The Entrepreneurship Management Stack: A Free Intro Course

Develop your talent stack in entrepreneurial management.

Welcome to the Entrepreneurship Stack. This free online course aims to help students develop their talent stack with an introduction to entrepreneurship. We will cover a general overview and the foundations of entrepreneurship. Then we will dive into changes and opportunities that are taking place in the world of entrepreneurs. We will finish out on how to make strides in building up your entrepreneurship stack.

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This online course will direct students to free videos, articles, and resources. Each section will offer two to three hours of learning material to build up your entrepreneurship management stack.

At the end of the sections, students will get an opportunity to invest in their learning. While this free online course can stand alone as a great introduction to the entrepreneurial world, we encourage each student to keep in mind how they can use this experience to continue building their talent stack and maybe enter into an advanced degree like an MBA.

The World of Entrepreneurship

What Is Entrepreneurship?

Given what we understand about what an entrepreneur is, asking what entrepreneurship is may seem obvious. But it’s always good to lay down some fundamentals. So, entrepreneurship is the act of creating a business and then scaling it up to turn a profit at a basic level. But implied in the term is today is an understanding that the business is creating some kind of transformation. Entrepreneurship is, for many, almost synonymous with innovation. Shaking up the status quo. And often, that can go hand in hand with creating social change as well, though it’s certainly not always the case.  

There are a million ways of entrepreneurship as there are types of businesses. But, for the sake of brevity, let’s go with this blog post that outlines nine large buckets of entrepreneurship. When thinking of your own entrepreneurial goals, which bucket (or buckets) does your business fall into? And is there another bucket you’d also like to be part of?

What Is an Entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur, as a baseline, is someone who starts a business with the goal of making it sustainable and turning a profit – though there are exceptions to this, which we’ll touch on later. For many, becoming an entrepreneur starts with a side hustle. Maybe an online store that sells handmade pottery. Maybe a freelance graphic designer. Maybe a small farm on a few acres. Whatever the business is, the goal is to make it profitable. But entrepreneurs are also some of the most innovative thinkers. They’re able to take problems and turn them into opportunities.  

In this Ted Talk, Linda Zhang discusses why we should teach entrepreneurship in high school. But she also tells the story of her parents and their entrepreneurial endeavor. Their story led her to take on the entrepreneurial mantle by starting a social justice club in high school. We learn from Zhang that while the definition of an entrepreneur centers around the creation and development of a profitable business, its heart is in the need for change. 

As you think about your why as an entrepreneur, what is the change you’re looking for? 

The Mindset

We heard Linda Zhang talk about the entrepreneurial mindset in her Ted Talk in the previous section. There are certain mindsets or ways of thinking that are helpful when it comes to being an entrepreneur. Think about yourself or entrepreneurs you are familiar with. In what ways do entrepreneurs see the world differently? Or what ways of thinking do you feel are needed to be successful as an entrepreneur? 

This podcast episode from Start Yours talks with two entrepreneurs about the entrepreneurial mindset, discussing 10 ways they think about their work. Are these similar to the way you think and go about your entrepreneurial endeavors? In what ways might these ideas be both beneficial and possibly hindering for entrepreneurs? 

Finding the Idea

One of the challenges of entrepreneurs is finding the thing. The idea. For some, they have a need or desire to change something. But for many others, entrepreneurship seems like a way to live life on your terms. Yet, when it looks like there’s nothing new under the sun, it can be a challenge to find where your niche might be. 

There are many ways to decide what your entrepreneurial path might be. Where have you looked so far? Here’s an article with five ideas of places to search

But sometimes, it’s not the idea as much as the “why” that will help you get something started. What’s your why? If you need some help getting there, this Entrepreneur article has some suggestions to help guide you.

Investment Opportunity 

If you’re quite new to the world of entrepreneurship and are looking for some formalized guidance and training to help you get started, consider this five-course Entrepreneurship specialization from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, which you can enroll in through Coursera. These online courses are geared toward beginners and can be done at your own pace.

