The Roadmap That Shows Post-Secondary Students How to Build and Scale a Business to $5000 in 8 Weeks

The Roadmap That Shows Post-Secondary Students How to Build and Scale a Business to $5000 in 8 Weeks

Hey - I’m Matt Parkin! I’m a student entrepreneur and 4x founder who started a consulting firm, an educational nonprofit, a career coaching company, and a tutoring company over the past two years. This guide will show you how to build and scale a business to $5000 in 8 weeks with learnings, stories, and anecdotes from my experience as a student entrepreneur.
 
If you're looking for templates to help you with anything you read in the guide or want to chat strategy, reach out to me and we can discuss some coaching options for you!
 

Initial Advice

Go out there and just do it
Don’t let others tell you “you’re just a student”. All you need is an idea, passion, and grit to turn your concept into a reality. I decided I was going to start a tutoring company as I realized there was a gap in the market, and 8 weeks later I had scaled my business to 10 tutors, 40 clients, and $5,000 in revenue. I didn’t spend countless months doing market research and making plans, I got my feet wet right away, learned by doing, and continued to iterate as time passed.
 
Don’t doubt yourself
Did I think that a 20-year old student with no credibility would lead an entire consulting firm of 70+ consultants working with 42 clients in 20 countries? Absolutely not. There were some days where I thought I was in too deep but I put my head down and never doubted myself even when family and friends were skeptical of what I was doing. I didn’t realize it at the moment, but looking back, I’m incredibly proud of the impact my team and I were able to have. We made something out of nothing and positively impacted thousands of lives globally.
 
Ideation & Planning
Now that we’ve covered some initial advice, we’re going to hop into Ideation & Planning. For those who don’t have an idea yet, this section will help you think of one! For those who already have an idea, this section will help you turn your idea into a reality and think of new offerings for your audience.
 
Ideation
Here’s my favourite way to brainstorm ideas on your own or in groups:
  1. Get a Google Jamboard or Miro board going and cover it with virtual sticky notes.
  2. At the top of your screen, you’re going to define different problems you want to solve and make them column headers.
  3. On the sticky notes, you’re going to write different ideas on how to address each of the problems within each column.
  4. If brainstorming with others, rotate boards to build upon and strengthen each others’ ideas.
  5. Discuss/narrow down your ideas to a handful of solutions you want to look into further.
Validation
The above ideation activity is an easy way to brain-dump potential solutions to a problem you’re trying to solve. Now once you have a few ideas, you’re going to want to get user validation, especially if you yourself aren’t part of the target audience.
 
For example, LEAP Canada, my educational nonprofit began as a google form. We asked high school students which schools they were interested in, which topics they’d like to learn more about, struggles they were facing, and preferences for dates/times of events. This survey guided us in the execution of our strategy as we were able to hone in on consumer problems and preferences and tweak our initial idea to align accordingly.
 
Later on, we attempted to roll out a new service that turned out to be a disaster - the main difference was no consumer research was gathered before rolling out the new service. This further emphasizes the importance of receiving validation on your ideas.
 
Planning
Once you have your idea, planning is crucial. You want to think about where you want to be and work backwards from there. This applies for financial projections as well as operational timelines.
 
For timelines, I like using a Gantt chart in excel. If you want to launch your business in X days, what tasks need to be done by when to make that happen. Let’s look at an example. If I want to launch a product, I’m going to need the product and marketing materials to be completed and the website live 3 days prior to launch.
  • The marketing materials will take 2 days to make
  • The website will take 2 days to make
  • The website will need 2 days for testing and revising
  • The social media accounts will take 2 days to make
 
This tells me I need at least 11 days between now and when I launch the product. The timelines will vary based on your availability, skillset, size of your team, and other external factors. This working backwards process also applies for other things such as:
  • Hiring (what needs to happen between the date I decide I’m hiring and the date the new hire starts working)
  • Marketing (what needs to happen between the date I have an idea for a social media campaign and the date it can begin)
 
Now that you have your Gantt chart, you should time block tasks into your calendar of choice to make sure they get done on time. I love Google Calendar because you can colour code your events and it easily integrates with booking software (wix, calendly, etc.). It also allows you to glance at your week and see how much free time you have for other commitments.
 
