Everyone is familiar with college dropouts who made fortunes. Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Richard Branson never received a formal college education. They succeeded in their ventures and changed the perception of formal education in starting a business. In this article, Nate Mell, founder and CEO of Felt+Fat suggests five business ideas for passionate entrepreneurs without a formal degree.
Manufacturers of everything from air conditioning equipment to zip ties rely on independent manufacturers’ representatives to get their products on retail stores and service providers’ shelves. These middle-man companies are often 2-20 person agencies, consisting mostly of salespeople and administrative support.
There is no requirement or expectation of formal education for owners of these manufacturers’ rep businesses. The critical factor is a keen understanding of the products and industry they serve. A typical manufacturers’ rep firm will carry several different products from different manufacturers, being careful to avoid competing products while creating a line card that their customers need.
For nearly all service industry businesses, formal education is not required for launching a company. For pest control providers, plumbers, heating and AC repair, or any service business, it does require skill and knowledge of that trade.
Starting a service business is a logical next step for anyone that has spent more than a few years developing a craft or trade. Working for someone else’s company may not hold their interest for individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit. Building a business based on a service trade they have mastered opens a whole new range of possibilities.
3 Creative Arts
Creative artists such as graphic designers, painters, writers, and musicians can build their own businesses around their art. While formal degrees in the creative arts are common, there is no requirement for an artist to obtain a degree to succeed in their profession.
Growing from a freelance artist selling pieces through a gallery to running their own studio to help other artists is a hallmark desire of successful visual artists. Graphic designers can engage in freelance work for companies that need their services for marketing and advertising campaigns.
Many small businesses do not have the budget to staff a full-time marketing department. These businesses depend on small marketing agencies to promote their products and services, create and distribute press releases, design promotional materials, and a host of other related functions.
A college degree in marketing may look good on a resume, but in the end, it is the portfolio of prior work that will convince a client to go with a marketing firm. Anyone with a knowledge of the industry they serve and the skills and talents needed to create and launch a marketing plan can build a successful marketing business.
Much of today’s manufacturing is done by large companies with endless resources and huge facilities, but not all. Modern manufacturing technology has helped to create a thriving manufacturing cottage industry.
Small manufacturing startups often focus on one relatively obscure product or item. They may specialize in something for which the demand is not significant enough to attract big manufacturers, but the market is considerable enough to allow them to make a profit. For example, the current popularity of restoring old cars, trucks, and tractors has created a need for discontinued replacement parts. Large manufacturers do not see a business case for making these components, but a one-off manufacturer can do well as a specialty supplier.
No formal education is required to start a small manufacturing business. However, some initial investment in equipment and shop space may be necessary.
About Nate Mell
Nathaniel Mell is the founder and CEO of Felt+Fat, a ceramic design and manufacturing studio based in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. In 2013 Nate was asked to design a set of plates for what would become the award-winning restaurant ‘High Street on Market.’ Since then, the Felt and Fat studio and team have grown exponentially through Mell’s leadership to become a go-to manufacturer for design-conscious restaurateurs.