18 Low Investment Business Ideas for College Students

Updated: July 24th, 2023

Did you know that in 2019, the average debt per student was $29,900?

Another year of college means another year of tuition, books and living expenses.

We've all been there - prioritizing academics while trying to make ends meet financially is no walk in the park.

And sometimes, adding a job with full-time hours into the mix just isn't in the cards.

Because of this, more and more students are opting to start their own business to help with the financial burden of going to school + the ability to have flexible hours.

We've identified 18 inspiring student entrepreneurs that started a business during college, the process of launching their idea, and how much they're making today.

1. Start a video production company

A video production company (VPC) also known as a video production agency or film production company, creates videos for clients to use in their marketing strategies. These videos can be commercials, online ads, product showcases, corporate videos, and employee training videos.

How much you can make: $10,000 — $1,500,000/month

How much does it cost to start: $7,000 (?)

How long does it take to build: 100 days (?)

How I Started A $500K/Month Video Production Company From My Bedroom in LA

Lemonlight CEO, Hope Horner, co-founded an on-demand video production company that has produced over 7,000 videos for more than 3,000 brands, generating over $6 million in sales and growing to a 45-person team, all without taking any outside capital and being recognized in Inc 5000 and Entrepreneur 360 for three years in a row.

About
Hope started Lemonlight almost 10 years ago
Revenue
Hope grew the business to $1.5M/month
Costs
It cost Hope $500 to start the business
Read by 16,777 founders

2. Start a tutoring business

Starting a tutoring side hustle is a great way for teachers and students to earn extra monthly income.

If you are considering becoming a tutor, find an ideal tutoring niche, and craft a tutoring website.

Then, find your tutoring clients and market your side hustle online. You can choose to offer online tutoring as a part-time or full-time engagement.

How much you can make: $1,000 — $375,000/month

How much does it cost to start: $100 (?)

How long does it take to build: 15 days (?)

Time commitment per week: Min. 5 hours/week

How I Started A $15K/Month SAT Tutoring Business While In College

A 22-year-old entrepreneur started an online SAT/ACT tutoring company from his bedroom which has seen a linear increase in student sign-ups each month, currently bringing in an average revenue of $15,000 a month and plans to triple in 2020.

About
Adam started SoFlo Tutors almost 5 years ago
Revenue
Adam grew the business to $100K/month
Costs
It cost Adam $100 to start the business
Read by 18,288 founders

3. Start a guitar company

Guitars are versatile, portable, accessible, and affordable musical instruments. Besides, guitars can be self-taught, or you can learn online.

If you are passionate about guitars, consider starting a guitar company. There are different entry points ranging from guitar production, guitar sales, and distribution company or even guitar repair. To start the guitar business, identify your target market, and create a business plan. You must register a business name and meet all the licensing requirements.

How much you can make: $3,000 — $100,000/month

How long does it take to build: 195 days (?)

How We Invented A Carbon Fiber Guitar And Grew To $1M/Year

KLOS Guitars CEO and co-founder Adam Klosowiak created a unique line of carbon fiber guitars and ukuleles, launching with a successful Kickstarter campaign that has since led to over $1 million in funding, with current monthly sales over $100K mainly through Shopify.

About
Adam started KLOS Guitars almost 9 years ago
Revenue
Adam grew the business to $100K/month
Read by 8,171 founders

4. Start a life coaching business

Life coach helps people in various areas of their lives using a combination of emotional intelligence, professional knowledge, and experience.

Life coaching is a popular industry worth over $2.85 billion, and the number of life coaches has increased by 33% between 2015-2019.

This is a very profitable business and can be started at virtually no cost. You’ll need a computer, a high-speed Internet connection, and a LinkedIn account to start. Then, you can begin coaching part-time in your spare time until you build up your clientele.

How much you can make: $100 — $660,000/month

How much does it cost to start: $750 (?)

How long does it take to build: 90 days (?)

