Ten Questions to Ask Before Starting Your Business

There are many college students out there who want to change the world and start a new company.  It feels like everyday a new start-up is formed or a new app is available for our mobile phones.  But it’s important for every entrepreneur to ask themselves the important questions before starting a business.

Top 10 Questions For Starting a Business:starting a business

  1. Why am I starting a business? What product or skills are you offering to the public? Are you passionate about the product you are selling?  Are you looking to make easy money?  These are some of the questions that every entrepreneur should ask themselves before starting a business venture.
  2. Who is my ideal customer? What type of customer do you want to reach with their product?  What type of customer are you going to market their product too?  Every great entrepreneur should be thinking about the changing marketplace and asking themselves what type of customer are we trying to reach?
  3. Am I prepared to spend the time and money needed to get my business started? How much money are you willing to lose in your first year?  How many hours are you willing to sacrifice to get your company off the ground?  Unfortunately, it takes most businesses three years before they are able to start turning a profit.
  4. What differentiates my business idea from others? How can you show that your idea is better and different from your competitors?  Many companies are started because one individual saw a flaw in another company’s product and they believed that they could make a better, faster, higher quality of product.
  5. Where will my business be located? It would be a good idea to brush up on the tax code for the state where your business is being set up.  There are many individuals who set up their businesses in either Texas or Florida because there is no state income tax in either state.  Some states offer tax incentives to encourage companies to set up shop.
  6. How many employees will I need? What job and roles are vital to the life of this start-up.  Many start-ups begin small and hire more employees as they become bigger in the second or third years.  Many entrepreneurs want to do as many jobs/work responsibilities as possible to save money during the challenging first years.  It’s important for any entrepreneur to figure out what work they themselves to do and what responsibilities need to have an employee hired to complete the task.
  7. Will I need to get a loan? Every entrepreneur needs money for the initial start-up and to pay the bills when the company isn’t turning a profit.  It’s important for you to look over the finances and create a budget so that the bills are paid on time.  Many start-ups need a loan so that there is a steady cash flow to pay the bills while the company is trying to find its customer base/audience.
  8. Who is my competition? Every entrepreneur should think about the industry that they are a part of and know who they are competing against.  Every entrepreneur should know their competition’s history and should look at how their product and marketing is different from everyone else’s.  An entrepreneur should also know whether the industry they are entering is growing or shrinking; they should know if the business is strong enough to support another company entering the fray.
  9. How will I price my product in comparison to competition? How much does a customer need to pay for a product so that the company can still make a profit?  If a computer is able to make their product for a lower price, they can lower a price to their customers and make life difficult for a new company.  While some companies value offering their customer’s products at the lowest price possible, other companies are willing to sell their product to a more select customer base who are willing to pay more for quality.  For years, customers have been willing to pay more money for Apple iPhones, Disney movies, and Nintendo videogames because there was a greater expectation for the high quality of these products.
  10. What kind of insurance do I need? Many companies get sued for a variety of reasons; it’s estimated that Apple Computers, Microsoft, and Google get sued every day. It’s important for new entrepreneurs to spend money on liability insurance for both products and employees.  Nothing is guaranteed in this life and it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected.  As the company grows it’s important to adjust insurance as necessary and also look at legal representation.

Mind the Gap Year

Once considered an excuse to backpack across Europe on their parent’s dollar, the gap year has transformed over the years.  The gap year has become an awesome way for students to take time off before entering graduate programs or as a way to gain additional experience and skills. Travel remains a popular option, ranging from personal backpack excursions to mission trips abroad.

However, don’t think that you have to back your bags and grab your passport to have a fulfilling and engaging gap year experience after graduation.  There are several gap year options stateside that may give you the experience you are looking for.  One of the largest and most well-known gap year programs in the United States is the federal AmeriCorps program.  However, there are several gap year programs available.   Gap year programs are available in a variety of fields including education, advocacy, health, and public policy, among many others.

Below is a list of just a few of the gap year options available.


The AmeriCorps program allows you to serve a community in the United States for up to 2 years.  The program comes with a modest stipend and after participating you are eligible for an education award to apply towards future education costs or student loans.  AmeriCorps is arguably the most extensive gap year programs in the nation there are several other gap year programs.

For more information please visit: http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/join-americorps

Peace Corpspeace corps

The Peace Corps is a program that allows participants improve the lives of people in communities from around the world.  As a participant you would work with communities on some of their most pressing issues including but not limited to education, health, environment, community and economic development, youth development and agriculture.  Participants commit to a two year service commitment.  You should apply 9 months before you intend to begin your term of service.

For more information please visit: http://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/learn/

Teach for AmericaTeach_for_America

Teach for two years in a low-income community.  Program participants can be assisgned to teach Pre-K through 12th grade in 50 regions around the United States.  Location determined by need and opportunities, your preferences, qualifications and coursework requirements.  All members participate in summer training before school begins in the Fall.

