Steve Jobs. Martha Stewart. Bill Gates. Oprah Winfrey. For every struck-it-rich entrepreneur out there, there are countless other entrepreneurs who simply had a solid idea and enough business savvy to carve out a satisfying life.
The entrepreneurial spirit is a cornerstone of America's economy. Dane Stangle, Vice President of Research and Policy for the Kauffman Foundation, calls entrepreneurship "one of the most important activities of modern economic life."
It takes a lot of knowledge to start and run your own business. Many people don't understand how an entrepreneurship program differs from a standard degree in business. It boils down to teaching you how to build business instead of working within an established company. College entrepreneurship programs act as idea incubators for the next generation of American business owners. According to the Kauffman Foundation, the percentage of new entrepreneurs with college degrees has risen nearly ten percentage points to 33 percent since 1997.
Curious about what a college entrepreneurship program could teach you? Wondering where you could even find one or whether you could fit classes into your schedule? Read on to find out more.
Online Entrepreneurship Degrees
There are key differences in the kinds of online degrees in entrepreneurship programs available. Each degree offers students a set of skills and business education that is tailored toward a specific outcome.
Online Associate Degree in Entrepreneurship
The Associate of Applied Science in Entrepreneurship is often targeted at students who are, or are looking to become, small business owners. In fact, many degree programs are specifically titled Small Business Entrepreneurship. The courses are intended to introduce basic business principals through courses such as basic accounting and principles of marketing. Entrepreneurship students can expect to learn hands-on skills, such as how to use Microsoft Office or QuickBooks, along with concepts like how to craft a marketing plan or launch a successful sales pitch. A typical associate degree program takes two years to complete.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Entrepreneurship
An online Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship is rooted in fundamental principles of business education. Students can expect to take core business courses such as accounting, business law, statistics, organizational behavior, marketing and business communication. They also learn skills specific to entrepreneurship including how to write a business plan, supply chain management and B2B marketing. A bachelor's degree in entrepreneurship is appropriate for someone looking to launch a small, mid-sized or even large-scale venture and also for business students who intend to put their entrepreneurial skills to work for in an established corporation. A bachelor's degree is usually completed in four years.
Online Master's Degree in Entrepreneurship
The Master of Science in Entrepreneurship (MSE) is a business master's degree that specifically focuses in on entrepreneurial education. Students take courses in traditional business fundamentals such as finance and economics, but even those core courses are delivered with an eye to building entrepreneurial skills and thinking. Courses such as venture finance and private equity teach students not only how to manage capital, but how to find it and maximize it while launching a new business. Courses with titles like innovation or entrepreneurial creativity aim to hone idea generation and development. Some programs are targeted toward technology or engineering, while others may explore global or social entrepreneurship. Programs are designed to produce graduates who will be ready to launch their own ventures. Master's degree programs generally take between two and three years to complete.
Online MBA in Entrepreneurship
The best way to think about the MBA in Entrepreneurship is as a business management degree with an entrepreneurial flavor. The Master of Science in Entrepreneurship is going to go further in-depth in topics specific to entrepreneurship, while the MBA is really geared toward preparing graduates for management-level positions within existing corporations or organizations. In those positions, MBA graduates might take on entrepreneurial roles for their organizations. Typical MBA coursework includes corporate finance, microeconomics, organizational leadership, risk management and ethics. The entrepreneurial concentration will be tacked on to the core business curriculum and may include classes in venture capital, small business management, innovation and entrepreneurial marketing. MBA programs tend to take two to three years to complete.
Online Colleges for a Bachelor's in Entrepreneurship
In addition to its top ten, OnlineColleges researched other schools offering bachelor's degrees in entrepreneurship. Here are four online bachelor's degree programs to consider.
- Northwood University
In addition to its online Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship, Northwood University offers an Entrepreneur-in-Residence program and a mentor program. The curriculum progresses from courses in business principles, such as finance and marketing, to more advanced courses that address building a business plan and understanding the fundamentals of American enterprise.
- Davenport University
Davenport offers two avenues to earn an online bachelor's degree in entrepreneurship. Although both are Bachelor of Business Administration degrees, one is in general business and one is in management. Within each of those programs, students can opt for an entrepreneurship concentration. They will take classes in business planning for entrepreneurs, creativity and innovation, marketing of services, pricing concepts and methods, and digital marketing.