Time commitment per week: Min. 5 hours/week

How I Launched A $5K/Month Platform To Connect With Growth Mentors

GrowthMentor, a platform connecting vetted growth mentors for one-on-one calls, founded by Fotis Panagiotakopoulos, has had over 2,500 mentorship calls booked to date and has seen success in using word of mouth, content marketing, and leveraging other people's networks as the primary drivers of customer acquisition.

About
Foti started GrowthMentor over 5 years ago
Revenue
Foti grew the business to $10K/month
Read by 39,545 founders

5. Start a finance blog

A finance blog is a feature appearing as part of an online publication relating to finance and consisting of articles or personal commentary. A finance blog earns income through sponsored content or simple marketing programs. To succeed in business, a finance blogger should:

  • Have a good writing background
  • Understand the industry from a concept or fundamental standpoint
  • Be passionate about the topics
  • Be well organized and maximize the work schedule.

Starting a finance blog involves a low financial investment, while there is a considerable possibility for success. There are minimal overhead costs, saving you time and money. Therefore, starting a finance blog is an incredible business opportunity.

How much you can make: $2,000 — $3,000,000/month

How much does it cost to start: $190 (?)

How long does it take to build: 30 days (?)

How I Started A $36M/Year Stock Market Research Newsletter

Financial media company MarketBeat, founded by Matt Paulson, provides objective financial information and real-time market data to empower individual stock investors to make better trading decisions, generating approximately $8 million in revenue in 2019 and ending the year with over 1.3 million unique email subscribers due to a freemium model with 75% of revenue from advertising and 25% from subscriptions.

About
Matt started MarketBeat about 13 years ago
Revenue
Matt grew the business to $3M/month
Read by 24,413 founders

6. Become a freelance app developer

A freelance app developer is a programmer who creates mobile apps for Android and iOS devices. Freelance app development business targets creating various apps that give a user-friendly experience.

To become a freelance app developer, first, touch up on your skills. There are several courses available online. Once you obtain the certification, choose your niche and focus on your skill set.

Then the best way to showcase your work is to build a portfolio website where you will display your skills, projects, and testimonials. Another way to promote yourself is to create your brand and blog. This will, in turn, build a network, and you will be able to connect with people and attract more clients.

How much you can make: $10,000 — $91,000/month

How much does it cost to start: $350 (?)

How long does it take to build: 60 days (?)

How I Started A $69K/Month Software Agency After A Failed Product Launch

A software agency started by a non-technical founder helps diverse clients with their minimum lovable product, boasting a revenue of over $700,000 this year with a 20% profit margin and a team of 8.

About
Andrew started Krit almost 10 years ago
Revenue
Andrew grew the business to $91K/month
Read by 23,401 founders

7. Start a subscription box business

Subscription box businesses offer customers a niche set of products on a monthly basis.

They're in high demand as they add value to customer service, offer exclusive products and can be highly profitable.

To start a subscription box business, understand your niche market, provide quality products, perfect your box design, build a good relationship with fulfillment companies, and market your service.

How much you can make: $400 — $16,666,667/month

How much does it cost to start: $210 (?)

How long does it take to build: 180 days (?)

How I Started A Gift Box Business For Non Traditional Brides

Vowed Box Co. is a line of curated, quirky gift boxes with non-traditional brides in mind, offering four different products that have helped the business become profitable most months since its launch in 2018, with a monthly income of roughly $600.

About
Lindsay started Vowed Box Co. about 6 years ago
Revenue
Lindsay grew the business to $400/month
Read by 29,524 founders

8. Start a supplements company

A supplement business makes money by selling dietary supplements, vitamins, protein powders, and health foods to customers.

These products are often sold directly to customers or through distributors and retailers.

Your target customers will likely include fitness enthusiasts, health-conscious individuals, wellness influencers, and those who prioritize their nutrition daily.

Starting a supplement brand is becoming increasingly popular because it's relatively inexpensive, and you can run the business from your home.

How much you can make: $1,000 — $3,500,000/month

How long does it take to build: 245 days (?)

