Each entrepreneur has a different path. Some realize their business dream a little later in life, and, others, as early as high school. We asked our small business experts how much education they received before starting up their businesses, and how they think that decision has played out for them.
“I started my business right after I graduated from college. In fact I graduated from college, moved to a new city, got married, and started my business all in the same month. I always knew that some day I would have my own business and by the time I was in my final year at LSU I realized that the best time to do this was right now, so I began doing freelance website development and Internet marketing. I signed a major client my first month so that made the transition to full time self employment much easier. 18 years later I’m still in the same business and glad that I ventured out on my own.” –Charles Ogwyn, My Internet Marketing Partner, Inc.
“Andy Parker and business partner, Lauren Hine, met during their first year of university whilst studying in the Business School at the University of East Anglia, UK. Having worked together on various projects, they decided to start a startup straight after our graduation in 2012. Their first venture lasted 10 months and was an incredibly steep learning curve. Following this initial venture, they went onto found their current company, Zealifyand now have happy paying customers, have raised funding from angel investors, and have hired their first employee.” –Andy Parker, Zealify
“I’m taking a slightly different approach, I am currently an undergraduate AND also starting my business (a mixture of marketing consultation and design services).
The reason I chose this is 3 reasons:
a.. I get to earn money while studying which is very important considering I will be coming out of University with £60,000 debt.
b.. Instead of earning that money working a part time job, un-related to my education, I am getting firsthand experience and constantly improving my skills by taking on jobs in my industry.
c.. I am also building my portfolio which will help me transition from University to the working world more easily I hope. After graduating I hope to make my business my full time job.
It can sometimes be tough to balance study and work, especially during the end of terms when project deadlines are nearing. So far I have earnt more than what I would working in a supermarket every month and I do it from the comfort of my apartment so it’s easy to switch to studying when needed.” –Paul Manwaring, Internet Marketing Hustle Blog
“When I graduated with my undergrad degree, I debated pursuing my MBA and even got around to taking the GMAT. At the same time, I had the idea for Sleeper Scarf. When considering the amount of money and time an MBA would require, I instead decided to take that same amount of money (and time) and invest it in starting my own business and learning through real life experience. Getting the chance to pursue my dream and create something from the ground up has been challenging in ways I could have never imagined, but at the same time, very rewarding. Investing in starting my business rather than getting my MBA was the best decision I could have made for myself.” –Tiffany Paul, Sleeper Scarf
“I am studying my degree alongside running my business through the Open University. I started my studies after setting up the business. It’s quite a juggling act, but as I study Business, specializing in the environment I can use my study to improve my business and vice versa.” –Emma ‘The Gecko’ Davidson, Gecko Clothing
“I started my firm several years after obtaining my accounting degree because I wanted to gain real-world experience first. Although a degree in your field is vital for proving credibility with your clients, I believe gaining experience while working with established businesses in your industry is invaluable.
You can find opportunities for improvement, and tips/tricks to making your business unique and outstanding by working with existing companies. My observations while working for CPA firms helped make Saidia Financial Solutions more efficient…and more client-friendly.” –Tai Stewart, Saidia Financial Solutions
“I started building my company while I was in high school, continued to expand the business in undergraduate and grad school and now work full time aka actually in an office rather than my virtual office.
It worked out because of discipline – I was willing to work 12-14 hours a day, skip most of my classes and get friends to send me course notes, and find a few hours to sleep! I wanted to succeed as badly as I wanted to breathe and I was firmly committed in my company’s vision.” –William Bauer, Secaucus
“In my case, I actually started in business right after high school and before going in for my undergraduate studies.
I made the decision to go into business because even at the young age of 17, I realized that being in control of your income as an entrepreneur is a far more likely way to attain true financial freedom.
My decision to become an entrepreneur so early in life has meant however that I’ve had to learn a lot of HARD lessons literally in real time and on streets so to speak.
However, the experience I’ve gained from the school of hard knocks has in fact empowered me to be able to charge much higher fees for services I render for example, that entrepreneurs offering similar solutions (but with less experience to speak of) simply struggle to charge.
The latter has often worked in my favor to secure deals with medium and large enterprises that value experience gained in the field and over extended periods.” –Kunle Olomofe, Adtwist Publishing Company Ltd
“I’ve started my own software company during my last year at the university, there was a lot of ups and downs, but AnyChart.Com has 20 employees with thousands of corporate customers – I think it turned out well.
If I could go back in time I would start to do business earlier, but still never opt to drop out, I would also consider choosing a major more carefully business-wise and I would try to do post-doc in a better school.
It is very common to put business way opposite to education way and say things like Hey, Bill Gates is a drop-out, and, well, he is, but still, in a long-run and broad-scope, the more education you have, the better.” –Timothy Loginov, AnyChart.com
“I started my first business – an ecommerce store in my 2nd year of undergrad. It never took off anywhere, but it inspired me to stick with digital marketing. That was almost 10 years ago. Now I run several successful online sites / stores along with my main business – a digital marketing agency.” –Gabriel Kuperman, Huge Impact Inc.
