage their time more effectively. Journals also can serve multiple purposes, making them a valuable tool for many. Starting a planner and journal business can help fulfill the demand for these products while offering you a potentially lucrative business venture.
Planner and journal businesses can sell their products online or in established retailers like bookstores and novelty shops. To make your products stand out, consider giving them distinctive features like including time-management tips inside your planners or manufacturing your journals from recycled materials.
27. Social Media Marketing
If you're already spending a lot of time on social media platforms and you have a good understanding of the marketing end, why not turn that into a startup? Anyone with a product or service, especially local businesses, to sell today needs to be on social media, and many business people do not have the skills or the time to pull it off well. The multiple free scheduling and design tools available today also make this a pretty low-cost industry to enter.
28. Website Flipping
Another website-based startup you can try is website flipping. People often allow their websites to go dormant either because they've closed their business or just aren't interested anymore. This is an opportunity for you to purchase this website at a relatively low cost, optimize it, increase the traffic, and flip it at an excellent profit when it is worth far more than it was.
29. Motivational Apps
Mobile apps are really popular, and if they make you feel good and improve your life, all the better. Apps geared toward motivation do very well in most app stores, and they're relatively simple to build and maintain. You will need to come up with an innovative idea, though, but thankfully, there are many spaces to work within — meditation, mindfulness, inspiration, and productivity, to name a few. If you plan to develop an app of your own, you can also take advantage of university-led incubators or startup accelerators such as Techstars Mobility or Plug and Play Tech Center.
30. Organization Service
Few people naturally possess strong organizational skills. If you’re one of those few, an organization service may represent the perfect startup idea for you. Professional organizing services not only help customers tidy up cluttered spaces, but also help them develop the organizational skills they need to maintain order going forward. One of the benefits of starting this type of business is you can operate it either in person by visiting customers’ homes and offices or virtually by conducting video consultations.
31. Errand-Running Service
Busy professionals, small businesses, and seniors typically need help running errands they can’t get to themselves. This could involve going to the post office, picking up dry cleaning, or taking a pet to a vet appointment.
To get started, you just need a vehicle, a phone, and some spare time. You can operate your errand-running business from home and market your services on bulletin boards at community centers, senior centers, or anywhere you can post a flier with your information. While this business idea isn’t the most lucrative, on average, errand runners make $15 per hour. If you can manage a fleet of errand runners, the earnings can add up.
32. Language Learning Startup
If you’ve learned a foreign language, you know it’s difficult, especially for adults. However, knowing a second language is not only a fun pastime, but it opens up job opportunities and helps people connect with other communities. A language learning startup can be any product or service that helps people learn a new language, such as an app, instructional website, or written guides.
To make your startup stand out, focus on making learning a new language fun for users so that they want to reach for your product or resources again and again. If you opt for a tech-related language learning model, consider utilizing an edtech incubator to help develop your idea such as Berkeley SkyDeck, FasterCapital, or ASU Venture Devils.
33. Virtual Event Planning
With businesses and organizations grappling with social distancing requirements in the last few years, the virtual events space has exploded, and hosting events online has actually become a game-changer for many businesses. As a result, a new critical skill has emerged: the need to plan these events. If you have great digital skills and you're pretty good at organizing people, look into virtual event planning as a startup. Again, there are many open-source tools available that make breaking into this space relatively cheap.
34. Clean Beauty Products
Green or “clean” beauty products are increasing in popularity across the US as we learn more and more about the harmful effects of some ingredients in traditional beauty products. In fact, the global clean beauty market is currently valued at $8.3 billion in 2023 and is expected to reach $15.3 billion by 2028. A green beauty product startup provides a better alternative, whether it’s clean skincare or cosmetics — the key is to create a product that is as effective as traditional products without the same damaging ingredients.
35. Software Startup
A software development startup is responsible for creating, distributing, and maintaining the programs that businesses use every day. This industry is experiencing exciting growth with annual revenue of $238 billion per year and an annual growth rate of 3.9%, which means this startup idea holds a tremendous amount of opportunity for entrepreneurs.
36. Snack Company
Do you have a go-to homemade snack that you know other people would love as well? If so, take your tasty treats to the next level by starting a snack company. Consumers are always looking for delicious new snack options with special ingredients or a twist on a classic snack. Growing your audience can be done by going to farmers' markets or local events and letting people try your delicious new snack!
37. Robotics Startup
It's not uncommon for robotics startups to be founded by students or recent graduates, especially if they are studying in the field at one of the more prestigious colleges with well-backed programs and grants for research. College can be an amazing place to discover new technology and brainstorm with fellow students, but you also want to ensure that you understand the industry you're trying to get into before you get too far ahead of yourself.