How An Active Duty Soldier Built $6M/Year Bare Performance Nutrition

A military officer turned entrepreneur built sports nutrition brand Bare Performance Nutrition from $15,000 in year one to on track to generate $6m in revenue this year, leveraging social media platforms and creating interactive, relatable and valuable content to create a community and a brand voice.

About
Nick started Bare Performance Nutrition about 12 years ago
Revenue
Nick grew the business to $3.5M/month
Costs
It cost Nick $20000 to start the business
Read by 39,830 founders

9. Start a CBD business

Cannabidiol, abbreviated as CBD, is becoming a household name, and its proponents believe this is for good reasons. Reports indicate that CBD treats several conditions, including chronic pain, inflammation, migraines, epilepsy, autoimmune diseases, and anxiety.

Market trend researchers indicate the CBD market will grow by a CAGR of 21.7 % over the next few years. Rising awareness of cannabidiol’s health benefits and its effectiveness in managing pain are some factors propelling the CBD industry’s growth.

Therefore, starting a CBD business in 2024 could be the best decision you are yet to agree to. Some high-potential CBD business ideas and opportunities include:

  • Become a CBD distributor.
  • Form CBD cooperatives.
  • Run a CBD podcast.
  • CBD marketer.
  • CBD blogger and reviewer.
  • Make and sell CBD bottles and containers.
  • Start a CBD subscription box service.
  • Start a CBD courier business.

How much you can make: $3,000 — $800,000/month

How long does it take to build: 105 days (?)

How Two College Roommates Started An Online CBD Business

In this case study, Evan breaks down:

  • Validation: Invited 50 people to try an early sample and interviewed them after
  • Early traction: Hit $20K/month after just 5 months
  • Financials: Big focus on profits, operating on a 63% margins

When a customer wants to meet you in a Safeway parking lot to get their product faster, you know you have something.

Read by 16,032 founders

10. Start a meme-based product

How much you can make: $13,500 — $20,000/month

How long does it take to build: 90 days (?)

How We Created A Product Based On A Meme and Made $100K

Two college students turned a viral meme into a successful business, with over $200,000 in sales and a 65% profit margin largely due to the product's viral nature, passively selling 75% through Amazon FBA.

About
James started The Nut Button over 6 years ago
Revenue
James grew the business to $13.5K/month
Read by 7,474 founders

11. Start a subscription box business

Subscription box businesses offer customers a niche set of products on a monthly basis.

They're in high demand as they add value to customer service, offer exclusive products and can be highly profitable.

To start a subscription box business, understand your niche market, provide quality products, perfect your box design, build a good relationship with fulfillment companies, and market your service.

How much you can make: $400 — $16,666,667/month

How much does it cost to start: $210 (?)

How long does it take to build: 180 days (?)

How I Started A Gift Box Business For Non Traditional Brides

Vowed Box Co. is a line of curated, quirky gift boxes with non-traditional brides in mind, offering four different products that have helped the business become profitable most months since its launch in 2018, with a monthly income of roughly $600.

About
Lindsay started Vowed Box Co. about 6 years ago
Revenue
Lindsay grew the business to $400/month
Read by 29,524 founders

12. Start a CBD business

Cannabidiol, abbreviated as CBD, is becoming a household name, and its proponents believe this is for good reasons. Reports indicate that CBD treats several conditions, including chronic pain, inflammation, migraines, epilepsy, autoimmune diseases, and anxiety.

Market trend researchers indicate the CBD market will grow by a CAGR of 21.7 % over the next few years. Rising awareness of cannabidiol’s health benefits and its effectiveness in managing pain are some factors propelling the CBD industry’s growth.

Therefore, starting a CBD business in 2024 could be the best decision you are yet to agree to. Some high-potential CBD business ideas and opportunities include:

  • Become a CBD distributor.
  • Form CBD cooperatives.
  • Run a CBD podcast.
  • CBD marketer.
  • CBD blogger and reviewer.
  • Make and sell CBD bottles and containers.
  • Start a CBD subscription box service.
  • Start a CBD courier business.

