After studying some of the one million business owners who use Shopify, we discovered that founders tend to fall into one of five personality types. Which one are you? Start with our quiz.
It took 15 years to pay down a student loan for an education I never used. The experience of that period of financial instability has prevented me from leaving the comfort of a 9-to-5. Are you sitting in your cubicle, nodding yes? I know you, Stargazer: your inner entrepreneur is ready to live its truth. But imposter syndrome and a steady paycheck conspire to hold it back.
Without any formal experience or business training, you’re naturally worried: do you have what it takes? I assure you that if you’re already thinking this way, you absolutely do. That doesn’t mean, though, that there isn’t still much to learn. But quitting your day job and starting business school from scratch isn’t the only way forward.
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs don’t have a formal education—they took the leap and made up the rest along the way.
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs don’t have a formal education—they took the leap and made up the rest along the way. Lifelong learning is responsible for many self-made entrepreneurs. Outside the walls of traditional classrooms, entrepreneur resources—many of them free—are plentiful.
Do you learn best from books or hands-on practice? What about virtual self-paced courses or mentorship? To give you the best advice possible, we need to know what makes you tick. Take our quiz to discover your Founder Sign.
What every entrepreneur needs to succeed
Succeeding in your entrepreneurial endeavors, Stargazer, first depends on how you define success. Visualize it, bring it into clear focus—it will help you set learning goals later on. The recipe then calls for a balanced mix of the right entrepreneur characteristics like passion and drive, a great business idea, and access to resources—both those that support your small business, like funding sources or commerce platforms, and those that support your personal growth.
Starting a business is the extreme sport version of formal business school. The stakes are higher and the incentive to learn quickly is too.
Starting a business is the extreme sport version of formal business school. The stakes are higher and the incentive to learn quickly is too. While you’ll learn by doing (even without knowing it), taking advantage of entrepreneur resources and developing an actual learning plan can increase your chances of success.
Before we explore the many entrepreneur resources available to you, here are a few tips to help you set a learning plan and stick to it:
- Understand your learning style. There are several theories and models related to learning styles. For example, the VARK model suggests that learners fall into four main categories: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. Some personality tests like Myers-Briggs (MBTI) can be mapped to different learning styles. If you don’t know which learning formats best suit you, a personality test might help you find clarity.
- Set goals. Your intended outcomes for your learning should be clearly defined. Unlike formal education, which has clear outcomes like passing grades or graduation, with self-directed learning, the onus is on you to establish goals. Your mile markers may be “learn SEO” or “complete webinar series” or “read X books,” but your ultimate goal should answer your “why.” If you want to launch your ecommerce store by next April or quit your day job by the end of the year, work backward: what skills do you need to learn to get there?
5 learning resources for entrepreneurs
Over the course of your entrepreneurship journey, it’s important to build intentional learning into your business plan. What skills do you need to scale? Where are the knowledge gaps that will prevent you from fulfilling parts of your plan?
The resources you choose on your learning path will depend on many factors, including your learning style, your available time commitment, and your goals. Ultimately, though, there’s a method for every unique personality.
1. Video resources for entrepreneurs
Pre-recorded video resources like webinars, entrepreneur-focused YouTube channels, and TEDtalks are great options for the audio-visual learner. While taught in a traditional teacher-to-student manner, the format of prerecorded video instruction allows the flexibility to establish your own schedule and learn in short bursts from anywhere.
💡 Free entrepreneur resource:
2. Books for entrepreneurs
Personally, I’m still partial to the tactical benefits of a paperback and nostalgic trips to the library, but ebooks have benefits beyond portability—they can be updated more easily and come with extras like study guides, search, and linked resources. Audiobooks are great for the auditory learning set and pair well with multitaskers. Try an audio-book app like Blinkist that condenses the top lessons from many bestselling books into 15 minutes.
Entrepreneur education in written format can also be found through blogs and other publications. Subscribe to your favorites to stay up to date on trends in entrepreneurship and your industry.
💡 Free entrepreneur resources:
- Read: The 32 Best Entrepreneur Books of All Time
- The Libby app partners with libraries all over the world to give you free access to millions of ebooks and audiobooks, right from your phone
3. Podcasts for entrepreneurs
Like audiobooks, business podcasts are portable and multitasking friendly. At around 20 minutes to an hour in length, they generally offer a lighter commitment than a book. The episodic format can also establish a routine of regular learning, based on a podcast’s release schedule.
💡 Free entrepreneur resource:
- Listen to Shopify Masters, a podcast featuring startup founders who share their secrets to success
4. Online Courses
Online courses can be consumed in two ways: self-paced from prerecorded material, or as a fixed course length with a live/self-directed mix and access to an instructor. If you struggle with self-discipline, the latter may work best for you, as accountability is an excellent motivator. Guided learning also gives you access to feedback from an expert and support from your cohort of fellow learners.
