University is where we go to seek a formal education and develop a fair and realistic expectation and training for the corporate world. Many students spend money on books, food, airtime, outings and partying in those three to six years of intellectual development. A few however find campus as an opportune environment to make money, not just spending. They engage in buying and selling as well as marketing for some companies. Some also begin their own enterprise right from the bed bunks of their halls.
What are Students Selling
Common student businesses on Ghanaian campuses include selling sobolo – our own local drink currently marketed as Bissap in some shops and bars. Others are engaged in printing and photocopying handouts at a price for their colleagues, selling bags of water, snacks, hair pieces for braiding or weaves, eggs and sausages and selling clothing and accessories. Phones and electrical gadgets are also sold, with or without IT expertise. Students can basically sell anything portable to their mates in class or in their hostels by the simple rule of demand and supply. The success of goods and services sold on campus are usually driven by convenience and price.
These enterprises thrive on students’ need for less expensive and easily available services. The ability to conveniently meet the unspoken demand of most students is important to the survival and eventual success of campus enterprises. This unspoken demand is comfort. Students would like to print assignments without walking long distances to printing shops, hence the students who run small printing and photocopying make some profit in the process. From their hostels or apartments they print out assignments or notes for their colleagues. They sell these printouts at small margins but then little drops of water make a mighty ocean.
The drink-ups organized are the life of most campuses because a full blown party is more expensive and not many students can afford tickets for those. Sobolo with a few punches in bowls are the simplest way to achieve a successful drink-up, along with some pieces of grilled meat to chew on. Sobolo cost between a cedi or two, cheap enough for the pockets of tertiary students and when chilled it is a divine antidote for thirst.
Making your Enterprise Known
Advertising of these businesses are in the crudest forms, word of mouth being the best. A friend tells another friend who tells another friend and they are into this venture or another. If the product or service is useful and appropriately priced to meet the comfort of students, the business becomes the center of attraction on campus. There are campus enterprises that address the need of a smaller group of students, immediately creating a strong inland brand among the niche.
Only a few of these enterprises can afford to print full colour stickers and other tangible marketing materials. The rest choose to print black and white on A4 sheets or simply a handwritten ad on paper which are often posted on doors, in bathrooms or handed out to people individually at student gathering such as lectures, sports programs, church service and others. Branding is given very little attention.
These days, social media and messaging apps have made it easier and cheaper as students make very good use of their display pictures to communicate their products and services to their colleagues who onward send these marketing messages to their contacts. Simply posting and forwarding short texts and pictures is equally doing the marketing for them.
Are they Profitable?
Jane sells sobolo and bofrot or buffloaf (a local pastry) after learning that students get hungry when they sit in class for long periods. So she makes use of the long lessons to sell her goodies at a fair price. Even if she were to increase it students would still buy because she is addressing a dire need .
Little businesses in and around campus owned by students are of great value financially as the students learn to make profit, reinvest and save. It prepares them for the world of work; dealing with different people – suppliers, consumers and partners – provides first had experience for future business interactions and negotiations. Losses made will teach wisdom in entrepreneurship and business management.
Challenges to these businesses are simple resources they have no control over, such as like electricity. For others it is inconsistency in quality and supply of product and services. Such inconsistencies in supply affect the demand for their products or service. Joggling between business and academic work is perhaps the biggest challenge. Trying not to sleep in class after a door-to-door sale has been a great challenge.
Campus startups usually start and end on campus. A few however are able to transcend the university walls and progress into full-fledged businesses.
Starting a small business on your campus is a good idea if you have a service to offer or even a product to sell which would give you some profit. It will help you to partly wean off your parents financially, save future purposes, and importantly develop the needed skills and experience for the world of business.