- Grand Canyon University
This school offers an entirely online Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurial Studies through its Colangelo College of Business. Coursework is designed to prepare graduates for careers in corporate business or consulting, as well as launching their own business or managing a start-up. In addition to general education courses, entrepreneurship students take a core of courses that include business and entrepreneurship fundamentals.
- Lynn University
Lynn University has a Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship program with both three-year and four-year degree tracks, although the time needed to complete a program can vary by student. As part of its program, Lynn students have the opportunity to participate in an internship as well as work on a real-world project for an established company. Lynn also offers an online MBA in Entrepreneurial Management.
Starting and Running Your Own Small Business
You've got your great business idea. But, what's next?
Starting a successful business requires a good deal of planning -- even more so if you will be borrowing money to launch your big idea. A degree in entrepreneurship can give you the kind of hands-on skills and background knowledge that can make the difference for your small business.
5 Steps to Starting Your Small Business
- Make Your Plan. Once you've honed your big business idea, it's hard not to want to dive right in. However, there's a reason to take it slowly. Building a solid business plan is the cornerstone of a successful business adventure. A business plan is like a road map for where you want to take your company. A solid plan will take into account all sorts of variables, from finances to inventory storage. That is why entrepreneurship programs spend a lot of time helping students craft and refine their business plans.
- Get Structured. Are you going to be a single proprietor? Is it a partnership? An LLC? Will you pay yourself a salary? Will you have a board of directors? Figuring out how your company will be organized and function is important because of the tax implications. It's also a crucial part of making things run smoothly. It's crucial for you and your employees or partners to understand each person's role and responsibilities -- not just to establish a chain of command, but to keep things on track and keep the lines of communication open.
- Set Up Your Systems. Whether you plan to use QuickBooks or hire a blue chip accounting firm, getting your systems in place is another important front-end task. You'll want to think through systems like payroll, inventory and accounting. This may also spur you to make decisions about staffing. Will it be more efficient to hire someone to handle things in-house or farm it out? If you will be financing your business with a loan, it is imperative that you set up a solid system for repaying that debt.
- Go Legit. There is a lot of paperwork involved in starting up a business. You'll need to register your business with the federal and state government. You’ll also need to apply for any necessary permits and licenses, and set up articles of incorporation or secure a tax identification number. If you are applying for a loan, make sure all of your documents are in order.
- Build Your Brand. You don't have to wait until your doors are open to start building buzz about your new business. A smart and savvy marketing strategy will begin to build the excitement or pique the interest that can help you establish your customer base. Some businesses greatly benefit from a strong web and social media presence, as well as old fashioned word of mouth. Entrepreneurship programs can introduce you to strategies such as guerilla marketing.
5 Tips to Keep Your Business Running Smoothly
Launching your business is one thing. Maintaining it requires a whole separate skill set.
- Stick To Your Plan. Remember that business plan? Well, don't just stick it in a drawer. This is your road map to success, so use it. Make it a point to periodically go back over it. See how well your reality is living up to your expectations. Are you meeting your benchmarks? Your business plan is a yardstick to measure your progress and keep you on track. Treat it like a living document and make adjustments as needed.
- Manage Your Employees. Good employees can make or break your business, so make cultivating top-notch employees a top priority. Managing employees well includes offering incentives that promote the kind of behavior you want: good customer service, hard work and honesty. It's important for you to hold your employees to a high standard. Warren Buffett is often quoted as saying, "Lose money for the firm and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless."
- Build On Your Brand. Maybe you had a lot of great buzz in the beginning, but now it's more like a gentle hum. On the other hand, perhaps you have a new product to offer. Building on your initial success is key to staying in business. Creating both long term and short term marketing plans will help keep your customers coming in the door.
- Stay On Top Of Your Finances. When it comes to money, you need to know what you have coming in and what you have going out. Take care of your core costs first: salaries, taxes and loan repayment. Then, you can look at investing anything left over in your business. Major investments like new equipment or marketing ventures can have positive pay offs. However, it is important to calculate your projected ROI before you plunk down your hard earned money or take out a loan.
- Stay Focused. While it's fun to experiment and exciting to explore new opportunities, make sure you stay focused on what has made your business successful in the first place. If you find yourself losing interest in your adventure, it's time to either recommit yourself or begin making plans to transition out of a leadership role.