💡 Free entrepreneur resource:
- Self-guided business courses by Shopify—learn about topics like store design, manufacturing, and turning your hobby into a business
5. Hands-on learning resources for entrepreneurs
The kinesthetic learner should take a hands-on approach to skill building. Volunteer or intern in your desired industry to learn by doing under the guidance of pros. If you choose to just jump into entrepreneurship and learn as you go, seek mentorship to help you along the way. Mentorship opportunities can be found in your social circles, at work, and through entrepreneur communities.
Some business conferences also adopt a more interactive format. Look for conferences and networking events that include hands-on workshops.
💡 Free entrepreneur resource:
Learn as you build and try Shopify free for 14 days
Entrepreneur resources for every Founder Sign
A colleague once said to me, “The biggest barrier to adult learning isn’t about access to the right information. It’s about the attitude and discipline of the learner.” Now that we know a little more about you, let’s talk about entrepreneur resources to support you on your learning journey, picked for your unique personality type. Plus, we’ll share tips for integrating learning into your busy lifestyle.
👟 Skip to your sign:
Feature sign: The Cartographer
You’re our feature sign this month, Cartographer, because your personality is best suited to lifelong learning. You take a thorough approach to all that you do and that includes learning everything there is to know about a topic before you dive in. There are no stones left unturned in your world!
But there are pitfalls to your approach. First, you may never feel satisfied with your level of knowledge, causing your plans to be waylaid until you’re satisfied that you’re an expert. Trust us, though, Cartographer: you’ll always have more to learn. There’s no credential that qualifies you to start your own small business. What is an entrepreneur, anyway, but someone who just starts?
Secondly, you may get lost down a rabbit hole of information and lose track of your goal. Use your superpower organizational skills to track your progress. Download a time management app or set dedicated blocks in your calendar for learning activities.
The best entrepreneur resources for Cartographers
Cartographers like you tend to be compatible with self-directed learning. As you are a highly self-motivated personality type, books and self-paced courses are ideal entrepreneur resources for you.
You’re a curious cat, Trailblazer, learning naturally as you explore new paths and ideas. A formal approach to learning, though, could be more difficult for you. You’re easily distracted by new ideas and creative opportunities, a trait that makes you a natural entrepreneur. But if you’re serious about your learning goals, you’ll need to remove distraction and add a layer of outside accountability.
The best entrepreneur resources for Trailblazers
Interactive and group-focused learning is best for you, Trailblazer. Try a guided course, either in person or virtual, or look for conferences that offer a workshop format. You need to learn by doing in order to satisfy your creative appetite. Bonus: fInd a study buddy or group to keep you motivated and accountable.
You tend to be resistant to change, Outsider, and that may prevent you from actively engaging in learning practices. But with technology and buyer habits constantly evolving, it’s important to stay sharp to protect your livelihood.
Your biggest challenge will be maintaining a healthy work-life balance during your learning journey. You tend to get lost in your work and deprioritize your basic needs. Schedule in time for social activities and enough slumber—adequate sleep is closely linked to improved focus, memory retention, and efficient learning.
The best entrepreneur resources for Outsiders
As someone who prefers to work solo, self-directed learning through online tutorials, videos, and virtual self-paced courses are best for you. You can fit learning into your week where you already have gaps, minimizing the impact to your schedule (and avoiding too much scary change).
You’re focused on your goal, Mountaineer, and it may be hard for you to pause on that upward journey and make time for learning. That’s why it’s important for you to link your learning outcomes directly to your master plan. Where do you have roadblocks on your way to your goal? Which of those are within your control? Map those to skills you can learn yourself to help you soar over those hurdles.
The best entrepreneur resources for Mountaineers
You thrive in the company of people but you still want to be the boss. Consider self-directed methods that keep you in charge of your learning, but layer on a social aspect. Join or create a book club that focuses on entrepreneurship topics. Or build a community of like-minded self-starters to share learning resources and cheer each other on.
Fake it until you make it, Firestarter—that’s how you’ve made it so far. Any gaps in your education or knowledge are compensated by your confidence and hard-earned experience. You learn by doing, preferring to throw yourself into a startup idea before having all of the answers. Any inevitable failures become valuable lessons that you accumulate.
The best entrepreneur resources for Firestarters
You’re unlikely to slow down enough to engage in long-term learning activities, but you can still fit learning into your busy schedule. Double-dip by consuming podcasts or audiobooks by some of your entrepreneur idols while on your commute or during your morning routine.
If you’ve yet to determine your Founder Sign, take our quiz, then sign up for our newsletter. The Founder’s Zodiac runs every month and offers up advice and relevant content curated just for your type.
Illustrations by by Alice Mollon