With that said, definitely use the resources at your disposal if you're in a great robotics program and see where it can take you and your startup. Or, consider joining an incubator or accelerator such as AlleyCorp, MARL 5G Accelerator, or Buildit Accelerator to help develop your startup.
If you have a good understanding of both the financial and technology spaces, you may want to consider a fintech startup as your niche. Historically, student fintech startups that have focused predominantly on student financial issues have done really well. It's vital to understand your market, after all. When you start to delve into the world of finance, though, you'll need to ensure that you are complying with any state laws that govern the industry. After you've ticked that box, your fintech startup will be ready to go. For a startup idea like this, you may want to consider seed stage venture capital firms such as Precursor Ventures that have a history of deploying capital into promising fintech companies.
39. Marketplace Website
Become the platform your community uses to sell and exchange goods and services by creating a marketplace website startup. Elevate the startup idea by prioritizing user experience and safety protocols. The key to a successful marketplace website is to create a positive experience for users that makes buying and selling items seamless and safe.
40. Sustainable Clothing Line
Fashion is one of the most wasteful industries on the planet. If you’re thinking about starting a clothing line, consider making it a sustainable one! Plus, the demand for these businesses is growing and is projected to continue that trajectory, forecasted to grow from $7.8 billion in 2023 to $33.05 in 2030. A sustainable clothing line can make an impact by creating thoughtful garments that are long-lasting and ethically made out of sustainable materials such as linen or hemp.
41. Virtual Meeting Platform
With the virtual events space growing so considerably, the need for virtual meeting services has increased proportionately. This might mean anything from scheduling software for end-to-end management or perhaps even add-on apps that assist large companies with the management of various meetings simultaneously. There are several open-source tools available to help you break into this space.
42. Beverage Startup
If you have a great drink recipe or an idea for a special ingredient or function that will entice customers, start a beverage company! A competitive edge in this industry is well-designed packaging that is catered to a target demographic and, of course, a delicious beverage inside. If you’re more of a connoisseur of beverages, a beverage distribution company is another lucrative startup idea that can be focused on a specific type of beverage such as beer, soda, or wine. Keep in mind that if you start a beverage company, you may benefit from a founder community such as Foodbevy to connect with other entrepreneurs in the space and grow together.
43. SEO Services
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential tool for online marketing. However, to achieve a successful SEO service, you need to dedicate time and effort to creating content and staying on top of changes in search trends. Starting an SEO services startup offers customers an opportunity to cash in on this powerful internet marketing tool without spending too much of their own. To create a successful SEO services startup, you will need a deep understanding of SEO tactics and the software to do effective research.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out our list of the top startups to watch in 2024!
44. Online Courses
Online courses are a great way to use your existing knowledge to help college students, professionals, or anyone looking to expand their skill set in a niche market. This startup idea, on average, can bring in roughly $82,500 per year, according to ZipRecruiter. To create an online course, you will likely want to join an online course platform such as Udemy or Skillshare and utilize digital marketing strategies to get the word out about your course. However, a great online course can be one of the less laborious but still profitable business ideas for students.
45. Translation Services
If you speak more than one language, offering translation services can be a great way to leverage your skills to start your own business. A translation services business is often responsible for translating various documents while maintaining client confidentiality. This can be done to either provide grammatical and spelling help or to ensure the content of the translation matches the original document.
46. Become a Reseller
With the rise of apps such as Poshmark, Vinted, and Depop, reselling clothing, shoes, and even home goods has become a popular side hustle for students. While some sellers opt to resell items from their own closets, others choose to upcycle garments or scour local thrift stores for deals on items. This idea involves keeping an eye on trends as well as offering items seasonally to ensure you are selling an item when demand is at its peak.
How to Choose a Business Idea
Starting your own business as a student can mean additional cash and valuable experience. However, choosing a profitable business idea can be challenging, here's a few tips to find the right business idea for you.
Research Time Dedication
Whether you're in high school or college, school is your number one priority. Therefore, you need to seek business ideas that will be doable with your current school load. Many online business ideas for students provide time flexibility and allow you to work on your entrepreneurial goals during spare moments.
Pull From Your Skill Set
What are you already well versed in? Pulling from your skill set allows you to build a strong foundation early on and capitalize on your existing knowledge. This could mean launching a tutoring business if you're highly educated in one subject or doing freelance work doing strategy for other local businesses getting started on social media platforms.
Follow Your Passion
Above all, when you're starting your own business you should choose business ideas that you're excited and passionate about. If you are passionate about your business idea, there is a higher chance you will dedicate the time and effort necessary to make it a profitable, sustainable startup.