Yes—But Not Only in School

Can entrepreneurship be taught? The question of whether entrepreneurship is an innate ability or a skill that can be taught has been debated ever since I’ve been involved in the world of small business—and probably much longer. Now, a new study from Babson College found that people who take two or more entrepreneurship courses in college are substantially more likely to start their ownbusinesses than those who take one course or none at all.

The Babson researchers based their findings on analyzing the career paths of 3,755 Babson College alumni who graduated between 1985 and 2009.

Actually writing a business plan was also a strong predictor of students starting businesses, though not as strong as taking two or more courses. Taking one course was less of a predictor than either business plans or multiple courses; the researchers theorize that’s because many students who take one entrepreneurship course then realize they’re not cut out for entrepreneurship.

“We think that entrepreneurship should be taught not only for the production and training of entrepreneurs but also to help students decide if they have the right stuff to be entrepreneurs before they embark on careers for which they may be ill-suited,” the researchers concluded.

I’m not surprised by this new evidence that taking entrepreneurship classes can help you start a business. But I also believe that there needs to be a balance between classroom learning and real-world experience and applications. Fortunately, most of today’s entrepreneurship programs bring in real-world experience, whether by having actual entrepreneurs teach the classes or having students get involved in actual, entrepreneurial businesses.

Of course, even veteran business owners have areas where they could stand a little “learning.” If the thought of going back to school to start a business (or improve the one you’ve got) sounds overwhelming, there’s some good news: The classroom isn’t the only place where you can gain an entrepreneurial education. Just visit the SCORE website to get matched with a Mentor who’s “been there” and can give you advice and support—online or off, 24/7.

About the Author(s)

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship and

CEO, GrowBiz Media

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