How much you can make: $3,000 — $800,000/month

How long does it take to build: 105 days (?)

How Two College Roommates Started An Online CBD Business

In this case study, Evan breaks down:

  • Validation: Invited 50 people to try an early sample and interviewed them after
  • Early traction: Hit $20K/month after just 5 months
  • Financials: Big focus on profits, operating on a 63% margins

When a customer wants to meet you in a Safeway parking lot to get their product faster, you know you have something.

Read by 16,032 founders

13. Start an online video editing business

Video editors manage camera footage, dialogue, sound effects, graphics, and special effects to produce the final film or video product. To become an online video editor, you must have media production and communication knowledge and the ability to work with others.

To start a video editing business, you can outsource video editing skills from an experienced professional. Your role will be to pick video footage from the customers and upload them for the video editor to do the magic.

How much you can make: $2,000 — $208,000/month

How long does it take to build: 110 days (?)

How We Developed A $6K/Month Online Video Editing Software

VEED.IO, a London-based start-up co-founded by Sabba and her partner, offers a simple online video editing platform using batch job cloud architecture to help social media managers across the world auto subtitle, filter, rotate videos and much more, earning the company $5,300 MRR and the founders Ramen profitability within just a year of starting.

About
Sabba started VEED over 5 years ago
Revenue
Sabba grew the business to $6K/month
Read by 11,447 founders

14. Start a youtube channel

For anyone looking to start a successful YouTube channel, there are plenty of YouTube channel success stories that can be used as inspiration and encouragement. In addition, YouTube has an established monetization system and boasts incredible popularity, making it a potential platform for revenue generation.

In this article, we'll look at different approaches you can use to help promote your channel and grow your viewers. While there's no quick and easy way to success, you can take these tips to build your own YouTube Channel Success story. If you love content creation, you can capitalize on YouTube's popularity to earn extra income.

If you want to join the Youtube partner program to monetize your channel, you will need to reach a minimum of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the previous 12 months.

How much you can make: $800 — $4,500,000/month

How much does it cost to start: $500 (?)

How long does it take to build: 48 days (?)

Time commitment per week: Min. 5 hours/week

How This Couple Makes $5K/Month Generating Content About Ways To Make Money Online

Learn how this entrepreneurial couple made $5-7k a month by helping others find legitimate work from home jobs and creative ways to make money online through their blog and YouTube channel, as well as offering two flagship products designed to help beginner freelancers and new bloggers accelerate growth.

About
Chhavi started Mrs Daaku Studio over 5 years ago
Revenue
Chhavi grew the business to $5K/month
Costs
It cost Chhavi $500 to start the business
Read by 13,279 founders

15. Start a Greeting Cards Business

People use greeting cards to mark births, deaths, graduations, anniversaries, and other parties or events.

If you love helping people celebrate special occasions, starting a greeting card business can be a great business opportunity.

When starting a greeting card business, choose a potential niche and write a business plan.

Then, find an ideal spot to sell the greeting cards.

For instance, you can offer greeting card design and posting services, so customers can choose the best designs and post greeting cards online.

How much you can make: $2,000 — $100,000/month

How much does it cost to start: $2,500 (?)

How long does it take to build: 65 days (?)

I Created A Prank Card Company & Grew It To $30K/Month

Joker Greeting sells unique prank gifts, including a non-stop musical birthday card, an idea raised by the founders visiting their mom's house, having no website or marketing and yet raising $92,073 on Kickstarter in 30 days due to being picked up by media, enabling them to sell 15,000 units in the first year, owned SEO for their niche, selling almost 40,000 units in 2017 and expected to reach 50,000 to 60,000 in 2018 with a small team, using Shopify and various social media channels with lots of organic traffic.

About
Travis started Joker Greeting almost 9 years ago
Revenue
Travis grew the business to $100K/month
Costs
It cost Travis $1000 to start the business
Read by 12,265 founders

16. Build an iPhone app

The iPhone is the most popular mobile device in the world. It has changed how we interact with information, entertainment, and communication.

