How-To Start and Get Involved with Small Business

Many college students aspire to be future business owners. Some even start small businesses while in college. For student-athletes, it can be a tricky endeavor to pursue because of the time required to do it right and the variety of factors surrounding business owndership. But in the new NIL era of college athletics, starting a small business won’t have as much red tape for student-athletes to navigate. If starting a small business is something you want to pursue, this blog is for you.

Starting a Small Business

Building a small business is an excellent way to capitalize on your skills outside of athletics. It can be simple, falling into categories of products or services. An example of a product would be if you’re excellent at pottery and want to sell your work. An example of service would be if you’re great at graphic design and want to design logos for people. By identifying your talents you can begin a business around what you’d be doing naturally. In the NIL era, you can make your small business authentically yours, fully utilizing your NIL to it to effectively market the brand.

As a student-athlete, chances are you won’t have 40+ hours a week to run your business, so tap into services to help make the process easy. For a small fee, websites like Etsy and Shopify help make sharing your business, selling, organizing orders, payment, and taxes incredibly easy. There are many websites that have similar services, so do your research and pick the choice that makes the most sense for you and your business. Take into consideration the time it takes for you to produce and fulfill products and services when deciding on a price point. Don’t be afraid to price a little higher than mass-produced products on the market. Consumers understand that you’re putting time and effort to create a unique product or provide a one-of-a-kind service. 

If you’re getting a large influx of orders and feel overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to mark a product as sold out until you get caught up, or communicate with clients for service-based businesses that you’re booked. Being a student-athlete takes a large time commitment and clear communication will result in a more positive brand-consumer relationship compared to late orders and half-effort services.

Creating a Plan

The most important part of having a small business is having a plan. Here are all the items to take into consideration before launching:

  • What products/services are being sold?
    • How much time and resources are needed for the products and services to be produced?
    • Are there wants or needs in the market for what is being sold?
  • Who is your target demographic?
    • Are there specific consumers who are more willing to purchase from you?
    • How will you access or market this demographic?
  • Where a consumer can purchase?
    • Are you going to sell online, in person, or both?
    • What marketing streams will you use to direct consumers to purchase?
  • How a purchase will be fulfilled?
    • What is the fulfillment timeline? Communicate that with customers. 
    • How will you package or ship physical products or complete services?
  • Why is this small business important to you?
    • Have a story to share to better help with marketing endeavors.
    • Establish a “why” to stay motivated in growing the business.
  • When will you be dedicating time to your business? 
    • Plan time in your schedule to solely focus on your small business.
    • Have a plan if your business grows faster than expected and have resources prepared to help.

Tap into your university’s business program. Many schools have resources dedicated to helping students launch a small business, providing advice and guidance through the process. As always, use your platform to tap into your network and share about your business.

Endorsing Small Businesses

If you’re not ready to start your own small business, but passionate about small businesses and supporting them, there will be many opportunities in the NIL era for athletes to assist in athlete-driven marketing. From a local restaurant on campus or hair salon in your hometown, reach out and ask if they’d like to do any paid deals. Set up your Opendorse Profile to make a great first impression, showing why they should put their marketing dollars towards you to speak about their small business. Just because their business is small, doesn’t mean the deal will be.

Athletes Examples 

Maria Sharapova: Sugarpova

Russell Wilson: 3Brand


Be sure to disclose all payment activities to your institution or governing body to remain compliant and eligible in your sport.



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