4 ways to start a business as a student

Zookal is an education company that started in Australia over four years ago. It was started by university students out of a Nandos store in Sydney, who wanted to build a company that would help make the life of university students easier. Zookal started off by introducing the idea of textbook rental to Australia, whereby instead of buying a brand new textbook, students now have the option to rent a textbook and therefore saving up to 70% off the normal cost. The founders of Zookal have always wanted to make a large impact on the lives of students, which is the reason why two of the founders have recently relocated to Singapore to build a new video platform that leverages technology to spread easily from campus to campus and country to country, allowing Zookal to impact millions more students in the greater Asia-Pacific region.

4 ways to start a business as a student

“But we can’t start a business? We don’t have any experience, networks or money?”..
Ever had these thoughts running through your head whilst studying? This is exactly what I was thinking as I was eating dinner with my co-founder of www.zookal.com.sg over 4 years ago. Fortunately, today we are living proof that you don’t need any of those things to start and build a something from just an idea to a company that employs ten full-time staff in Australia and Singapore that has raised money from Silicon Valley, Australia, Israel and Singapore.

Just start
Ever had an essay or assignment to do, but hours later you find yourself cleaning your room with your word count still on zero? We have a common saying at Zookal which is, ‘Progress not Perfection’. The best way to progress on an essay or your business idea or your gym workout is just to start and have confidence in your abilities to find your way as you go. Too many times do I see people getting frozen in procrastination with their fear of doing something perfect overriding their momentum. Just like each person has their unique fingerprint, each entrepreneur has their own start and it is up to the individual to take the lead. For us, we thought about solving problems that students face. Maybe if we solved a problem that students faced, we could turn it into a business.

Solving a problem
Being recent graduates and current students ourselves, we personally experienced the pain of expensive textbooks. We thought to ourselves, there must be a better way to do things, so a few late nights and coffees later, we toyed with the idea of introducing the concept of textbook rental into Australia. We knew there would be demand for something that could save students money, so we thought lets build a company around this demand (rather than creating something and hoping someone, somewhere in the world would want your product). 4 years and hundreds of thousands of customers later, I still stand by this principle.


Get used to hearing no
The first few ‘no’s’ hurt the most, because you take them personally. This is something you need to anticipate and try to build a shield against. When we first started our business, we organised coffees with a lot of people who we thought were really ‘smart’. We heard a lot of negative feedback and just overall pessimism, which made us have some second thoughts. But our ambition and determination pushed through and looking back I now realise how important it is to be careful who to listen to. Listen to your customers and users as the first principle. Secondly, when seeking advice, I often think about who I am seeking the advice from. Have they walked down the path I want to walk down, or at the very least are they a few steps ahead of me in the journey? This is the kind of thinking that drove us as we built the new university student video platform (www.zookal.com.sg). We thought that in order to create a more successful generation of students, who better to teach new students than A+ seniors?

Continuing to evolve
Just as important it is to start and not give up, it is also important to continue to innovate and evolve (both personally and also as a company). Although we started as a textbook rental company in Australia over four years ago, our ambitions and desires to continue to make an impact across broader Asia still lives. This desire led to my cofounder and I picking up our bags and leaving our team behind in Australia to work on a new and innovative platform built for Asia that we think will let us make an even bigger impact on the lives of students. You should think about making each semester and each year better, more productive and more fruitful than the previous semester. Soon enough, your momentum will be hard to stop!

To sum up, if you are looking to start a business whilst at university, keep these things in mind:
1. Just start.
2. Solve a problem.
3. Be resilient
4. Listen to users and customers; not naysayers.
5. Continue to evolve

To reach out to jon, please email jon@zookal.com



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