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DIY grad job: starting a business at university

Posted on: June 7 2017
Posted by: 
Shahe Momdjian Program Manager, Startup Programs
“Timmy is getting his best marks ever and he actually seems confident about maths now…”

There’s no telling when or how it might happen. You might be hearing this from the parents of a kid you tutor when something clicks inside you: 

“You know what? I am actually really good at this…”

Realising that you have something to offer the world is usually the first step. If life were a zombie movie, at this point, you’ve simply tripped over some corpses and fallen over. There’s a possibility but no guarantee they will get you. Your chances quickly deteriorate if you also have a problem with the status quo: 

“I’m sick of tutoring centres charging $50 a head, squeezing in 15 kids and paying their tutor $60 per hour.”

Their mangled jaws are wrapped around your tasty legs now… When the conversion is complete, you have developed an alternative solution: 

“I’m going to get high school AV clubs to film their own maths teachers during class time and then post the videos on a private online learning platform. Students will learn handy job skills like video production as well as maths. It will be completely free to use and will engage, rather than undermine, highly experienced teachers!”

Game. Over.

Luckily, life isn’t a zombie movie. You’re a startup entrepreneur! All you need now is:

  • Proof that the market wants your solution, i.e. “validation”

  • A team with complementary skills and interests but aligned values, goals and time to commit

  • A technology platform that can safely host the video content (will you build or buy?)

  • A marketing plan, some school contacts 

  • Maybe some money 

But on that last point, maybe not as much as you might think. The costs of starting a business have fallen dramatically over the past two decades and, better yet, UNSW-provided services from the newly-created Division of Enterprise can make things even easier for you:

  • Looking to learn about innovation, attend events and make stuff? A space and network for the exploration of innovation and design thinking, incorporating a maker space for students from all faculties to experiment with 3D printing and more
  • Looking for free business advice, connections and ongoing training? A range of free advisory services, skills-building programs and mentor or investor introductions open to all UNSW students currently running or thinking about a business
  • Looking for free legal advice or incorporation to build on strong foundations? A community legal centre for UNSW entrepreneurs, offering advice on a range of commercial issues and providing free business incorporation when you’re getting serious

These are just three examples from a growing list of support services open to active or would-be UNSW entrepreneurs. It has never been a better time to start a business on campus. The smart play is to make full use of all the free services and perks currently available to you.

If you already have a business idea, here’s your first tip: validation is the first step!

Validation means doing your research and proving the market truly wants what you’re selling. When you have done this, you are said to have found “product-market fit.” 

DIY grad job: starting a business at university

Here are some things you might use to prove you really do have your undead finger on the juicy pulse of modern society:

  • Sales! If someone is buying, that’s a great sign. For the icing on top, how many positive reviews or testimonials can you share? Don’t wait for all the fancy tech, develop a “Minimum Viable Product” and sell, sell, sell!
  • Intent. If no one is buying, or it’s too soon, who is waiting? Do you have an email list of pre-launch registrations, Instagram followers, letters of intent, email endorsements?
  • Other traction. You might have won a pitching competition, scored a HD in an entrepreneurship course or earned some media coverage. Include it all.
  • Primary research. Hit the streets (or forums) and talk to real people. Observe, survey and interview. Learn all you can about your target market including how it thinks, feels and acts.
  • Secondary research. Who has investigated your problem area before and what did they find? Is this a real issue, widespread and worthwhile? Check and include your sources.

There are certainly more ways – get creative! The more of this you do, the more persuasive you will be in every discussion or pitch about your business.

Having said all that, we are always happy to chat. It doesn’t matter how progressed or persuasive you are. We support students at all stages of the startup journey. When you’re ready to speak with one of UNSW’s many in-house experts, and receive all the free support your business can handle, contact the Startup Programs team at: or at our website

Shahe Momdjian, UNSW Student Entrepreneur Development Associate Shahe Momdjian | Program Manager, Startup Programs
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