“I guess it goes without saying since I’m an attorney, but I continued my education after undergrad.
I went to the University of Florida and graduated with a business degree and a classics minor. I then attended the University of Arkansas School of Law on scholarship, where I learned to hunt, fish, and practice law.
I knew that continuing my education and getting a law degree would set me up for a successful career in either law or the corporate field.
I always had an entrepreneurial spirit so leveraging my law degree and starting my own firm was a no brainer.
It has worked out great! I opened the firm with my wife Nicole, who is an attorney also. I always have someone to talk to about various business ideas. I love practicing law and running my own business so I can’t complain!” –Christian Denmon, Denmon & Denmon
“Runbook got its start based on ideas and experiences from when I was working in the automotive industry and my partner, Rob, was a corporate financial consultant. We gained the necessary experience to start our own company when we were employed at big businesses. That’s where we got the idea and passion for founding Runbook because we saw a need that wasn’t being met. We witnessed firsthand the confusion, and occasional chaos, in the financial processes at our accounting departments and what surprised us even more was that no one seemed aware that company finances were barely held together with the equivalent of tape and string. It’s always frightening to start your own company but I’m really happy with the way we did it- now some of the biggest international corporations use our automated financial software solutions.” –Nicole Shultz, Runbook International
“Since I was a kid, I always wanted to work on my own terms and be my own boss. That spirit grew more and more as I graduated with a B.E in Electrical and Electronics. I immediately got a job in a reputed company (Petrofac International) with one of the highest salary package from my batch. I decided to work for 2-3 years, so I could save up money to start my business journey. And I did. I quit my high paying job against all the negative and discouraging inputs given to me by my relatives and friends. I started my company in Dubai, UAE and I have never looked back since. My engineering background has given me the technical and analytical skills to run my business. While the textiles and clothing based business was a saturated market in the UAE, when I entered it, me and my team has managed to permeate and create a room for ourselves and are growing everyday.” –Srajan Mishra, TSI International
“I founded my business, juju salon & organics in 2005 having graduated from Temple University in 1989 with a B.A. in Comparative Religion. After wearing many hats including grad school, paralegal school, paralegal practice and law firm management, I decided to go back to school for hair in 1999. What’s unique in my case is that after graduating from cosmetology school, I continued my paralegal practice for financial purposes and when I opened my salon in 2005, I had barely been ‘behind the chair.’ Fake it ’til you make it!” –Julie Featherman, juju salon & organics
“I started an natural Haircare and skincare line of products my senior year of college. I chose to hold off on continuing my education to acquire my masters to go full time with my business! It was the best decision I could have ever made, C2 is growing more and more everyday. It can get challenging at times as with any start up.” –Robin Butler, Created Coily Inc.
“Having grown up in a family owned business, I knew the entrepreneur life was for me. After completing my undergrad, I worked in a fabulous rotational program with Westinghouse. Upon completing it, I pursued my Masters in Labor and Employment Relations. With this under my belt and encouragement from one of my professors at the time, I started strategic HR, inc. This month we celebrate 20 years of being in business and have grown to 14 employees this month.” –Robin Throckmorton, Strategic HR, Inc.
“I got my undergraduate degree and then, while working at my first full-time permanent job, I went back to college at night to get my MBA. I worked for 6 years before starting my own business. Those years of work proved to be very valuable for the eventual success of the business as I learned how to sell which is the single most important thing for any start-up.” –Rob Bentz, ATS Mobile
“I own Tmuffin, a kids’ playspace in Wilmington NC, as well as a Make Your Perfect, a company that provides coaching, connection and guidance to moms seeking to reconnect with themselves after becoming mothers. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2000 with a major in communication and art, I wasn’t sure what career was perfect for me; instead of pursuing any particular course of education, I followed a few different career paths. It became clear that the best way for me to use my education and skills was to become an entrepreneur, and I started Tmuffin in 2012. My real-world experience in a variety of fields has helped me stay flexible in my business, remain customer-oriented, and scale the business according to what my clients wanted, not according to a strict formula I had learned in school.” –Gaby Merediz, Make Your Perfect
“I started my first real business DURING my undergraduate years. At first I was just putting together coupon books and selling them to fellow students. Then when I graduated, I was able to turn it into a very successful advertising specialties business.” –Barry Maher, Barry Maher & Associates
“I finished my undergraduate and moved out to Wyoming for a year before starting my company. The main reason for doing that is because I knew I wanted to start my own company but I didn’t know exactly what area I wanted to be in. Taking that year off was the best decision I ever made and it’s what helped me figure out what I wanted to do, but also where I wanted to be. I learned more in that year then I did 4 years in college and have continued to learn at that rate since then. It has worked out very well for me and because of it, I feel my future is bright.” –David Henry, Riverpoint Threads