Planning can further help you determine prices and reach daily/weekly sales quotas. Have a product or service but not sure what to sell it for? Here are some ways to determine the price.
  1. Look at competitor prices and match/slightly undercut them. My friend charged $40-50/hr for tutoring so I decided to do the same.
  2. Offer the product/service to a test group for free and ask them how much they’d pay for it. I offered my LinkedIn course for free to a test group and they agreed a price range of $25 was very reasonable given the value they got out of the course.
  3. Price low to gain market share and credibility and gradually increase the price. I did this at Parkin Consulting where I worked with initial clients for free to build credibility before introducing fees into the model.
  4. Look at the average disposable income and average spend for your audience. Students are on budgets and aren’t interested in paying $500 for career coaching, so I price my services under $100 for this price-sensitive group.
  5. An important lesson I learned about pricing is that geography and demographics can change your consumers’ willingness to pay. Business students at Western are very willing to pay $50/hr for tutoring, whereas Science students will only pay $35-40/hr. The same is to be said when comparing Western to other schools. The going rate for tutors at other universities such as Guelph appears to be in the $20-30 range, much lower than the rate at Western. This is important to keep in mind if you’re looking to offer your product/service at a provincial, national, or international level.
 
Now that you have a price, let’s say you’re selling a product for $25, you need to include this input in your financial model to project your earnings and help you hit daily/weekly sales targets. If you want to make $100,000 in your first year, you’d need to sell 11 products each day. If you’re just starting out, this may seem a bit unreasonable, so now you know you may need to lower your first year projections. Maybe you think it’s reasonable to sell 1 product each day for a total of $9,125 of revenue in your first year. You can then sensitize this in excel to project low and high scenarios for your sales figures.
 

Recruiting/Hiring

Why Teams Are Important
Some businesses you’ll be able to run on your own, but for others you’re going to need a team. Having a team that complements your skillset will set your business up for success and allow you to focus on tasks that you’re good at and that give you energy, while others can work on tasks that you struggle with or that drain your energy.
 
For example, I have two interns that are skilled and passionate at graphic design. They run my Mornings With Matt Instagram account as graphic design isn’t my strong suit and I prefer to focus my time writing content for LinkedIn and Twitter.
 
With LEAP Canada, my co-founders are skilled at ideation, and then I take the ideas and execute on them as execution is my strength. This allows us to work well together and be efficient in turning ideas into a reality.
 
How Can I Determine What I Need Help With
An exercise you can do is to create a list of all the tasks you believe you’ll need to accomplish. Now go through the list and label each one as an energy gainer or energy drainer. The drainers will be tasks you delegate to your teammates, so you can focus on the tasks that give you energy.
 
A second exercise you can do is to go through your calendar for the past few months and label your energy gainers and drainers. While they may not be directly related to building your business, it will help identify:
  1. The types of tasks you get energy from
  2. What time of day is best for you to perform them
  3. The tasks that feel burdensome, exhausting, or like a chore
For example, I realized I get a lot of energy whenever I call one of my co-founders, so I messaged her and asked if we can call more regularly because I want more of that energy gainer in my life.
 
Another example is my recent realization that my body feels too tired to exercise in the morning. I’ve opted for evening workouts and they’ve been life changing for me - I’ve already upped my 2x/week workouts to 4x/week with the time change.
 

Where to Find the Right People

You’ve identified some areas you could use support with but now you need to find people to fill those gaps. Here are some places to find them:
 
Targeted Outreach
  • If you’re looking for a graphic designer, direct message college students in a graphic design program who may be looking to further build their portfolio.
  • If you’re looking for some business development support, message a first-year business student who may be looking to gain experience to leverage for internships.
Social Media Posts
  • Almost everyone uses social media. Make sure you leverage your personal social media channels as your network will be your biggest supporters.
Groups and Communities
  • If you’re looking for a specific skill set, there are group chats and communities where you can find like-minded individuals and post opportunities they may be interested in.
 
