Let’s face it: a traditional four year degree isn’t for everyone. Some people just want to get started working toward their dream of owning their own company, without the hassles of attaining a general education, and without the long wait for graduation. If you have an idea for your business and you’re not interested in a degree, there are several steps toward starting your own company that need to be followed to ensure success. We poured over dozens of stories of some of the most successful entrepreneurs, and developed these four steps toward attaining your goal.
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Tip #1: Find a Mentor
If you’re skipping over a general education, it’s helpful to find a mentor who’s been through the process and can help guide you through the earliest stages. One of the most difficult steps is coming up with a strong business plan that will sustain your company through the development, growth, and establishment phases of entrepreneurship. A mentor, preferably someone who started a company you admire, will give you advice and help you from going astray.
Tip #2: Learn How to Develop Your Business Plan
It’s not enough to have a great idea for a business, you have to come up with a plan and know exactly how much money you’ll need to get started, what your expected expenses will be, and every detail down to the exact pricing of your product. In order to move on to the next step, every detail should be covered to convince financiers that you know what you’re doing. This becomes especially important without a degree, as you’ll have to show that you’re self-taught in the classes you would have taken in college, like accounting, business strategy, and advertising. Develop your business plan, type it up, and organize it into an easy-to-read document you can present in the next step.
Tip #3: Find Ways of Financing
Here’s the most difficult step, convincing someone with money to invest in your idea. Whether you’re contacting a bank, a small business investor, or a friend or relative, showing that you’ve thought out your business plan, organized it, and know exactly how much you’re going to need, is essential in convincing them to finance you. Dress nice, present your plan, and know every detail. In today’s economic climate, it’s much easier than before to gain a small business loan on a great idea and a great plan, especially if you’re thought out everything involved, including where you’re business will be located and who your customer base will be. If you can show proof that your business will succeed and become profitable, and that you’ll be able to repay your loan, you’ll have a surprising amount of success finding the funding that will get you started.
Tip #4: Proceed with Caution
Once your plan is in place and you’ve secured financing, you’re ready to get started. Don’t rush anything, take precautions, and remember that this could be your one chance to strike it big in the industry of your choice. You should be doing everything you can to buzz up your opening, from distributing fliers, to local advertising in newspapers, to creating a website for your business. It should be obvious that the more people who hear about you the better, so attend trade shows if you can, and send out direct mail. Remember that creating a business takes time, so don’t be discouraged if your company doesn’t take off immediately. Focus on your long term goals, ensure your short term goals are reasonable and achievable.
People Who’ve Started a Business without a College Degree
Entrepreneur #1: Steve Madden
Steve Madden is the CEO of Steve Madden, Ltd., a popular footwear company. Always interested in style, Madden grew up in Long Island City, NY, and began his career in 1990 with $1,100, by selling his shoes out of the trunk of his car. After the style caught on, Madden saved up and opened his first store. Today, he’s worth over $1.23 billion, with over a hundred stores across the country.
Entrepreneur #2: David Ogilvy
Known as the father of modern advertising, Ogilvy began his career from modest roots. After leaving Oxford university because he couldn’t afford it, Ogilvy began selling AGA cooking stoves door to door. He was so good at it that his employer asked him to write up a manual to show other employees. This manual ended up in the hands of his future mentor, who showed it to a London advertising agency. Impressed, they hired Ogilvy, where he worked his way up, eventually started his own company, and changed the way we think of advertising today.
Entrepreneur #3: Vidal Sassoon
You probably recognize this name. For years, Sassoon trained under Raymond Bessone in his salon in Mayfair. After he gained enough experience, Sassoon opened his own salon with the goal of creating simpler, more efficient haircuts. His most famous cut was Mia Farrow’s pixie for the film Rosemary’s Baby. When his salon and haircuts became a big hit, Sassoon saw an opening in the beauty market. He developed his own line of hair products, and marketed them toward high-end beauty salons across the country, establishing his brand and name recognition.
Entrepreneur #4: Shawn Fanning
You may not recognize the name, but you’ll certainly recognize the product. After Fanning dropped out of Northeastern in 1999, he developed a peer to peer sharing network he called Napster. Napster initially functioned in a legal gray zone until lawsuits brought the file sharing service down. With his company, Fanning heralded the final days of the physical medium music file, and programs such as Pandora and Spotify quickly filled in Napster’s place. Fanning is currently worth an estimated $7.9 million from royalties after making Napster a payment service.
Entrepreneur #5: Kevin Rose
After dropping out of college after only two years, this technological genius started up several internet companies, including digg.com, a technology link website. Digg.com quickly came immensely popular, attracting millions of users each month. Always on the lookout for new uses for websites, Rose founded several podcasts and became famous for his appearances. After the success of several of his alternative sites, he became a venture partner at Google Ventures, where he helps acquire new technologies for the company.