3 Practical Ways an MBA Can Help You Become A Successful Entrepreneur
Aspiring entrepreneurs often believe an MBA isn't necessary in the real world of venture building: Hard work, long hours, trial and error, and a lucky break or two are what bring success.
Serial entrepreneur Charlie Gasmire agrees—but only to a point. Gasmire has an MBA from Baylor, and he says deciding to earn the degree was a purely practical decision that started paying dividends on his career right away, even while he was still a student.
As an entrepreneur, Gasmire is both visionary and pragmatic. He combined the two to make his decision to earn an MBA, and he's glad he did.
"I would encourage [aspiring and current entrepreneurs] to be practical about it," he says. "Start with the end in mind. No one really knows what they fully want to do. But you can have a best guess as to what you're interested in, and then try to work backwards from there. What are some of the qualifications and backgrounds of people in those roles?"
An Early Start as a Small-Business Owner
Gasmire has been passionate about starting companies ever since he was a kid with a lemonade stand and a shoe-shine business. As an undergraduate at Baylor University, he majored in finance and entrepreneurship, and while he was still in school, he launched startup companies in internet marketing, food and ecommerce. Passions for flying and for entrepreneurship itself are behind his two current ventures: Airplane Academy, an educational website and YouTube channel for aspiring pilots, and Boss Club, an entrepreneurship curriculum that helps elementary to high school students start their first business.
Gasmire says building these businesses is the result of his drive to make a difference in the world.
"I'm blessed that those companies get to try to accomplish the difference I want to see in the world. I really want the world to have more Christians, entrepreneurs and pilots. For me, those are the three biggest passions of my life. I get to spend each day trying to help other people go experience those things."
A 'Super-Practical' MBA Program
Gasmire, Baylor MBA '13, started his business program at the Hankamer School of Business right after graduating from college. At the time, he was intrigued with finance—in particular, mergers and acquisitions—and he knew a graduate degree would be required to advance in that field. But entrepreneurship, given his long history of starting ventures, pulled at him just as strongly.
Keeping a level-headed mind and following his own advice to always be practical, Gasmire knew that regardless of the direction he chose an MBA program could prepare him even further. For him, choosing Baylor was a no-brainer. With its John F. Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise—one of the first university-based entrepreneurship centers in the nation—Baylor's MBA program boasts a long history and national reputation for its entrepreneurship focus and is known as a "super-practical" program, he says.
3 Ways an MBA Benefits Entrepreneurs
- It Teaches You to Take a Stand
"The MBA was a helpful exercise in learning how to think critically and take a stand that you might be wrong on," Gasmire says. "That's such a good reflection of life, because as an entrepreneur, you're always going to have to make assumptions, you're always going to have to make decisions, and you're going to be wrong and you're going to have to pivot accordingly."
"When I first became an entrepreneur as an undergrad, I thought the hardest part was learning how to start something. How do you go create something to sell? How does that process even work? All the practical stuff. And I learned in school and shortly thereafter that, honestly, creating something or building a company and being an entrepreneur, that is actually a very easy thing to do."
An MBA taught Gasmire that critical and entrepreneurial thinking were the pivotal aspects of becoming a successful entrepreneur. In his MBA, Gasmire learned that most problems have no right or wrong answer.
"Professors teach you best practices of the way that other people have solved problems and they have you come up with your own solutions. It was 'take a stand and defend that,'" he adds. "I found that to translate very, very well to the business world and to my entrepreneurial journey because that's really what life is. Life is messy, it's ambiguous. The MBA was a nice intro to thinking that way and that really helped me professionally."
- It Offers On-the-Job Learning From Pros in the Field
As part of his MBA, Gasmire studied in a hybrid-class internship while he worked at a venture capital firm. That class was especially noteworthy, as it combined coursework with practical experience at G51 Capital in Austin. Gasmire, who was building a software business at night along with a full MBA course load, soaked it all in.
"By day we were evaluating companies that were trying to raise money, and at night I was trying to raise money myself," he recalls. "Every other Friday the class drove down to Austin to do deal flow, where we'd evaluate and present the companies that we researched for the firm to invest in."
The experience not only gave him practical insights he could apply to the startup business he was working on while pursuing his MBA, but it prepared him for the M&A work he did after graduate school—and for the business building he still does today.
"I highly doubt I would have been able to go lead corporate M&A teams if it weren't for having my MBA and having a year's worth of VC experience," he says. "I did that for six years and that really impacted the things I do now as an entrepreneur."
- It Opens Doors
Gasmire says his Baylor MBA classes and the connections he made were a natural bridge to new opportunities.
"It got me into a career that I wouldn't otherwise have been able to get into, which really helped me as an entrepreneur. It will get you into conversations or doors that you might not otherwise have access to."
"There's something about the way the world works right now, and if you have that piece of paper and you have that MBA, it puts you in a conversation with a lot of companies or with a lot of people that can really help you, whether right then in the moment or years down the road."
Plus, being an entrepreneur with an MBA gives you an edge, Gasmire says.
"It goes back to the MBA, learning to think entrepreneurially, which really just comes down to being able to take self-initiative, being able to find or create opportunities, and then build a way to capture those opportunities."
Are you an entrepreneur wondering if an MBA is right for you? Learn more about the Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation Concentration at the Hankamer School of Business by exploring our detailed program page. Still unsure if an MBA can help you on your path to starting and running successful businesses? Reach out for a one-on-one consultation with our admissions advisers. They can help you determine available options for your best path forward. Complete the form below, and our team will contact you directly.