For more information please visit: https://www.teachforamerica.org/

City Yearcity-year-logo

Partner with a-risk schools to help bridge the gap between what schools can provide and what students actually need.  The program is an 11 month commitment. As a City Year member your typical day would include

  • One-on-one tutoring
  • Run after school clubs and service projects
  • Lead energetic morning greetings
  • Take attendance and call late or absent students
  • Make positive phone calls to parents about their students’ progress or achievements
  • Organize and lead activities, projects, and celebrations to improve the overall school and community

For more information please visit: http://www.cityyear.org/joincorps

Public Alliespublic-allies-logo

The program’s mission is to advance new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits, and civic participation.  Participants serve for 10 months (fall through summer).  Public Allies is a full time apprenticeship with a non-profit in the community

For more information please visit: http://www.publicallies.org/site/c.liKUL3PNLvF/b.5106423/k.BD7E/Home.htm

In addition to the previously mentioned programs you can also check out some of the websites below to explore year opportunities

  • GapYear.com
  • Idealist.org
  • ServiceLeader.org

Remember that gap years are an awesome opportunity for you to explore fields that already interest you or try something completely out of the box.  The experience can be whatever your want it to be! So get out there and explore.  Good Luck!

Is Your Elevator Pitch Ready?

How to: Craft the Perfect Elevator Speech

One of the most common interview questions in EVERY field is, “So, tell me about yourself”.  This questions seems like it should be easy.  In reality, though, it is so easy to overlook this question that you can feel caught off guard when asked.  In order to be prepared when you are asked this question, here are some helpful tips for crafting the perfect elevator speech.

Keep it short and sweet:  An elevator speech should be brief, about 30-60 seconds.  This is an opportunity for you to introduce yourself, explain why the organization or company should be interested in you are your skills, and why you are interested in them.  Remember though, it is just an introduction, not your whole life story.  You want to give enough details to pique their interest, but not so long that you lose their attention.

Break it down: An elevator speech should be a three-part answer.  Each part should answer the questions, “what have you done?”  “What are you doing right now?”  What do you want to be doing?”  You answers to these questions should be related to your career field.

  1. What have you done?
  • This should explain why you are interested in the specific field or how you got into the field or major.elevator pitch
  1. What are you doing?
  • This could include your current employment or major. Explain (briefly) your job or major and how it has prepared you for the next step in your career or why you enjoy this type of work.
  1. What do you want to be doing?
  • Use this part of your speech to explain why you are interested in this specific job, field, or company. This is good opportunity to demonstrate that you have done your research.  You want to be able to give a specific example, not just say because you need a job.

Practice, practice, practice: In order to keep from rambling and ensure that you include specific highlights, it is important to practice your elevator speech.  You also want it to sounds natural, not memorized.  The more you practice, the easier it will get, too.

Stay relevant: There is nothing wrong with having personality.  Interviewers are not just looking for whether you can do the job, but also if you will be a good fit.  However, your elevator pitch should be specific to your career.

Be Prepared: Be ready to give your elevator speech at any moment.  You never know when you might strike up a conversation with someone that could relate to your current or potential career field.  You want to be ready to explain who you are, what you have been doing, or what you are looking for when asked.  You never know where you might meet someone; you could end up literally giving a speech in an elevator.

Individualize it: For the times when you are in an interview or at a career fair, make sure you tailor your speech to the specific job.  This shows companies not only why they should be interested in you, but why you are interested in them as well.  This shows that you want to work for them specifically, not just any job.

Is It Worth It? NETWORK IT! Reality Check Networking Night

Can you believe that the semester is already more than half over?! For those of you who are graduating, there may be some concern over the job search and building a professional network. Luckily, CSC has your back!! On Wednesday April 8th, 2015 from 5:30pm-7:30pm in the UNCG Alumni House, we are having an event, Reality Check Networking Night.  During this event, students will gain the opportunity to network and connect with alumni! Professional Business Attire is REQUIRED to attend the event, so remember to wear suits!

reality check

Networking can be scary and overwhelming, especially if it is a new skill for you. Let’s take a look at some information and ways to make sure that your time at Reality Check is a success!

NETWORKING– can be defined as building and maintaining relationships, it is a CHOICE, and requires action.

networking myths

Additionally, it does not occur overnight. Like the rest of the job search, it is a PROCESS.

  • Explore: Build self-awareness
  • Prepare: Research, identify contacts, practice skills
  • Act: Interact with contacts, ask for feedback
  • Reflect: Evaluate performance, information learned, next steps

Hopefully, through attending Reality Check, you will walk away with a variety of professional contacts.  While you will have time to talk to alumni individually, you may want to continue to get more information once the event is over. In order to continue the networking process with these individuals, one option is to conduct informational interviews. What is an informational interview? GREAT question!