The iPhone has also changed the way we interact with each other. Since its release in 2007, it has become a staple in most people’s lives. It is more than just a phone; it is a tool for staying connected to friends and family and creating new connections.

The iPhone app market is an ever-changing landscape of innovation: it’s not just about making something that works well; it’s about creating something that stands out from the crowd.

It would help if you had something that appeals to your audience to succeed in this market. This can be as simple as ensuring your app has a catchy name or as complex as developing an entire brand identity around your app’s functionality.

How much you can make: $150 — $2,000,000/month

How much does it cost to start: $6,500 (?)

How long does it take to build: 180 days (?)

Time commitment per week: Min. 5 hours/week

How I Created A $60K/Month App That Collects In-Person Payments Through Stripe

Payment.co, an app built on top of the Stripe payment gateway for creating card-present charges, has grown to process over $70M in volume annually since launching in 2015, with the app collecting a 1% service fee on every single charge.

About
Ryan started Payment for Stripe about 9 years ago
Revenue
Ryan grew the business to $60K/month
Read by 18,385 founders

17. Start a travel products business

Even people who deeply love traveling will admit that it can be exhausting. To improve comfort levels, travelers search for everything from neck pillows to waterproof backpacks, water bottles, etc.

Imagine being an online travel store where people can go to and purchase weather-proof backpacks, hand sanitizers, travel masks, umbrellas, outdoor gear, etc.

To reach success quickly, offer them an easy and convenient shopping experience.

How much you can make: $1,000 — $1,600,000/month

How much does it cost to start: $5,000 (?)

How long does it take to build: 90 days (?)

We Built A $720K/Year Travel Activities And Tours Search Engine

TourScanner, a meta-search engine for tours and activities, achieved monthly net revenue of $60k and plans to reach $1M ARR in 2022, utilizing a lightweight business model based on affiliate programs that earned a commission from referrals sent to major travel companies like Viator, GetYourGuide, Musement, and Groupon.

About
Simone started TourScanner almost 6 years ago
Revenue
Simone grew the business to $60K/month
Costs
It cost Simone $5000 to start the business
Read by 4,116 founders

18. Become an online fitness coach

Online fitness coaching is using live or recorded video to offer fitness classes to an online audience at a fee. To become successful in business, online fitness coaches should possess the following personal qualities:

  • Stay focused on clients’ needs and goals
  • Be ready to walk the talk
  • Ask the clients questions
  • Focused on educating the client
  • Adjust to a language clients understand

Increase in number of internet usersand more hours spent online, online businesses will keep thriving.

Therefore, fitness coaches looking to expand their businesses or venture into new markets can consider starting an online fitness coach business.

How much you can make: $250 — $39,875,000/month

How much does it cost to start: $500 (?)

How long does it take to build: 142 days (?)

How I Started A $48K/Month Business With An Online Fitness Training Service

This case study is about a former personal trainer who launched his online personal training platform, TeamFFLEX, starting with no money and a lot of drive, and grew it into a 6-figure business in less than a year, now doing $48,000 a month with potential for continued growth.

About
Ryan started TeamFFLEX almost 10 years ago
Revenue
Ryan grew the business to $82K/month
Costs
It cost Ryan $500 to start the business
Read by 24,924 founders

Conclusion

We get it - starting your own business as a full-time student may seem overwhelming at first.

But, think about the financial freedom, flexible hours, and incredible experience you would gain from giving it a shot.

The best part? You don't need a ton of money to get started.

All 18 student entrepreneurs we just presented launched a business with little to no start-up cost.

That can be you, too.

We hope you enjoyed this blog post. Check out more inspiring businesses and how they got started on Starter Story.

meet the author
Pat Walls

I'm Pat Walls and I created Starter Story - a website dedicated to helping people start businesses. We interview entrepreneurs from around the world about how they started and grew their businesses.