While a college education can provide valuable knowledge and skills, there are several reasons why it may not be the most effective way to learn how to be an entrepreneur in college. As an entrepreneur who never went to college and started multiple businesses on my own with no knowledge, money or mentorship, I can say that college would never have taught me what I learned first-hand. It also would have taken up 4 years of my time on top of tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt. Instead, I just started with what I had and learned from trial and error.
Entrepreneur in college
Entrepreneurship is primarily learned through practical experience and real-world challenges. While colleges can offer theoretical knowledge and case studies, they often lack the hands-on experience of starting and running a business. Entrepreneurship requires learning from failures, adapting to market dynamics, and making quick decisions. These are better acquired through direct involvement in the business world.
I made a million mistakes when I started my first business, which was a cash-intensive manufacturing business based on my invention, the wrist water bottle.
Dynamic Nature of Entrepreneurship:
The entrepreneurial landscape is constantly evolving, with new technologies, market trends, and business models emerging rapidly. College curricula, on the other hand, can be slow to adapt to these changes. By the time a course is developed, approved, and taught, the information may already be outdated. Staying ahead as an entrepreneur often involves learning on the fly and staying updated with the latest trends, which can be difficult within the rigid structures of a college program.
Nothing beats learning on the job. There are so many things about running a business that you simply find out by doing them and making mistakes along the way.
Successful entrepreneurship requires a wide range of skills, including marketing, finance, sales, networking, leadership, and problem-solving. While colleges typically offer specialized courses, they often lack an integrated curriculum that combines these interdisciplinary skills. Entrepreneurial success often comes from the ability to navigate different areas of business seamlessly. And this holistic perspective is challenging to develop solely through traditional college education.
When you start out as a solopreneur you learn how to do every job in your business. This will become valuable when you need to hire employees down the road to help you.
Building a strong network is crucial for entrepreneurs. College can provide opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals, professors, and guest speakers who may have entrepreneurial experience. However, networking within the college environment may be limited compared to the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem. Industry events, conferences, meetups, and startup communities offer a more diverse range of connections and potential mentors. This can be difficult to replicate within the confines of a college campus.
Some of my best networking has been at trade shows. I met a guy who got me into the promotional products industry at a really bad trade show, which would have been a disaster. But he completely turned my business into a very profitable one by introducing me to an industry I didn’t even know about. I also found my first manufacturer at a trade show, that ironically was also a disaster! Those are not the kinds of business connections you meet on a college campus.
Risk Aversion and Structure:
Colleges typically prioritize stability, conformity, and risk aversion. While these qualities may be suitable for some career paths, entrepreneurship often requires taking calculated risks, thinking outside the box, and challenging conventional wisdom. The structured environment of college may not foster the risk-taking mentality and creativity that entrepreneurs need to succeed.
I took a HUGE number of risks to start my business. And I worked 2 jobs for years to pay for it. Putting that money into a college education to be an entrepreneur would have been a waste of money. And I was able to get up and running while many of my peers were still reading books about business.
It’s worth noting that while college may not be the ideal route to learn how to be an entrepreneur, it can still offer valuable resources and opportunities, such as business courses, mentorship programs, and access to research and libraries. However, many successful entrepreneurs have found that hands-on experience, networking, and continuous self-education outside of formal education play a significant role in their journey.