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How Can an MBA Help You as an Entrepreneur?

November 15, 2022
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At first glance, it may seem counterintuitive for an entrepreneur to seek an MBA. After all, isn’t thinking outside the box a key part of the entrepreneur mindset? Is an MBA worth it for entrepreneurs? There are many ways that attending an accredited MBA school can help make your business idea a successful reality. Read on for a discussion of what it takes to be successful and how the best schools for entrepreneurs help you develop those qualities and skills.

What Is an Entrepreneur?

Mirriam-Webster says an entrepreneur is someonewho organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”1 A more complete picture includes a description of the successful entrepreneur's personality. Many sources cite a combination of discipline, creativity, passion, confidence, and resilience as key to the entrepreneurial spirit.

“In entrepreneurship, we talk about the importance of being able to adapt and pivot to obstacles and harsh feedback,” said Peter Rowan in a 2022 interview. “You just have to absorb what is useful and keep going.2

Rowan is the Lawrence K Johnson Chair in Entrepreneurship and the Executive Director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (IEC) at the Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University. He has both lived and studied the life of an entrepreneur. Before beginning his academic career, he was Corporate Vice President of New Ventures at Coinstar, Inc. for nine years.

Skills That Successful Entrepreneurs Develop

In addition to the personal qualities that keep an entrepreneur moving forward, these core skills help aspiring entrepreneurs succeed:

  • Leadership and interpersonal skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Effective communication
  • Risk analysis

All these skills can be developed. The best business schools for entrepreneurs create opportunities for students to learn about and practice them while cultivating the bedrock entrepreneur characteristics that will fuel their success.

An MBA Can Be the Most Efficient Way to Learn

To succeed in business, you need to master a combination of soft skills and knowledge about subjects including finance and fundraising, economics, business law and legal structures, marketing strategies, business planning, and more. Working through a well-designed business curriculum can be a far more efficient and effective use of your time than trying to learn these skills on the job.

Hone Business Development Skills at the IEC

Seattle U’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center is purpose-built to help students and alumni develop entrepreneurial skills and networks. The center's programs include Founder Fridays, “fireside chat” events with Seattle area entrepreneurs sharing their professional journeys and insights with students, and RAMP-up. The acronym stands for Resource Amplification and Management Program, which offers students the opportunity to work with coaches in sustained collaboration, supporting underserved local businesses.

The IEC Offers Financial and Expert Help for Your Startup

Two IEC programs, the Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition and the Jones Progress Awards, offer direct support to student and alumni entrepreneurs. Professor Harriet Stephenson, now retired, founded the IEC in 1989 and started the student business plan competition in 1998. The competition was later named in her honor and is often referred to as the HSBPC.

In the 25 years since its creation, the competition has helped launch multimillion-dollar businesses in healthcare, technology, and consumer goods, among others. The competition also supports business plans for non-profit organizations, corporate entrepreneurship, and social enterprise. Competition finalists attend development workshops and train with hand-picked coaches to prepare their final pitch, given at a well-attended public event capping the competition. The winning entrants get $10,000 to invest in their budding business, in addition to the invaluable entrepreneur education gained along the way.

The Jones Progress Awards offer Seattle U alumni and graduating students support through grant funds, mentoring, and connections with members of the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem. The six-month startup accelerator program pairs its candidates with expert coaches who help them set and work toward stretch business goals. At the program's end, the candidates judged to have most successfully met key criteria and milestones receive a $10,000 award.

Entrepreneur Example from the Harriet Stephenson Business Plan

In 2007, three Seattle U students and a fourth collaborator won the HSBPC with their presentation for Vera Whole Health, a service delivering more streamlined and cost-effective care based on a monthly, per-person membership fee. The company grew into a ten-state network of healthcare centers. In July 2021, a private equity firm bought a majority stake in Vera Whole Health, which it valued at $400 million.3

Every Entrepreneur Needs a Network

The road to success for entrepreneurs can be long and bumpy. Building relationships with a network of advisors, fellow entrepreneurs, and supporting businesses can smooth many bumps and help you overcome the more significant obstacles.

Online MBA students at Seattle U’s Albers School have access to a powerful global network of tech-forward business leaders through their coursework, the IEC, the Albers Mentor Program, and other initiatives. Learn more about the Albers online student experience.

What Challenges Do Entrepreneurs Face?

A simple listing of entrepreneurs' challenges in launching and growing their businesses drives home the need for a strong support network. Struggles can be technical, environmental, financial, or even existential. Common challenges include:

  • Creating and implementing a marketing strategy
  • Managing sales processes and business operations
  • Raising capital, creating budgets, and managing cash flow
  • Hiring and retaining employees
  • Managing business growth
  • Managing time and delegating tasks
  • Handling failure and overcoming self-doubt
  • Creating work-life balance

In addition to helping you overcome challenges, your network can spark new ideas and ways of working, helping you thrive in these fast-moving times.

How Has Entrepreneurship Evolved in 2022?

IEC Director Rowe said that technology and the ease of information access have changed how entrepreneurs develop their businesses. “​​Recently, when I was recruiting a judge for the [business plan] competition, I asked them when was the last time they read a business plan and they nearly rolled their eyes. This is one of the major ways that entrepreneurship has evolved. It used to be linear.”

He said the process has become more free-form. “Now, it is all about traction and social proof. Can you find a real problem out there that needs to be solved? Can you identify a constituency that wants that problem solved so badly they are willing to pay for a solution? If yes, you are on your way.”

Generation Z Consumers Are Driving Change

Like Millennials, Generation Z consumers want the opportunity to co-create products and services. Inviting them into the process is one of the keys to growing brand loyalty among this large, increasingly influential consumer segment.4

As the first digital natives, Gen Z consumers are also skeptical and highly engaged. They want to align with brands that authentically share their values and are good corporate citizens.5

Focus on the Triple Bottom Line for Sustainable Success

Increasingly, successful companies focus on their social and environmental impact well as on creating profits. This triple bottom line orientation resonates with Generation Z consumers, is influential in the Seattle area business ecosphere, and is deeply ingrained in the values-centered business program at Seattle University's Albers School.

In the Seattle U online MBA program, we help you find your personal success through holistic, values-centered education. Our rigorous, on-point coursework is flexibly delivered, so you can learn on your schedule and keep up with your other commitments.

We can connect you with business leaders who have walked the entrepreneurial path to success through our alumni network, the IEC, and other support programs. Talk with an admissions advisor about how we can help you build your business and your future.