How Learning-as-You-Go Is Part of the Entrepreneur's Journey
What you know is far less valuable than your willingness to teach yourself what you need to know.
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As a college student I am surrounded by people who study a lot. Going to class and keeping up with your workload is important but is it essential to starting your own business? Almost every entrepreneur is self-taught. We see a problem and create a business around fixing the problem. Entrepreneurs are the ones who have a vision and work endlessly to manifest it.
I knew nothing about watches before I started Yes Man watches. I had a vision to craft the best watch strap in the world and did everything I could to make it happen. I learned about watch movements, watch case material, watch batteries, and more. None of this was done in a class—I used the Internet to learn, Googling everything I could and soaking in information like a sponge. Now, if you ask me anything about watches, I will most likely know.
Entrepreneurs teach themselves anything they need to succeed. You may not know how to code, market, draw, develop, outsource or export but the one trait we all share is we can teach ourselves. A few examples of entrepreneurs who have taught themselves the necessary skills to succeed include:
Will Caldwell, founder of Dizzle.com. Two years after graduating from the University of San Diego, Caldwell launched Dizzle, an app that generates word-of-mouth leads for Realtors. He told me Dizzle started while he was still in college. At the time, he didn't know how to code but spent more time in the library learning how to develop apps than he studying for his classes.
By the end of his college career Caldwell could churn out a personalized mobile real estate app in under five minutes. Caldwell wasn't a computer science major but he did have a vision for Dizzle.
Kevin Newburg, founder of Brewcutlery.com. Newburg created Brew Cutlery after seeing a gap in the craft brewery market. "There were a ton of craft breweries popping up in San Diego that also served food so I thought why not combine a bottle opener with utensils," he said.
He started without knowing how to develop the computer aided designs needed for production but, after a few late nights, he had taught himself how to create the CADs. Brew Cutlery was born from Newburg's ability to teach himself engineering skills.
Nick Ramil, founder of RoyalAmericanWines.com. Ramil first went to China six years ago without knowing anything about importing. He knew he wanted to do more than just teach English, so he started learning everything he could about selling products in China. He landed on wine because the growing community of wealthy Chinese enjoyed wine, yet the market was lightly tapped.
Ramil pushed to get meetings with importers, distributors and sales representatives so he could learn the ins-and-outs of bringing a product to China. Royal American Wines is now among the biggest wine brokers in China.
Caldwell, Newburg and Ramil each taught himself the skills needed to make their business a success. If you're looking to learn in order to chase your vision, a good starting point is the Internet. Nowadays, you can learn almost anything online—whether it be coding from codeacademy.com or a simple Youtube video on how to draw a computer aided design.
Another way to learn is from the people around you. Start surrounding yourself with influencers in your industry. Reach out to other entrepreneurs to learn how they started and grew their business. While starting Yes Man watches, I reached out to several other watch company founders. I was surprised that almost all responded with willingness to help me learn, including from their biggest mistakes.
You have the ability to teach yourself anything. Figure out the skills you need to launch your business and start learning. You never know what you're capable of until you try!