entrepreneurs that didn't go to college
Image Credit | Entrepreneur

How important is college education for most of us? Can an entrepreneur become successful without a college diploma? Let’s see what secrets remarkable entrepreneurs may reveal to us about the way they survived without college.

Looking back at the experience we gather from the most powerful and famous business people, there’s more often a plus rather than a minus in becoming successful without a college degree.

1. Abraham Lincoln

“All I have learned,I learned from books.” – Abraham Lincoln

One of the 8 U.S. presidents who started as entrepreneurs and the only one who received a patent, Abraham Lincoln never went to college. In fact, he was not the only U.S. president who didn’t do it. 7 more presidents didn’t attend college as well.

One of the most striking confessions is that he valued books more than anything else that can educate. Proving that books were his teachers, Abraham Lincoln also acknowledged that his best friend would be a person who could give him a book he hadn’t read before.

No wonder, every entrepreneur with self-respect should read books. Abraham Lincoln proved that self-education is, actually, what makes us more powerful than we are. The 16th president of the United States invented a tool to lift riverboats over sandbars without a diploma as an evidence of his smartness.

2. Walt Disney

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” –  Walt Disney

The father of Mickey Mouse, the first animated feature film in the world, and Disneyland founder, Walt Disney considered books as a treasure as well. However, because of his inattentiveness and constant drawing, Disney dropped out of high school.

Thus, his stronger motivator was failure. Working on Snow White, one of his most successful projects, Walt lost nearly everything, ran out of money, and almost went down the drain. But that was one of the lessons that helped him become the king of cartoons.

3. Richard Branson

“The best way of learning about anything is by doing.” – Richard Branson

A risk-taker with over a $4 billion fortune and the founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson left school at the age of 16 to start his first business – Student magazine. Despite the fact, that he faced dyslexia during his school years, he managed to take a chance in his hands and do what he wanted.

Although, Richard says he has no secrets to hide, he still confesses that he works hard, smart and does it with fun. The power of doing is a secret ingredient to success, according to Branson.

4. Milton Hershey

“My experience has shown me that the people who are exceptionally good in business aren’t so because of what they know, but because of their insatiable need to know more.” – Milton S. Hershey

The founder of the Hershey Chocolate Corporation and a philanthropist, Milton Hershey changed 6 schools, because his family moved very often and, eventually, he left school after the 4th grade to become an apprentice to a printer. Later, he found his passion in candy making.

His idea about business success is not in knowledge, but in the desire to know. Motivation and curiosity can lead you to the unknown realms and open them with ease, if you are ready to experience changes. The only question is to what extend your need is insatiable.

5. Coco Chanel

“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” – Coco Chanel

Being taught sewing by nuns, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, the only fashion designer to have been put on the 100 most influential people of the 20th century Time magazine’s list, never went to college. Her daring ambitions gave her strength to become one of the most successful designers in the world.

According to her words, the secret of success isn’t in knowing. Quite the opposite – it’s in unawareness. Virtually, it’s unknowing of the fact that failure is a must-be in business. And here’s when fear comes next after you think of a possible fiasco. Without knowing, there’s no fear. Consequently, you’re not afraid to stumble and fall, because you do not know it’s initially programmed.

What unites all these outstanding entrepreneurs? Except for the absence of a college degree? It’s the ability to acknowledge what actually ruled their success. And that’s not college education. Educators, professors and teachers who strive to make college education more proactive and productive can never substitute the inner power of a budding entrepreneur.

Have you met any entrepreneurs who never needed a college degree to become what they are now? Share your experience in the comments.


  1. “The best way of learning about anything is by doing.” – Richard Branson This is practically the motto I roll with ever since. Works for me, apparently worked for Branson too. Great advice.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here