Is An MBA A Waste Of Time For Entrepreneurs? Read This Mom’s Surprising Advice


By Monica Lowry

Entrepreneurship is an increasingly trendy topic these days. Along with conversations about people starting their own businesses, there’s a great deal of debate about the usefulness of MBAs (and other graduate degrees). The thinking, among many, is that an MBA might be useful for someone looking to join an existing company and rise in the ranks, but for an individual who wants to start his or her own company, it’s essentially a massive waste of time and money.

I’d never dispute this opinion universally, because I’m certain there are plenty of savvy entrepreneurs who have found success without MBAs, and thus without the significant debts associated with graduate school education! But at the same time—as someone with some experience in exploring entrepreneurship at a young age—I have a lot to say in support of the MBA as well.

As a woman who became a mother shortly following my college graduation, graduate school was not an immediate option for me. However, after seeing some of the struggles my husband had getting his (thankfully now-successful) start-up off the ground, I decided to gradually pursue higher education in business so as to better position myself to pursue my own entrepreneurial endeavors.


Here’s how the MBA I ended up with has helped me in my career. The main benefit of the extra education experience has been the chance to witness and learn from other people with similar goals and pursuits. Granted, as a mother raising a young girl, I haven’t had the most conventional graduate school experience. And yet, the case studies presented as learning material, and the peers one can connect with during an MBA education, can be beyond eye opening.

I’ve actually done some reading around the web to see what benefits others see in MBA education for entrepreneurs. An article on the subject posted at LinkedIn also pointed to the ability to “learn from role models via case studies, frameworks, and peers” as the chief benefit. I couldn’t agree more. Seeing so many examples of business models, start-up concepts, and peer ideas was both refreshing (in that you can see how much difficulty people have with the process) and encouraging (in that you can learn what works best).


Another aspect of the MBA experience I feel obliged to highlight is one that actually has to do with the very beginning—as in, the application and school selection process. When I was looking into and applying to different MBA programs I sought help wherever I could find it, in terms of how to structure a winning application, tips for writing an application essay, etc. In doing so I came across a blog post at Menlo Coaching about how to write about failures and weaknesses.

The author, Alice van Harten, who runs the site and its program, provided all kinds of valuable information about being honest when discussing past failures. Owning up to shortcomings and focusing on how a failure can inspire a success rather than spinning a pseudo-weakness into a strength, as so many (including yours truly) might have a habit of doing! This is clearly a helpful tip when it comes to MBA application essays, but I’ve also found it to be invaluable life experience in diving into entrepreneurship. The ability to recognize, assess, and improve upon a failure is something you’re forced to develop while applying to and going through an MBA program, and it’s incredibly helpful as you start to develop your business.


So far I’ve discussed intangible benefits of an MBA: observation of peers and case studies, learning to assess yourself, and so on. But I don’t want to leave the impression that the actual formal education of an MBA isn’t important. As I said before, there are without a doubt many successful entrepreneurs who never needed an MBA education. But at the same time, the skills I’ve learned through courses and instruction are already proving vital for me in my early days of entrepreneurship.

This is a point that’s also backed up in a list of reasons for entrepreneurs to consider the MBA, as written by a contributor at the Graziadio School of Business. Just as that list suggests most MBA students will, I’ve learned about managing business finances, allocating funds, addressing marketing concerns without a large budget, and plenty of other things I’d have hated to figure out on the fly. In this respect, I find that going for the MBA might help some entrepreneurs to avoid some of the trial and error process that so often exists in a young business (though I’ve had my share of this process as well!).

For all of these reasons, I truly believe that the MBA still holds a lot of value, even for people who want to start their own businesses. I think it’s important for each individual to make this type of decision based on his or her own circumstances. But for those who might consider discounting the MBA because they’re unsure of its value, I’d encourage a closer look. Yes, it’s pricey and time consuming, but the MBA can make you a better entrepreneur.



Monica Lowry is a mother, freelance writer, and entrepreneur based in Atlanta, Ga.

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