Starting a business is a complex undertaking with many factors to weigh, including market research, business structure, registration, and permitting.
You don't need to pursue a bachelor's in entrepreneurship or master of business administration to consider launching a business as a student. While some students use virtual internships or alternatives to gain experience and make valuable professional connections, others aim to launch businesses — big or small.
Whether you're curious about life as your own boss or know exactly what you want to do, this list of recommended readings can help make your vision of starting your own business into a reality.
Books Recommendations for Entrepreneurs
So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
by Cal Newport
"If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset ("what can the world offer me?") and instead adopt the craftsman mindset ("what can I offer the world?")." —Cal Newport
Newport argues that the advice to "follow your passion" is unhelpful and recommends instead that you invest in rare and valuable skills — what Newport calls "career capital" — based on the industry you're involved in. Then, he says, you can invest your career capital into obtaining your dream career. "So Good They Can't Ignore You" is a great read for anyone willing to explore alternatives to passion projects as a pathway to professional success and personal satisfaction.
The Road to Character
by David Brooks
"Change happens from the outside in. It is through the exercise of drill that a person becomes self-regulating. It is through the expression of courtesy that a person becomes polite. It is through the resistance to fear that a person develops courage. It is through the control of facial expressions that one becomes sober. The act precedes the virtue." —David Brooks
In his exploration of how to build character, Brooks argues that since "self-control is a muscle that tires easily, it is much better to avoid temptation in the first place rather than try to resist it once it arises." He uses this somewhat counterintuitive approach to creating the life you want to live by exploring the lives of diverse leaders who acted with integrity. "The Road to Character" is a good choice for entrepreneurs willing to look inward and commit to self-improvement.
The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage
by Daymond John
"Let's face it, when you're up against all odds, when you've exhausted every opportunity, when you're down to your last dime… that's when you've got no choice but to succeed. You're out of options, man." —Daymond John
John looks on the bright side of brokeness and questions the value of starting off with investors or security. With case studies including a scholarship startup, a fashion designer, and a cupcake bakery, John argues that having nothing to lose gives entrepreneurs the freedom to take full advantage of the "passion, ingenuity, and determination" he argues is necessary for an entrepreneur to thrive. "The Power of Broke" is an inspirational read for any entrepreneur thinking of starting a business with nothing but a good idea and strength of will.
Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success
by John C. Maxwell
"The essence of man is imperfection. Know that you're going to make mistakes. The fellow who never makes a mistake takes his orders from one who does. Wake up and realize this: Failure is simply a price we pay to achieve success." —John C. Maxwell
Instead of showing young entrepreneurs how to find success, Maxwell focuses on the reality that most success depends on our capacity to accept, learn from, and move on from failure. By drawing on leadership studies and case studies of politicians, business people, and other leaders, Maxwell shows us how to not only learn from our mistakes but also use this adversity to continue to grow. "Failing Forward" is a great read for any young entrepreneur preparing for the possibility of failure without losing sight of their long-term goals.
Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
by Atul Gawande
"...we need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies. And there is such a strategy — though it will seem almost ridiculous in its simplicity… It is a checklist." —Atul Gawande
Gawande is a surgeon and public health professional who uses his experience in the operating room, along with examples from rock stars and airline pilots, to demonstrate how the humble checklist can be a key tool for improving outcomes. Entrepreneurs who understand how much needs to be done to launch a business and want to tackle it all strategically and effectively should read "The Checklist Manifesto."
Beyond Books: Resource Hubs at Local Libraries
If your local library does not already own these books, they might be willing to purchase a copy or borrow it on your behalf from another institution. No matter where you're located, your local library system or your college or university's library likely maintains a resource section dedicated to small businesses.
These resource guides can help you find newly-released publications and helpful answers to entrepreneurial questions. For instance, the New York Public Library provides a series of research and planning guides for marketing, digital marketing, and advertising, while the Dallas Business Resource and Information Network (BRAIN) offers resources to help take your business idea from conceptualization (including quizzes and checklists) through startup to growth and improved operations.
If your library does not have a robust entrepreneurship section, not all is lost. Many larger public library systems allow visitors to access their archives on a temporary basis. The New York Public Library, for example, allows patrons outside the New York City area to request a library card that provides access to online resources for one month, free of charge.