“I started my business–The Brain Domain LLC–within 5 months of graduating college. I decided to wait until after graduating college because I know having a college education increases my credibility. My company is a tutoring company, so I needed to have at least a college degree to be trusted with teaching others (a master’s would be even better and is in my future plans). Having my college degree has been ideal–clients are impressed with my credentials (graduating summa cum laude) and have a high level of trust in me; I don’t believe they would trust me to the same degree if I did not have a college degree.” –Bonnie Treece, The Brain Domain
“It wasn’t until I got married and had kids that I finally decided to start my own business. After a few failed website attempts on the side, I started www.cutcabletoday.com, which has become an overnight success. The topic, ridding yourself of ridiculous cable bills, is one I am passionate about, and one that has resonated with readers. I’m now taking my business full time, but I highly advise young graduates who have the motivation to start as soon as they can. It’s much more difficult to make the leap once you have a family to support.” –Steve Belk, Cut Cable Today
“My name is Shaun Caldwell and I started my first business, Global Marketing Mavens roughly six months after my undergraduate education. We created mobile apps and mobile websites for small retail businesses. As criminology major, I had no experience or education in business and relied almost exclusively on online content (blogs, podcasts, videos, etc.) to guide me. I failed miserably but learned some really important lessons in starting, promoting, and branding a business. Those painful moments eventually lead to a much wiser businessman and the creation of a new company, Charlotte Print, one of Charlotte’s premiere graphic design and printing companies.” –Shaun Caldwell, Charlotte Print
“Jessica Mah founded and launched inDinero.com while studying computer science at UC Berkeley – out of her dorm room. She realized how much a pain in the butt accounting was for small businesses and wanted to solve it like no one else had ever done. She raised $1.2 million and signed up many customers and launched to much fan-fare out of the Y-Combinator accelerator program. However, the Mint.com for business model wasn’t working and she had to lay off staff, move in with her Parents to try and bootstrap the company back to health. In a month, she studied for and passed the IRS Agent testing requirements to better understand accounting and re-launched inDinero.com as an unlimited, full-service accounting services as a software solution for small businesses. In our first full year re-launched, we had $3Million in 2014 revenue and we’re slated to double this year.” –Jessica Mah, inDinero
“I started my business immediately after finishing my undergraduate studies. I believe that it’s best to start a business when you have very little other responsibilities. By living a frugal single life, without mortgage or auto debts, I have been able to focus all my energy and direct my earnings towards the success of my business.
There are many fluctuations in new business. In order to weather the storm, keeping a low overheard on personal financial commitments is vital. It is easier to make the sacrifices that are necessary to achieve goals if you are not taking care of a family. I personally had to sleep at my best friend’s house when times were tough, knowing that I was able to forego my own ideas of comfort hoping it would create a better financial end.” –Jeremy Marcus, Jeremy Marcus Finance
“My name is Brandon Howard and I own a few small businesses. I dropped out of college and started my first company during what would have been the second half of my junior year. That company is called All My Web Needs. It’s an internet marketing agency that began in 2009 as a web design company and now has a staff of workers for services ranging from logo design and brand identity to search engine optimization and social media advertising.
My decision to drop out of school and start my own business came from the idea that I would always have the opportunity to go back to school, but I wouldn’t always have the opportunity to start a business with the same circumstances and resources I had at the time.” –Brandon Howard, All My Web Needs
“There are a lot of big life moments that happened for me right after my undergraduate education (i.e. marriage, buying a house, etc). So, instead of taking on the risk of starting a business during that time, I chose to work for a few years first. To take this route, I felt that it was important to find a job that allowed me to learn new skills while I worked. In this regard, I feel like I was being paid to further my self-taught education. After a few years of doing that, I felt secure enough financially to begin launching my company.” –Chad Hugghins, Flour Mill Media
“I started my own law practice in 2007, which was 10 years after I graduated law school. I think it was really important for me to work at three different law firms in a span of 12 years (2 years as a law clerk) to gain the knowledge and comfort level to hang my own shingle. I was able to not only learn how help clients in the fields of estate planning and corporate law, but I also learned how to run a law practice. I really enjoyed seeing how each attorney treats their clients, how to market to get more clients, and how to deal with hiring and managing employees. In 2003 I joined the organization, the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, which is a national organization dedicated to helping attorneys in the estate planning field. Between the experience I learned firsthand in the law firms, and the support I receive from the Academy, I have been able to build a thriving practice helping hundreds of families preserve their wealth.” –Maritess Bott, Bott & Associates, LTD.
“I started one e-commerce business while still studying Business and It degrees. It failed because delivery costs were higher than expected, so profit margin was low, so we couldn’t afford much advertising, so sales were low.
I learned from that failure and have started a more successful business since finishing studying. This one is Heavenly Hammocks and we use a courier price comparison tool for every sale to minimize delivery costs and maximize profit. The numbers just add up a lot better.
I learned a lot more from experience than from studying, so why wait to gain that experience? Though studying taught me some theoretical knowledge that I probably wouldn’t study on my own initiative.” –Daniel Brady, Heavenly Hammocks