The above ideas are generic strategies that can be applied across all tasks. Here are some task-specific outreach tactics that could work for you:
 
HR
  • Email some HR professors and ask them to share the opportunity with their class.
Sales
  • Email the Sales Club presidents or contact Corporate Relations club members.
  • Cold message retail workers with strong selling skills who would likely be interested in making more money with flexible hours.
Tutoring
- Cold message swim instructors, camp staff, and sports coaches who have developed teaching skills through other roles.
 

What to Say in my Recruiting Efforts

Now it’s time to execute your selected outreach strategies for hiring teammates. You only have one shot to make a good first impression so make sure to think about how you’re going to pitch the opportunity. Here’s a sample outreach template you can use as a baseline and further cater to your role:
Hi NAME! Wanted to share an opportunity with you! I lead COMPANY X and we're looking for ROLE Y - thought you'd be a great fit given your EXPERIENCE WITH Z. Let me know if you have any questions, NAME.
I’d suggest doing A-B testing, trying two different outreach templates, gauging which one has the best response rate, and then using the more successful one moving forward. Be sure to cater it to the individual and mention a specific experience they've had that would make them a great fit!
 

How to Create a Seamless Application Process

Now that you’ve determined who to reach out to and what to say, you need to make sure all the work is completed on the backend for a seamless application process for the candidate.
 
Timelines
You’ll typically need 5 weeks to hire someone from the moment you decide you need support.
 
Week 1
During this week you’ll need to create the job description, application form, and social media graphics.
  • Job descriptions should be 1pg in length and include responsibilities of the role, qualifications, and perks of joining the team
  • The application form is important as you want to ensure the user experience is seamless, otherwise people may be dissuaded from applying. Common things to look out for on application forms:
  • Have you asked for all the info you need
  • Do the questions make sense (ask a friend to review it)
  • Is it too long/short (keep it to a resume drop, 150-word short answer, and a portfolio drop if applicable)
  • Did you use the right question types (MC, blanks)
  • Will I be able to easily sort & visualize the results
  • The social media graphics should clearly outline:
  • “Hiring” or “Now Hiring”
  • An application deadline
  • A call to action (where to apply)
  • And the positions you’re hiring for
Week 2
This week you’ll post your applications and conduct marketing and outreach to cultivate your talent pool. Postings should be up for at least 7 days. This gives you enough time to do your outreach and provides people with enough time to apply to the role. If you don’t receive enough applicants (ideally three qualified applicants for each opening) you can extend the deadline by a few days and try some different marketing/outreach strategies.
 
During this week you should also prepare the interview questions and interview booking system so you are all set to send out interview offers next week. When choosing interview questions, it’s important to budget 3 mins per behavioural question and 3 mins for Q&A at the end (e.g. a 15min interview should be introductions, 4 behavioural questions, and Q&A/next steps).
 
To schedule the interviews, I recommend using Calendly. It’s free to sign up for and lets you set your availability, syncs to your calendar to avoid conflicts, and updates in real-time so multiple candidates don’t try to book the same slot. This is much faster than corresponding back and forth via email about interview availability. If you have a co-founder that will be sitting in on the interviews with you, ensure you gather their availability so you’re both able to attend all available slots. I recommend you try to have slots available on two different dates at two different times to accommodate any conflicts or time zone differences with candidates.
 
I didn’t think about timezones when I did my first hiring cycle with Parkin Consulting and I ended up interviewing someone at 6am in their timezone as it was a 12hr difference. Now, I make sure to ask about timezone on application forms so I can provide time slots accordingly.
 
Week 3
This week you will review applications and send out interview offers to qualified candidates. You’ll want to create a scorecard to give you a systematic and objective way to evaluate the applications you receive. The scorecard should evaluate any short answer questions along with the resume on a scale from 0-2.
 
