Starting a business without an extended education
Our society often emphasises attaining a postgraduate degree in order to enter the business world. Yet, this doesn’t really mesh with the reality of the contemporary world we live in. For many people, traditional further education is prohibitively expensive — in 2021, the average cost in Australia for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree topped $60,000. In many cases, the career landscape is moving away from relying upon such linear approaches to learning and embracing a more experience-led path.
This is especially true for new entrepreneurs. While in the past it may have been considered essential that you obtain an MBA degree to gain the skills you need to thrive, the commercial world is currently far more supportive and encouraging of talented contributors who have taken a more self-driven and creative route.
That said, it is difficult to achieve success without a solid sense of what it takes to effectively and efficiently run a business.
So, how can you go about creating your business without an extended education? Where can you obtain resources and guidance on your path toward a successful enterprise? Let’s take a closer look at some important areas of focus.
Building a plan
If you speak to those who have undertaken an extended business-centric education, you’ll often find that students go into great detail about the minutiae of making presentations to investors, strategising growth, and managing resources. While this can help you get over initial fears of starting your own business, you can learn much of this through actively engaging in one of the primary elements you need to start your own company: creating a business plan.
This can be a daunting prospect, as it formally lays out your intentions for your business, how it will be financed, and a route forward. It’s a lot if you don’t have experience. The good news is, you don’t have to start from scratch. You can use a template — known as a business model canvas — to act as a jumping-off point. Take your time to really study the canvas; it will include a checklist of essential elements that make up a solid plan:
- value proposition
- key partnerships and activities
- cost structure
Research what each element means, talk to other business owners about them or watch videos online. Allow yourself to gain insights into aspects that are consistent across most business plans.
With the knowledge you’ve gained and the canvas acting as a framework, you can start to carefully put together each essential element into a clear and understandable plan. Going through this process in itself will also generally help you understand your business much better, along with the challenges you are likely to face along the way.
Use this plan to develop a pitch for investors or lenders, and most importantly practice this with friends and other entrepreneurs. Give a presentation as you would to the bank or industry influencers. Encourage your audience to ask you questions about your pitch, so that you can prepare for presenting it professionally and confidently.
Gaining financial resources
One of the reasons people mistakenly think they need to go to university before starting a business is because they don’t have any idea how they might go about securing funding. However, courses don’t give you a magic pass that opens up access to financing. The best it can do is provide you with ideas based on the experiences of other entrepreneurs — and you have access to those with just a smartphone and time to research.
The truth is, now is an excellent time to start a small business because you have so many options for startup funding. In most cases, you’ll be looking for a small business loan, but it’s important to understand what type of loan is most suitable for your circumstances.
Traditional business loans are one of the most popular routes. These tend to have lower interest rates but have higher credit score requirements. If you are from an underserved background or are engaged in community projects, you might qualify for a specialty loan directed at supporting more diverse entrepreneurs. The Australian Government also provides start-up grants. The extent of these varies from region to region, so it’s important to research what is available in your area.
It is also increasingly practical to finance aspects of your business using crowdfunding. If you already have a following, or you’re funding a specific project, Indiegogo and Kickstarter can be a good route to financing.
However, some crowdfunding platforms have emerged that are geared specifically toward businesses — Venturecrowd introduces startups to groups of angel investors and venture capitalists, alongside philanthropic options. In either case, you must take time to be clear on your goals and put together an effective campaign package.
One of the most important elements of starting a business is knowing how to make connections with the people who can help make your efforts successful. Customers, fellow entrepreneurs, and the community are all vital. Taking a formal business education can help you make in-roads in this area, but you can certainly be just as effective without schooling.
Marketing is one of your most important tools for making meaningful connections with the industry, the community, and potential customers. Don’t make the mistake of limiting yourself only to online methods, here. While digital marketing is essential for improving your global reach and encouraging consumers to share your messaging, physical branding also plays an important role. Billboards in areas that get a lot of local foot traffic and eye-catching product packaging can act as passive influencers on consumers, helping to insert your brand into their everyday lives.
You must also place some focus on building your networking connections in the local community and your industry. This isn’t always comfortable for all entrepreneurs, but you’ll find that building a network — based on genuine, meaningful relationships, rather than transactional benefits — will help you through the inevitable tough times of your business. Attend local chamber of commerce events, join online groups like the Professional Mentoring Platform, just talk to other business owners and share your experiences. You can create mutual bonds of support, knowledge, and friendship that will always be valuable.
While formal education might be useful in some capacity, you certainly don’t need it to start your own business. Use online resources to research and plan, and review the wide variety of financial options aimed at funding startups like your own. Don’t neglect the imperative to build connections, as these will help your enterprise to grow, and give you vital sources of information and support.
Featured image courtesy of Pexels
Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. You can follow her work at charliefletcher.contently.com