Foundations of Entrepreneurship

Early Roots

Entrepreneurship can trace its roots back to very early civilizations, as far back as at least 17,000 BCE, with groups of people trading goods between themselves. But as early as 10,000 BCE, the Neolithic Revolution, sometimes referred to as the First Agricultural Revolution, took place. Humans began domesticating animals and plants, shifting from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural ones. This allowed a greater number of people to stay in a single location and led to the development of towns. As humans established far-flung trade routes and created money, the space for entrepreneurs continued to grow. 

Think about some of the major landmarks in human history on a widespread, global level – such as the Neolithic Revolution. What role might entrepreneurs have played in these global human shifts? Then read this article, which covers some of those major periods of human history from an entrepreneurial lens. How do you see the impact of these roots in entrepreneurship today?

Entrepreneurship & Capitalism

The way we understand entrepreneurship today tends to be intertwined with capitalism. So, let’s take a look at how entrepreneurship developed within a capitalist system. The Global Entrepreneurship Institute has a piece that discusses this evolution by examining the ideas from the 1700s – 1900s of Richard Cantillon, Jean-Baptist Say, Joseph Alois Schumpeter, and Adam Smith that helped get us to the definition and understanding of entrepreneurship we have today. As you read, what strikes you about the limits or freedoms these early thinkers had around the possibilities of entrepreneurship? Do you agree with their perspectives on entrepreneurship in the context of today’s world? 

Beyond Capitalism – Social Entrepreneurship

In the 21st century, our concept of entrepreneurship began to push past the bounds of capitalism, to an extent, with the rise of social entrepreneurship. It’s in this realm that we move beyond the idea that an entrepreneurial endeavor must turn a profit. And we saw this in Linda Zhang’s TED Talk with her example of the social justice club she began in high school. 

Within social entrepreneurship, there is a desire to do good, not just make money. As you read this piece on social entrepreneurship, how do you view the distinction between entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship?

Maya Penn is an award-winning philanthropist, activist, and entrepreneur. In this quick video, she discusses how social entrepreneurship (although she just calls it entrepreneurship) has a core of activism. How does your understanding of entrepreneurship change (if at all) when viewed through a lens of activism?

Who Gets to Be an Entrepreneur?

When you think of entrepreneurs, chances are Gates, Zuckerberg, and Bezos are some of the first names that pop into your head. And for a good reason. These men have had a massive impact on the world through their entrepreneurial endeavors. But, as Penn discussed in the video you just watched, entrepreneurship has deep roots in Black America. And it’s important to recognize that for many communities throughout history, entrepreneurship was borne out of necessity. 

The Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs has done a three-part series on Black entrepreneurship in America. You can watch this Black entrepreneurship video first in a series of three webinars. This webinar covers the history of Black entrepreneurship in the United States. What did you learn? How does the idea of Black entrepreneurship change your overall understanding of entrepreneurship?

Investment Opportunity

Pick up a copy of A Brief History of Entrepreneurship by Joe Carlen. This book examines how individuals’ pursuit of profit has had a role in transforming human civilizations by circumventing the norms and rules of their societies. Carlen discusses how the idea of creative destruction, which you read about in the piece from the Global Entrepreneurship Institute, has transformed our societies.

Changes in Entrepreneurship

Going Green

Sustainability has become a buzzword, but it’s also become a focus of many entrepreneurs in recent years. And as the climate crisis becomes more apparent, more individuals and organizations are turning a serious eye toward ways to mitigate environmental impacts. Two major influences in this area tend to be the bottom-line for businesses impacted by climate change and consumers seeking companies that are aligned with their values. Sustainable practices and products are becoming the norm, and it’s evolve or die for many businesses. Thus, the realm of sustainability is ripe for entrepreneurs and their innovations. 

In this panel talk from the International Council for Small Business, the panelists discuss how businesses can implement sustainability (and at what cost) and how a commitment to sustainability can impact a business’ ability to innovate. In addition, the panel looks at sustainability and entrepreneurship at multiple levels of businesses and sectors. Where do you see the role of entrepreneurs when it comes to working with or within businesses on the matter of sustainability? 

