There are definite signs that the economy has stabilized and begun to show signs of growth, but the job market still remains sluggish, a growing number of college grads are skipping job fairs and are exploring starting their own businesses. In a recent survey, research giant Harris Interactive, found that four in ten of the 18-to-24 year olds interviewed have considered taking the plunge into entrepreneurship rather than going the traditional corporate route.

Starting a business is exciting — and expensive. Karen Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman, small business experts and co-authors of Birthing the Elephant, have some solid advice that can help budding entrepreneurs navigate safely through start-up to success.

#1. Give yourself options. You can explore your inner business tycoon even while looking for a job. Sure, keep sending out those resumes and going to interviews, but at the same time, start to consider alternative ways your can support yourself. What products or services can you offer while job hunting? Maybe you have a flair for web design, or a passion for social media. Skills like painting, gardening and cooking can all be rolled into businesses.

#2. Sustainability Factor. Before you invest a bundle in starting a business, make sure your idea has legs — a product or service that no one wants or needs is destined for failure. So do your homework — identify your market, survey potential buyers, and make an accurate analysis of production and delivery costs. Experienced entrepreneurs can be an important source of information about everything from pricing and marketing to promotion.


#3. Creativity = Cost Control. Starting a business when you’ve got financial loans coming due can be a real challenge. However, take heart — a surprising number of successful businesses began on a shoe-string budget. The trick is to use creative, innovative ways to get what you need without digging into your pocket. Barter your services when you can, and don’t waste money on flashy websites or offices. Put your money where it counts: in marketing and product design.

#4. Go back to college. No, we don’t mean that literally — however your college or university has excellent resources to connect you with expert advice. Begin with your former professors, lay out your proposal and your needs. They can connect you with promising students in design, marketing, technology and business who can provide invaluable, inexpensive help.

#5. The power of networking. Connecting with other people is the single best and most cost-effective way to build your business. Get the word out to friends, families and other local businesses and media outlets. Social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are excellent ways to spread the word, and join alumni groups, professional and community organization to expand your circle of associates and find mentors who can give you solid advice.

Once you’ve made a connection, keep in touch on a regular basis and remember, two of the most powerful words in business are “thank you.” Keeping colleagues and supporters up-to-date on your progress is a great way to expand your business, and showing your appreciation for their help is not only a smart business strategy, it’s the right thing to do!

By Marcela