Major public libraries and their small business and entrepreneur resource offerings include:
- Los Angeles Public Library's Small Business Entrepreneurship Resource Center
- Denver Public Library's Small Business Resources
- Dallas BRAIN for Small Businesses
- Chicago Public Library's Resources for Jobs & Small Business
- New York Public Library's Small Business Resource Center
- Brooklyn Public Library's Small Business & Entrepreneur Services
Organizations for Student Entrepreneurs
While some students launch businesses entirely on their own, you don't have to go it alone. Many organizations meet locally or virtually to share resources, provide lessons, develop best practices, and help you along the way in launching your business idea. Organizations for student entrepreneurs include:
- American Business Women's Association ABWA dates back to 1949 and represents women working in business. The association brings together businesswomen and offers professional development, education, leadership, and networking opportunities. For example, AWBA hosts over 5,000 business and networking meetings every year across the country. Members can also participate in partnership and outreach opportunities.
- Black Founders Established in 2011, Black Founders promotes Black entrepreneurship and provides professional advice, mentorship opportunities, and funding for Black entrepreneurs and business owners, specifically in the technology field. The organization encourages tech entrepreneurship, promotes economic growth for Black entrepreneurs, and inspires innovation. Black Founders offers educational programs and conferences.
- Code2040 Code2040 promotes racial equity and inclusion in tech by connecting Black and Latino/a tech professionals with mentorship opportunities, companies, and peers. The organization identifies early-career tech talent, including college students and technologists in their first jobs. Code2040's programs and engagement opportunities build partnerships to help Black and Latino/a professionals advance in the tech industry.
- Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization This organization, devoted to college entrepreneurs founding new businesses, hosts over 250 local chapters. CEO emphasizes networking with student peers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders. Its resources include financial literacy tools, legal advice, marketing resources, and crowd-funding equity sharing tools.
- Entrepreneurs' Organization EO unites 14,000 entrepreneurs and business leaders with a focus on mentorship and networking. The organization offers collaborative learning opportunities through its forums, global events with learning programs, and local chapter events to connect with local leaders. EO's executive education programs help young entrepreneurs launch their businesses.
- National Association of Women Business Owners Founded in 1975, NAWBO represents more than 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States. The association offers educational resources, including business tools and a member directory. Members can also attend events like the virtual leadership academy or business conferences.
- Opportunity Hub Founded in 2013, OHUB brings together technology, startups, and venture capital to build a platform that offers everyone access to multi-generational wealth creation. The organization hosts podcasts, puts on events with networking opportunities, and offers classes to help entrepreneurs launch businesses. Readers can also check out the blog for more information about OHUB and wealth building.
- Techstars Foundation The Techstars Foundation brings together entrepreneurs with investors and corporations. The foundation's accelerator program promotes innovation and encourages gender and racial diversity in tech. Techstars Foundation encourages inclusivity in the tech entrepreneur community through its programs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Student Entrepreneurship?
Student entrepreneurship is about high school and college students developing business ideas, raising capital, and launching new business ventures. Many organizations help students pursue entrepreneurship.
How Do You Become a Student Entrepreneur?
Students can pursue entrepreneurship through several paths. Some learners study business and entrepreneurship as part of their degrees, while others build entrepreneurial skills primarily outside of the classroom. Organizations for student entrepreneurs, books about entrepreneurship, and mentorship programs can all help students develop business ideas and launch new ventures.
What Books Should Entrepreneurs Read?
Prospective entrepreneurs should read books on entrepreneurial skills, memoirs from successful entrepreneurs, and resource guides about finance and business startups. Entrepreneurs benefit the most from books designed to increase their business knowledge and build the soft skills that help entrepreneurs succeed. For example, book recommendations for entrepreneurs explore interpersonal communication, venture capital, and self-improvement.
What To Study if You Want To Become an Entrepreneur?
The best degrees for entrepreneurs include business, finance, marketing, and management. Some colleges offer a major or concentration in entrepreneurship, which focuses on the skills required for successful business ventures. Depending on their field, entrepreneurs may also major in technology, education, communication, or engineering. A computer science degree, for example, helps tech entrepreneurs.
Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University and earned tenure as a history professor at the University of Louisville. An award-winning historian and writer, Genevieve has published multiple scholarly articles and a book with the University of Chicago Press. She currently works as a freelance writer and consultant.
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