If sustainability is a particular area of interest to you as an entrepreneur, spend some time familiarizing yourself with what others are doing in this area? Here’s one set of profiles to get you started. What is the intersection you see between sustainability and the others areas you have experience in? What problems might be solved when introducing sustainability aspects to an idea of yours? What new problems might be introduced?

Internet of Things

There are always going to be many technological trends and changes when it comes to entrepreneurship. But the Internet of Things, or IoT, is one to pay attention to. For one thing, it’s growing at quite a clip. (You can read about that here.) And one of the reasons for that is due to some startups that are making IoT more accessible to more businesses. And the opportunities are endless for new devices that can join IoT – a treasure trove for entrepreneurs. 

Here are 18 IoT trends to pay attention to as an entrepreneur. Which ones are compelling to you? How might IoT serve your ideas and plans, if at all?

Post-COVID Realities

It’s probably old hat by now, but there’s no way to escape the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced changes in all industries. Entrepreneurs, regardless of the field of work, have been affected as well. As the world slowly begins to crawl out of the pandemic, some of those changes will have a long-term impact. Let’s take a look at a few of those from an entrepreneurial lens with this article from Entrepreneur. What impacts are you facing, or do you anticipate, as an entrepreneur as a result of changes from the pandemic?

Look at Things Holistically

These changes we’ve been discussing are not new to the world of entrepreneurship. Many have been around for years, if not decades or longer. But change often takes time, and there’s truth behind the idea of critical mass and tipping points. Likewise, these changes don’t exist in a vacuum. They are influenced and impacted by other changes within and outside of their respective fields or industries. And as an entrepreneur, being able to see parts for the whole and vice versa is vital. With that in mind, let’s examine 16 entrepreneurial trends. Some we’ve already touched on. But regardless, as you read, consider the interplay of these trends. How does looking at these trends as a whole influence how you think about your entrepreneurial endeavors?

Investment Opportunity

One of the necessities of a successful entrepreneurial endeavor is the ability to withstand changes. This entrepreneurship course from MITx offered through EdX explores how to cultivate anti-fragility for entrepreneurial success. This is a self-paced course. You can expect it will take four weeks to complete at two to four hours a week of work.

Opportunities in Entrepreneurship

The Pivot

One of the possibly thrilling aspects of being an entrepreneur is that you are not confined to one thing. A mindset of innovation, creation, and problem-solving means that there’s space to explore, experiment, reroute, or ditch entirely. Plan A didn’t work? Try Plan B. Or Plan K. Or Z. 

And so enters the idea of “the pivot.” Pivoting has come to mean simply a change, which entrepreneurs run into a lot since entrepreneurship is full of uncertainty. There’s immense opportunity to being open to pivoting, changing your plan, or your strategy. 

But how does a pivot work for an entrepreneur with a startup? In this conversation, a Wharton professor, Jacqueline Kirtly, discusses what a pivot is (hint: it’s not just a change) and how an entrepreneurial startup decides to pivot. How does pivoting play with the idea of the entrepreneurial mindset we discussed in the first section? Thinking about your own entrepreneurial endeavor(s), what opportunities might you find with a type of pivot Professor Kirtley discusses?

Choose Your Own Adventure

There are as many entrepreneurs as there are ideas in the world. Start with your why. That’s the thing that will keep you going when the going gets tough. But when it comes to the how, there are so many different opportunities you might try, though what you choose all depends on what’s the best fit for you and your plan. 

Sometimes it can be helpful to brainstorm things like your how. And sometimes, it’s a good plan to have more than one option (especially if you find the need to strategically pivot at some point.) If you have a why but not a how, now’s a great time to spend some time focusing on that aspect of your entrepreneurial planning. If you have a how, how did you arrive at that plan? What’s your Plan B? If you need a little help, motivation, or encouragement, here are 26 ideas for business opportunities and another four that might be useful when it comes to your how. You certainly don’t have to pick one of these options, but may they serve as kindling for your entrepreneurial fire. 

