"You Don't Need an Education to Run a Business" (& Other Lies You've Accepted)

Today we're going to start a new series which will allow us to do a deep dive into the controversial topic of business and entrepreneurship education...

As the daughter of a retired teacher, the niece of a retired teacher, the niece of a working teacher, the wife of a grad student, and a grad student myself, I am clearly a fan of education and lifelong learning. I went to an experimental grade school with no grades and then moved onto an academically challenging high school, then college, and some more college....and now some more college. 

Education is important.

Here's the thing though..."education" can mean a multitude of things. I've learned a ton of information in your typical classroom and virtual classroom settings and I've also learned a ton in practical application from real life challenges. 

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The concept that you have to go to business school or get a Master's degree in order to be successful has already been proven wrong so many times that there's no reason to believe that business school is the only way to be "successful." That's the good news - you can do it!

The bad news is you now have to teach yourself the fundamentals through two avenues: research and practical application. There are a ton of resources online and in libraries (remember those?) to help you learn business practices, pricing, marketing, advertising, and more so it is a matter of finding and retaining new skills and information on your own time in order to remain competitive. 

Spoiler Alert: You reading this article right now counts as a means to learn more about business and entrepreneurship. If reading and skimming articles about business, branding, and marketing is one of your top past times, you are already on the right track!

Step 1: Research - Online and Old School Education

There are a ton of reputable resources online, in person, and beyond! 

Finding learning materials from old business textbooks from Half Price Books, visiting your local library's eBook catalog, or finding learning materials from established individuals are all great ways to learn in a more traditional sense, without the tuition bills. Trying to learn new things each week keeps you well informed, and enables you to continue to build your skills which will, by default, improve your business. 

"Defining 'education' as the act of gaining new insight and knowledge as a means to one day become an expert in your chosen field(s) - is a great way to eliminate any stress or personal hangups you may have with formal education."

Education does not have to be in a formal setting to be of use to you. Check out the below links to learn new skills to push your business forward:
      • Alison.com (eCourses, FREE - in business, marketing, web, and more!)
      • The Google Skillshop (eCourse Certification for AdWords, Analytics, and more!)
      • Lynda.com (eCourses, Paid subscription - free for some corporations)
      • SBA.gov (Small Business Administration Website: Resources for Starting a Business)
      • SCORE (Mentors, Seminars, and Free 1-on-1 Advice from Lawyers)

Step 2: Learning through Practical Application

So, you already have a business. What else is there to learn? You make things, people give you money - easy! Just kidding. That's not how this works. 

Now that you have your business properly set up (check out sba.gov, seriously!) with all the proper forms filled and retail certifications in hand the practical side of your education begins. 

You now get to learn through trials and tribulations. Bad customers and good. Great products...and products that should have stayed in your idea notebook. Fun-filled festivals and rained out events. 

The stakes have never been higher: your brand's reputation, your time, and your money are all on the line. You are now in the position to consistently make great products, have excellent customer service, and to continue to stay relevant. How do you do that? By continuing to learn from the flubs that you will inevitably make as a new entrepreneur.


You have a sale on sweaters for the Holiday Season. You price them at $15 with free shipping, 50% off the regular price! People buy them like crazy, and you are so excited to have a bestselling product. On January 1st you sit down and review your last few weeks of sales versus your last few weeks of expenses and you see it...a negative income. 

You double check what you may have done wrong and how you can avoid the mistake in the future.

Holiday Sweater
Sale Price: $15
Manufacturing Cost: -$10
Selling Fees for eCommerce: -$1.50
Shipping Cost: -$10
Profit: -$6.50

By reviewing above we can see that you were losing money on every sale by trying to compete at a lower price point. Yes, it is great that you made sales and it may have even been worth it in the long run if you received a ton of rave reviews on those sweaters, but you can't operate a business in the negative for prolonged periods of time. 

Next Holiday Season, you could decide to sell that same sweater at a higher price, to not offer free shipping, or to find a new sweater that is cheaper to manufacture so that you can still offer at that popular price point.

This is just one example - you can also learn from customers' reviews on your products, the nitty gritty details of what to do and what not to do at vending events, and more. 


Moral of the Story: Your entrepreneurial spirit is a great start to building your empire, but you will need some help. The formal classroom is full of pros and cons and isn't for everybody, but that does not mean you should rely solely upon your intuition to build a successful business. There are resources available online and offline so that you can learn from the mistakes of others and from the mistakes that you make. 

Check back next time as we discuss more lies that you've accepted as a budding entrepreneur!