After you rank the applicants, you’ll need to send out interview offers. Ideally, you’d like to give interview offers at a 3:1 ratio (interview three people for every one spot you’re looking to fill). This provides you with a large enough sample size to compare applicants and helps you avoid having to go back and have another round of interviews or applications. Here’s a template for sending interview offers:
 
Hi NAME,
Thanks for your interest in joining the team! I was impressed with your application and would love to set up a quick 15-min interview on Zoom to learn more about you. Please sign up for a time HERE by the end of day tomorrow. Interviews will take place Day X - Y (make the first interview slot at least 48 hours after you send the email to provide ample time for the person to prepare or in case people aren’t checking their email every day). Let me know if you have any questions, NAME.
 
Week 4
Now that you’ve sent your interview offers, it’s time to conduct the interviews and send your offers. Using the interview bank from week 2, you can create a Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale scorecard to rank your applicant’s answers. This looks like a 0/1/2 rating for each question, with a specific description for what a 0, 1, and 2 out of 2 each look like. This creates consistency and objectivity, reducing bias in your hiring process.
 
After reviewing the interview scorecards and deciding who to extend offers to, you’ll need to send out offer and rejection emails.
 
Week 5
Your candidates accepted their offers and now it’s time for you to onboard and train them. Content will vary depending on the size and scope of their role, but here are some general tips:
Goal setting
  • Ask your new hires what they want to get out of their experience working with you so you know how you can best support them. If they really want to learn a skill or improve upon something, give them the outlet to do so and they will remain motivated and high performing.
Expectations
  • Clearly agree on expectations for the role. This could include which tasks will be completed, how often they should check-in with you, what they need approval for, how responsive they need to be to messages, how many hours or days they should be working, etc.
  • Message responsiveness is a big one as people will have different priorities and may take a few days to reply to you. If you’re expecting same-day responses, you’re going to get easily frustrated about this. Make sure to align on this early on to avoid disappointment.
Communication Methods
  • Agree on which method of communication you will use for what. I used Slack with Parkin Consulting and LEAP Canada - it’s a great way to organize your team once it gets bigger and allows you to have different channels for different teams.
  • With my career coaching and tutoring, I’m working with smaller teams so I stick to Facebook/LinkedIn/Instagram messaging or texting.
Development Plan
  • I like making development plans for everyone on my teams. It includes:
  • 3 Strengths
  • 3 Areas of Improvement
  • 3 Goals for the quarter/year
  • This prompts them to reflect and think about where their strengths lie and what they want to work on, while helping you know what types of tasks to delegate and learning opportunities to provide them.

Selling/Marketing

Now that you have your team established, it’s time to look at your sales and marketing strategies.

Website (Wix)

  • Your website is your most important marketing asset as most of your social media channels will direct users to the website for their purchase. I’ve built two sites on Wix and absolutely love the functionality - you can get started here. Your site should include four basic pages:
  • Nice landing page that tells people what you do
  • Services/products page where people can buy what you sell
  • Contact us page to answer customer questions
  • Testimonials page to showcase positive customer feedback and increase credibility
  • Wix allows you to set up automations to make your life much easier. I have mine set up to automatically email each customer 5 days after their purchase to collect a testimonial and remind them of my $30 referral bonus - this helps boost your credibility and drive sales!
  • I also have integrated Shopify and Mailchimp (my newsletter software for email marketing) through Zapier. This takes any website customers and adds them to my Mailchimp mailing list, labeling that they came from the website. This automation saves so much time and Zapier will do 1000/month for free!

Newsletter/Email Marketing (Mailchimp)

  • Emails are a great way to communicate directly with your audience without relying on social media algorithms.
  • I would highly recommend you do email marketing for your audience using Mailchimp. You can choose your time frequency for follow ups, build automated customer journey sales funnels, and send regular newsletters (weekly/monthly/etc.).
  • For reference, it typically takes me 60-90mins to write a newsletter depending on how much research and content needs to be created from scratch.