Overcoming Obstacles

For as much opportunity as there is in entrepreneurship, there are as many (or more) challenges. And while challenges can bring about opportunity, they are still, well, challenging to tackle. We’ve talked about mindset already in this course. But some other common challenges include finances, managing the business side of your amazing idea, and the impact on the rest of your life. It’s important to address challenges because they won’t just disappear if you ignore them. And, who knows? Maybe you’ll find some opportunity in the midst. 

This piece covers those four challenges we just listed and some solutions for each. For each of these four buckets, spend some time brainstorming challenges specific to you and some possible solutions for them. The aim here isn’t to fix everything but to acknowledge the challenges you face as an entrepreneur so that they don’t derail you from your goals.

Investment Opportunity

How do you capitalize on your great idea and make it successful? That’s the question for all entrepreneurs. And, while it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, there are certain universal fundamentals. In this entrepreneurship course from Stanford, you’ll learn about the science of entrepreneurship and the skills needed to be entrepreneurial. This course is intended to be completed in two months. It’s an online course, but you do have access to a Stanford teaching assistant during those two months. You can earn one continuing education unit.

Entrepreneurship Stack

Find a Mentor

Having a mentor provides entrepreneurs with a leg up when it comes to success, especially when they are launching their first business. The lack of experience can be one of the greatest hindrances for new entrepreneurs. But one way to build your entrepreneurial stack and overcome the experience hurdle is to connect with a mentor. Having a mentor gives you someone to draw experience from. And they can provide you valuable critique and feedback, which is important when it comes to starting any new venture. 

It can be quite challenging to find yourself the right fit for a mentor, but this article from Entrepreneur lists some helpful places to start looking. Check out a few of their suggestions and draw up a list of questions to ask a potential mentor to help evaluate if they would be a good fit for your personality and your entrepreneurial goals. 

Sharpen Your Soft Skills

Yes, your business acumen is important as an entrepreneur. Of course, you’ll want to be sure you have the basics of business strategy, knowing what’s going on with your finances, and how to market your brand. These are all important aspects of entrepreneurship, and they are hard skills you can learn in any MBA program. Here are some hard skills that entrepreneurs need. How do you feel about your talent stack in these areas?

But your soft skills are just as important. And while they are also often taught in MBA programs, either directly or indirectly, they can often be overlooked in their importance. Jen Glantz is the founder of Bridesmaid for Hire. In this article from Business Insider, she discusses six soft skills that have been incredibly important to her success as an entrepreneur. After you read, analyze your comfort with the six skills she lists. Where do you feel confident? How might you build up the ones you feel less sure of? Are there other soft skills you’d want to add to this list?

Personal Brand

We know that branding is highly important for businesses. It’s everything from your logo to your customer service experience. It helps set you apart from your possible competition. Branding helps establish your values, which, as we’ve discussed, is of particular importance as consumers are more interested than ever in value-driven businesses and social entrepreneurship. 

But a personal brand is just as important as your business brand. Personal branding puts a human face on your business, but it also allows you to leverage your experiences, your successes (and failures), and your goals. And it should be treated as part of your comprehensive business strategy. Your personal brand is how investors, stakeholders, customers see who you are and the value you bring to the table as an entrepreneur. 

Check out the PR Maven Podcast for help and inspiration on building your personal brand. If you’re looking for some place to start, listen to this episode that discusses how to use your Gallup Strengths finder to help develop your personal brand. 

Keep Going

In the end, being an entrepreneur is exhausting and exhilarating. It’s hard. But the world needs people who see problems as opportunities; the world needs entrepreneurs. If you need a little encouragement, this piece from the Harvard Business Review and this TED Talk will hopefully help you feel not alone in the struggle and offer some inspiration to keep going. If you get stuck, find people to support you. Always keep learning. Strive for balance. And don’t forget your why.

Investment Opportunity

Join the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Founded in 1987, EO will match you with a mentor, provide networking events with other entrepreneurs from around the world, and offer learning programs specific to you. 

This is the end of our free online course to help you develop your entrepreneurship stack. We hope it gives you a great foundation to build on.