Can You Run a Business Without Going to Business School?

A small business owner opens her store for the day

Entrepreneurship drives our economy. In the United States, the rate of people starting new businesses has been trending upward for 19 years, according to the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report. The U.S. Small Business Administration says 33.7 million small businesses in the United States accounted for 99.9% of businesses in 2020.

Many people think about running their own business at some point in their lives. But when you’ve already graduated and have joined the workforce, the desire to start your own business can be held back by the idea of having to go get another degree. In this article, we’ll cover whether or not you need a business degree to start your own business, and how to succeed as an entrepreneur without going to business school. 

Do You Need a Degree to Become an Entrepreneur?

In most cases, you do not need a specific degree to become an entrepreneur. The knowledge you need to successfully run a business can be picked up through real-world work experience. That said, a college education can help you gain valuable soft skills that can be used in your new role. But what degree do you need to run a business? You may think that a business degree is the best choice, but in many cases, the type of degree you have is not as important as your commitment and perseverance. 

According to Freshbooks, the top skills needed for starting your own business are communication, problem-solving, and time management. Chances are that you have already honed these skills through your existing education, no matter what field your degree is in. More specific skill sets—such as financial management, marketing, and negotiation—can be gained through experience or supplemental education such as certificate programs.  

Related: Is Risk-Taking Behavior Key to Entrepreneurial Spirit?

5 Steps to Help You Run a Business Without Going to Business School

It’s actually common to start a business without going to business school. According to a CNBC survey, less than half of small business owners have received a college degree. If you decide to move forward with starting a business without attending business school, you can get some help by tapping into the expertise of friends or mentors, or taking some business courses. 

Below are five steps to help you get your business off the ground without completing a full business degree program.

1. Get an idea

This seems simple enough, but many businesses are undone by the lack of a workable plan. It’s not enough to have a new product or service—you must have one that people need.

To give yourself the best opportunity to succeed, find something you’re good at, and become an expert at it. You can turn that expertise into a good business idea, whether it’s selling crafts, opening a coffee shop or inventing a new product. A great idea is the start of a successful business.

2. Get a plan

In a statistic that’s been consistent since the 1990s, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says 20% of new businesses fail in the first two years. One of the big reasons they do is because of a bad business plan—or lack of one.

You should know how much money you’ll need to get started, your expected expenses, your expected pricing of products and services—everything that makes your business buzz. Once you have the plan, you must follow it. If you start changing your spending or strategies, you set yourself up for failure.

3. Get a network

Business school can provide you with the network that you need for help or contacts, but that isn’t the only place where you can grow your professional network.

SCORE offers these tips for networking:

  • Set goals. Attend networking events, but have a plan. Decide who you want to meet, whether it’s potential customers or investors. Join groups or attend events based on those goals.
  • Use social networks. Create a LinkedIn profile for your business and yourself. You might also consider Twitter or Facebook. Whichever platform you choose, make sure you project a professional image.
  • Build relationships. Keep in contact with those you meet at networking events or in other business transactions. Don’t forget your alumni network or other business contacts you’ve made throughout the years.
  • Set aside networking time. Make sure you keep contact with your network even after you set up your business. Over time, you’ll discover which social networks and networking events or organizations are truly valuable for you. 

Related: 5 Networking Tips for Landing a New Job

4. Get funding

Very few people have the funding they need to start a business—an average of $10,000, according to Fundera. Entrepreneurship is a booming field, however, with many groups eager to help fund ventures in the hopes that some will bring a big return. Crowdfunding through platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter is an increasingly popular way to raise the startup capital needed by entrepreneurs—up to $114 billion by 2021, according to SmallBizGenius.net.

This is another way your network can help, by identifying potential investors and other ways of getting the money you’ll need. This is also a reason to have a solid business plan. The better job you’ve done putting one together, the better you’ll be able to persuade investors to write you a check.

5. Get know-how

Although a business degree might not be necessary to become an entrepreneur, business knowledge is crucial. You’ll need to know how to work with data analytics and finance to help you grow your business.

Luckily, there are ways to gain the business knowledge you need without completing a full degree program. Online certificate programs such as Wharton Online’s Entrepreneurship Specialization program can help would-be business owners learn more about the steps of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Students in our Entrepreneurship Specialization program will be taught how to:

  • Test, validate, and prototype a business idea
  • Create a strategy for launch
  • Develop an expansion strategy for an enterprise
  • Finance a venture
  • Pitch an idea to venture capitalists

With this type of additional education, you can develop an entrepreneurial mindset without going to business school.

Find Out More About the Entrepreneurship Specialization Program

While business school can help you develop the skill sets you’ll use as an entrepreneur, a business degree is not needed in order to start a business. Wharton Online’s Entrepreneurship Specialization Certificate program can equip you with the real-world knowledge needed to become a successful entrepreneur. Our program is offered 100% online and is run by senior Wharton professors with experience leading innovation efforts in various fields. To learn more, request more information today.

The Wharton School is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue the IACET CEU.

The Wharton School is accredited by IACET