Do you ever feel like you don’t know how to start your business or move it forward? This is a common conversation in our family. Except for an accounting class I took in college (best class I have ever taken), I have not had the opportunity to take many other business classes. For awhile, I thought I would go back and earn my MBA. I love school and would love to be back in the classroom learning. Until I read an important nugget of advice from a fellow business mentor….
The best way to learn how to run a business is to run a business.
Although structured learning is great, it might not be the best option for a busy mom. You might not be able to fit in the classes, apply the skills and pay back the massive debt.
Instead of taking on more debt for your schooling, another option to start learning is to run your own small business. You can use some of the funds that you were thinking about putting towards another degree for seed money to get started. Or you could take a few low cost classes, read some e-books and watch online tutorials to gain some more confidence and skills.
The reality is that the thing you really need to start a business is an idea. One that will blossom, grow and become something. Not more business skills. You can always hire someone with business skills to help out (and you will probably need to), but the entrepreneur community needs you.
The best perk about being an entrepreneur in the 21st century is that the online world has opened up business opportunities for you. Decades ago you used to need a major investment to open a brick and mortar store. If you didn’t have this money in cash, you would need to take out a major loan from the bank that you may or may not have been able to pay back.
Today, the world of entrepreneurism has never been easier. You can start an Etsy shop, Amazon store, drop shipping on Shopify, freelance business, blog, Zazzle shop and many other business models with a few clicks of a mouse. You name it and with a bit of work you can build it. Without another degree.
But you might still feel like you are missing skills to get started. That’s where the world of online learning opportunities comes in. There are lots of great places to explore and learn new business skills. The best part is that you can focus on the things you need and want to learn. You won’t have to learn everything else too (some of those classes that I had to take in college to finish my degree were amusing).
Now, these are not all free. Some of them require a subscription fee or purchase price. The great news, though, is they won’t cost nearly as much as another degree. And you can learn as you start your business too.
Given by some of the world’s best business leaders, TED Talks are a great way to learn and get inspired. As a non-profit dedicated to spreading ideas and information, TED talks are some of the best (and informative) business lectures around. It’s almost like have a guest speaker in your living room every day. And it beats getting up and going to class. Plus, they are free. The talks range in time from 4 to 20 minutes. They cover a wide range of business topics (or other entertaining fun), plus are very inspirational. Perfect to watch during naptime with a cup of coffee.
If there is a specific skill you want to learn or you just want to become better at something (especially in the design and visual arts), Skillshare is the perfect place to go. A fellow designer that I know actually learned all of her graphic design skills from Skillshare classes instead of going the classic college path. The lessons are in a video lecture format. They are taught by seasoned instructors in their fields. The class structure even includes a class discussion and sometimes assignments to showcase your work and response.
I have loved learning new design skills, getting better at social media and exploring whole new interests through Skillshare. Although there’s a subscription fee, if you plan to take a number of classes it is worth it. I have loved the school-like community environment and learning new things all from the comfort of my work space. Plus I always have a place to go when I feel the itch to start learning something new again.
You Tube Videos
Another free and vast resource, there isn’t much that isn’t on YouTube these days. From crazy cat videos to screaming toddlers (not sure why one would want to watch that on a video), YouTube has lots of viewing options. Believe it or not, there is also learning videos snuck in too. Many of your favorite business bloggers have YouTube channels with inspirational and tutorial videos to teach different business skills. I recommend figuring out who you learn from best and subscribing to their specific channel. Because as wonderful (and free) as YouTube is, a lot of time can get lost distracted by the silly cat videos.
I discovered Mentorbox a number of years ago and the idea is brilliant if you don’t like to spend a lot of time searching for books to read. It is a business book club service – kind of like Book of the Month Club, but for entrepreneurs. Their goal is to help you read and learn like a CEO in half the time. This is something that could be quite useful to us busy mamas out there. Each box includes a book and access to exclusive workbooks, cheat sheets, videos and audio recordings. It is one of the few ways I know to get direct access to the business thought leaders of today. If you are trying to cut your learning time in half, this might be the perfect solution.
Lynda Learning Videos
When I first started learning graphic design, I met a fellow Etsy illustrator who had learned all of her illustrating skills from Lynda. She now runs a successful design shop in the mountains around Asheville. Lynda has since been acquired by Linked In and it’s focus is on business videos. You can learn everything you can imagine about business – accounting, marketing, branding. Don’t worry they still have design and photography classes too.
One of my favorite parts of Lynda is that you can choose a learning path that fits your needs. So, if you want to acquire a specific set of skills for your business, such as small business skills or graphic design skills, you can complete the series of classes to do so. For example, you can choose the small business owner path and complete the courses in 15 class hours. It’s sometimes nice to have direction when choosing classes and an end goal in mind of where you want to end up.
In case you are not yet a connoisseur of your local library, many libraries offer small business owners a ton of resources for FREE. You can take online and in person classes, check out audio books, find business books and meet up with other small business owners.
I recommend stopping by and speaking to the librarian about the resources they have. Many times you can’t understand them all just browsing their website. And if there is a business book that you are clamoring to read, check the library first. You might be able to check it out for free.
Oh how I love thee. Score is a fantastic community non-profit focused on helping small business owners get started and build their businesses. Local business leaders offer their time through free mentoring for new and existing business owners.
They also have lots of workshops and classes throughout the year to help you get started and learn business skills. It is a wonderful way to meet fellow business owners and learn more about running your own small business. They also help find the viability in your business idea and get you on the right path forward.
Work for a Small Business
Some of the best learning that I received in entrepreneurism was in my early twenties when I worked for – you guessed it – another small business owner. My first job was as an assistant at a small public relations firm. I hated most hours of that job since it was a lot of filing and secretarial duties. Funny, though, as much as I didn’t like it (mainly the people I was working with), I reference it often today when running my own business. It taught me so much by watching a successful small business owner at work. I just didn’t know that I would be jumping into entrepreneurism at the time.
Sometimes the best learning can come from on the job experience. As Shonda Rhimes said in a Year of Yes!, you need to just do. If you are still dreaming of starting your own business and not ready to start yet, consider joining another small business in their quest to grow. You can learn important business skills and see if you would really like to run your own small business in the future.
Also, many small businesses offer part time hour options. This can be a great option if you have littles at home. And you can even save the money you make as seed money for your own business in the future. This is a much better option than just sitting around and dreaming about that business.
If you learn better in person, check out your local community college for some class options. Anyone in the community can sign up for classes there. They are relatively reasonably priced as long as you are an in state resident. It’s a great way to learn about business directly from a professor and the class work will hold you accountable.
If you don’t want to commit to a full semester class, check to see if they have any weekend lectures or business evenings. A short seminar might be an option to fit your busy schedule.
Although I have used all of these learning methods at one point or another, my favorite has been my class subscription on Skillshare. It was perfect when I had napping babies in the afternoon. I could learn new skills why they napped and apply them to my design work without feeling the stress of taking more college credits.
But now that I have read more about Lynda, I might have to check that out. I like how the website organizes the classes in learning groups, so you have an end goal in mind. And it’s also a great way to take my learning with me, which is so important to staying even more productive as a business mom. Especially in the school pick up line or at my kids sports practices.
Most importantly, though, is to remember that learning is a lifelong skill. It’s something that we should always be doing and enjoying. Not only is it good for our souls, but it is a great example to set for our kids.
So if you haven’t dusted off a book recently or sat through a lecture, it might be time to check out some learning opportunities. They are all around us. And the best part is that you don’t need to pursue an MBA to find them.