Informational interviews are informal meetings where job seekers (you!) get information about a specific industry, job function, or company through professionals who are already in that profession or field. Therefore, the purpose of an informational interview is to:

  • Gain information about a career, field, company, or position
  • Build a relationship NOT to seek employment
  • Build your network and develop future contacts though referrals

Sample questions to ask on an Informational Interview (think about picking one or two to try out at Reality Check)!!

  • How did you get started in this field?
  • How did your academic major prepare you for this job/field?
  • What do you like most/least about your job?
  • Why did you choose this career path over other paths?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges that you face, within this career field?
  • What advice would you give to a student at UNCG who is interested in pursuing a career within this field one day?

You’re now on your way to being a pro at networking! We hope to see you at Reality Check Networking Night on Wednesday April 8th. Registered attendees will receive FREE personalized business cards, so BE THERE!!

Living the Dream by Staying Green

Looking for an environmentally conscious job can be a frustrating experience.  Many students are discouraged from majoring in a “green” major by friends or family because there is a fear in the amount of money that a person would make in this industry and a lack of knowledge about this job industries growth.

It’s important to not become discouraged when looking. Environmental jobs, sustainable development jobs, and “green jobs” is a field that is currently growing every day.  In 2010, the clean energy industry showed rapid growth and has been steadily growing ever since.

The following are some tips and guidance for pursuing a green job:

  1. Look at job websites that post exclusively green jobs– By looking at a website that specializes in green jobs, potential job seekers have narrowed their search to what is most important to them; they won’t have to wade through the clutter of non-green jobs that they would have no interest in.
  2. Be specific-searching for “green” or environmental job is only going to get a job seeker so far. It’s important for the job seeker to specifically know what type of job they are looking for.  This means that the applicant must put in more effort towards figuring out whether they are applying for an entry level, applying for
  3. Network– Linked In is a great tool for finding environmentally friendly companies on the internet and getting connected with them. It’s also important to remember the importance of going to conferences and meeting new people who can help an applicant in the future.
  4. Search for tools and technology– Talk with professors and professionals about growing trends and developments. Today’s job seeker should become a sponge for information; they need to keep track of industry growth, new technology, and potential new regulations.

green jobs

Some potential green career paths include:

Construction Project Manager: Oversees all aspects of construction project and makes sure that the finished project meets sustainability requirements.

Sustainability Analyst: Reviews projects, procedures and policies to see if they meet standards.  If the finished project doesn’t meet standards, analyst will recommend improvements.

Sustainable Design Professional: Career know for architectural and engineering expertise.  Responsible for designing and implementing blueprints to make a building sustainable.

Energy Efficiency Analyst:  Responsible for determining the current energy efficiency of a project or building and recommending ways for improvement.

Operations Manager: Responsible for making operations run more efficiently in both productivity and energy consumption.  Creates and implements sustainable practices into their business or industry.

Solar Professionals:  While many other industries were laying off workers and during the last recession, the solar and wind industry saw an increase of 70,000 jobs.

Autoworkers:  There’s been a shift in the automobile industry in the past six years.  While this industry has historically been very against government regulations and improving environmental standards, they’ve made many improvements.  There is now a resurgence in the creation of tens of thousands of jobs

Green Builders:  Engineers, contractors, and other professionals who are working to build and upgrade buildings to greener LEED standards are in high demand.  Green homes comprised 17 percent of the residential construction market in 2011.  In 2016, it’s expected that number will be between 29 and 38 percent.

Sustainable Farming:  There was a 10 percent jump in U.S. organic food sales from 2009 to 2010 and sales totaled $27 billion in 2010.

Sustainability Professionals:  These professionals are responsible for educating the next generation and also helping existing businesses improve their standards.  Responsible for educating businesses and creating synergy between environmental responsibility and economic success.

Some websites for green job searching include:

Happy Hunting!

Start Smart: Salary Negotiation for Women

Start Smart

Attend this workshop on Saturday, February 28th and make sure you are ready when it comes time to negotiate your salary, setting yourself up to earn more over the course of your lifetime!

  • Saturday, February 28th
  • 10am – 2pm
  • Maple, EUC
  • Lunch will be provided

RSVP through Spartan Careers by Monday, February 23rd – space is limited to 30 students!

If you have any questions, please contact Beth Walker at 336-334-4443 or beth_walker@uncg.edu

This event is sponsored by The WAGE Project, AAUW, Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Career Services Center.




Spring Career Fair – Rescheduled Again! Now Tuesday 3/3

The Spring Career Fair has been rescheduled to due the weather forecast – it will now be Tuesday, March 3rd from 10am-2pm in the EUC Cone Ballroom! Make sure your suit is pressed, your resume is ready, and your handshake is strong!

To help do your research on the companies that will be there, check out our Pinterest board with the full list of employers. And new this year – we have an app! Download UNCG Career Fair+ to get all the information you need in the palm of your hand.

career fair app