Canva

LinkedIn

  • People tend to have more followers than businesses on LinkedIn, so I would focus on creating LinkedIn content on your personal account related to the niche your business is in.
  • I used to post all my LinkedIn content manually and it was very time consuming until I discovered Buffer. You can pump out 25 LinkedIn posts in 3 hours, schedule them into Buffer, and it will post daily for you for the rest of the month. All you need to do is go on LinkedIn for 30-60 mins each day and comment on your network’s posts to add value and further build your brand.

Thinkific

Zapier

  • I mentioned my Zapier integration between Wix and Mailchimp, but I also use it with Google Drive where it groups clients into Mailchimp user groups based on their Google Form responses during intake, and with Calendly where it adds any discovery call clients to my Mailchimp audience too. This has saved me countless hours of tedious work and I would highly recommend it!

Giveaways

  • When you’re starting out, it’s best to give away your products/services to a handful of people so you can collect feedback and reviews to build your credibility for then charging for your products and services.
  • You can also run monthly social media giveaways where people have to like/comment/share/tag friends on social media posts to win. This will drive engagement and new followers to your account.

Referrals

Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter

  • I recently downloaded Twitter and have been exploring Instagram and TikTok too. I’m far from an expert on these platforms so I’d recommend you get some help from others who have successfully scaled their brands on these platforms.
  • Facebook groups are a great way to find certain demographics (finding students in student opportunity groups). When I was looking for nonprofits to consult for, I would look for organizations who would post hiring graphics in these student groups and then message the person who made the post. This had a very high success rate for landing clients as it’s personalized communication.

Coupon Marketing

  • $10 OFF or 10% OFF coupons, squeeze your margins but if you’re just starting out, some margin is better than no margin.
  • You can offer these coupon codes to influencers, school clubs, student conference attendees, and more!

Google Business Account

  • Create a Google Business Account to appear in search results and in Maps. You can direct customers to leave reviews which will appear when people search your business on google.

Thank Those Who Engage

  • I often direct message users who engage with my content or view my profile to see if they have any questions or suggestions for future content. They appreciate you making the time to contact them and you get to foster a stronger relationship!

Operations/Finance

Financials
  • It’s important to create financial projections to forecast your revenues and expenses, as well as a tracker to record your inflows and outflows as they happen. Hopefully most of your inflows will automatically be recorded through your website, so you will just need to add your expenses from other sources to the tracker.
  • Planning ahead will help you set your eyes on a goal to work towards and ensure you don’t have any surprises come your way. Recording as you go will reduce the amount of time you spend at year end going back and recording everything retroactively.
Process Maps, Policies, Procedures
  • It’s important to document the processes, policies, and procedures your company follows. This is beneficial for new members joining your team and for the future if you ever decide to sell your business.
Automation is key
  • Billing is tedious and time consuming - take the hit on the credit card processing fee and take payments through your website so you don’t have to chase people down for e-transfers or cash. I recommend using Stripe!
Make things scalable
  • Oversee three people, have them each oversee two, now hire a 2nd hand to oversee three, they each oversee two, and continue scaling. I followed this exact model for scaling Parkin Consulting to 70 volunteers around the world.
Email signatures
  • Make sure to create email signatures with your logo, name, role, and social media handles to display a professional presence when communicating with customers. This also funnels them towards your social media and website to learn more!

Conclusion

I hope you found this guide helpful on your journey as you launch your first business. I wish I knew all of this sooner in my journey as it would have saved me a lot of time and money.
 
 
 
Looking for funding to start your business? Become a Mornings With Matt Ambassador! Earn a $30 commission for each person you refer to purchase one of my career coaching packages, and $15 per tutoring client who books 2+ tutoring sessions. You could easily raise hundreds or thousands of dollars doing this for a few minutes each day! Have your friends mention you at checkout to be credited for the referral - I'll then contact you to get you your payment!
 
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Finally, please keep me posted on your journey as I love to hear success stories and support fellow entrepreneurs. Best of luck - remember - you’ve got this!