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The recent college admissions scandal where people have paid money to cheat the admissions process to get their children into elite schools is sad at best. To think that you will have an amazing life by simply attending the right school is absurd. Let’s use this recent event to ask the question with respect to entrepreneurship. Do you need to attend a university that has “highly ranked” entrepreneurship programs in order to create a company? While public opinion might say “yes” the reality is it does not matter.
Lets look at companies whose founders never even attended or graduated with any college degree: Ford, Virgin Airlines, MySpace, Facebook, McDonalds, Etsy, Honda, WhatsApp, Bank of America, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, Uber, Dell Computer, Disney, Ikea and many more. Here are companies created by founders who attended state universities. Costco, Intel, Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet), Black and Decker, Volcom and quite a few more. You get the drift. To be an entrepreneur, you don’t need to attend an elite college let alone college.
What you do need is a growth mindset, one that believes you can learn what you need to know and you are not bound by DNA or family heritage. You do need to see the trends that are occurring all around you and understand how they will impact large markets and industries. You need to be able to study those markets and industries, find a big problem, and then more importantly, craft a solution that is win-win; one that creates a business model where you make money and the customer is satisfied. And you will need the one thing no one can give you. You need to have a tolerance for risk. The biggest thing that will hold you back from becoming an entrepreneur is your fear of failure. Most people would rather tolerate a job then risk failing at starting a company. Seriously, what are you living for? You were not born to be a banker, lawyer, marketer or an accountant. So it’s on you if you really want to be an entrepreneur.
With respect to college, a number of people might argue that a college education isn’t necessary to be an entrepreneur, but you have quite a few other areas where entrepreneurs need general knowledge. The education you receive in college can help you to think, communicate, learn and listen. You will learn how to work in teams, perhaps acquire leadership skills in a student organization. All are important aspects to being an entrepreneur. Here are five things you can do in college, or in your local community, to maximize your opportunity to perhaps someday become a successful entrepreneur.
- Enter competitions and learn to pitch: every college and community has pitch competitions. Enter one. And learn how to pitch. You might actually win and get some cash. At a minimum, you will learn how to present a problem and a solution. You will learn how to take questions from judges. You will have people more experienced than you giving you valuable feedback. This is also a great way to build your network.
- Take classes from entrepreneurs: if you are in college or even in local community, take several entrepreneurship classes. Just take them from people who have been or are an entrepreneur. Professors teaching theory is fine. But there is no substitute for learning the ups and downs from someone who has actually built a company.
- Run with an amazing pack: in the words of motivational speaker Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” While you may or may not believe that, examine who are the five people closest to you. Are you learning from them? Are they pushing you to succeed? Do they make you think? Are they positive? Your goal, from an entrepreneurship perspective, should be to surround yourself with people that can help you become an entrepreneur.
- Work for an entrepreneur: again, whether you are in college or working in your local community, there is no better way to understand what it takes to be an entrepreneur than to work for one. You will get insights on the good, the bad and the ugly on the life of a startup. Your goal should be to learn everything you can. The more you learn about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, the closer you might move to becoming one. It will also lower your fear and raise your tolerance for risk.
- Build your network: in your life, your network will bring you most of your significant opportunities. Do you have a good network with a mix of non-homogeneous people who can give you different perspectives of how they see the world? Are the people in your network people that will help you? Do you have entrepreneurs in your network? At a minimum, connect with university alumni who are entrepreneurs. The more insight from your network, the better your odds that they might help you “see” a big problem that needs to be solved.
The recent college admissions scandal should only serve to remind you that you don’t need an elite college education to become an entrepreneur. Whether you believe it or not, there is an entrepreneur inside you. Take a deep breath and let that entrepreneur come out and play.
March 15, 2019 at 11:09AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs