Need for post-secondary education up for debate among young entrepreneurs

Some are ready to strike out on their own, while others want to build their skills before launching their businesses

Cat Dellafave gives a thumbs up to the camera while sitting on a couch
Cat Dellefave has gone back to school to York University to keep learning the skills she needs to run her photography business. (Nafisat Alao/Toronto Observer) 

Nicole Chen is a young entrepreneur who started her nail tech business, nailedbynii, immediately after graduating from high school. 

She has always had a business mindset and it has always been a dream of hers to start a business of her own and be self-employed, the 20-year-old, who lives and works in Toronto, said.  

“It wasn’t until I left and graduated high school that I knew I was going to start a business of my own,” Chen said. “If I pursued a post-secondary education, I think I would have wasted my time.”

Entrepreneurship is on the rise for many young people. A CNBC article states that Gen Z entrepreneurs are disrupting ideas about workplace hustle and the traditional 9-to-5 work day.

Recently, many gen z’s are flipping the established career paradigm and pursuing entrepreneurship rather than pursuing education and entering the corporate world.

“For me, the real world will teach you the majority of what you need to know,” Chen said. “School can be useful in gaining knowledge, but business and working to me is mainly about trial and error.”

‘I decided to come back to school’

Cat Dellefave, 20, lives and goes to school in Toronto and is a first-year student at York University. Dellefave started her own photography business, Cat Dellefave photography, which she said is a lot of fun, but also revealed the reality of being so young in the working world. 

“I took a year off from school to start my photography business and I learned a lot about working in the real world,” she said, “But when it came time to look for a job in my field of photography, I didn’t feel ready to go right into my career because I did not have the background knowledge,” Dellefave said.

While starting a photography business is something Dellefave is passionate about continuing and pursing after graduation, she decided to pursue her degree in arts and media management first.

“I decided to come back to school so I could get the core learning to learn more about what I needed to know from industry professionals.”

Education still crucial for entrepreneurs: Expert

Graduate entrepreneur statistics from Reviewlution show that around 40 per cent of entrepreneurs took entrepreneur courses or programs, which helped them start their own businesses. In addition, it states that around 58 per cent of Canadian entrepreneurs hold a university degree. 

Vik Jain, a small-business adviser of entrepreneur services with the city of Toronto, said getting an education is an important prerequisite to starting a business. 

“I’m a firm believer that you still need a foundation of education to provide you with the soft skills like problem-solving and critical thinking that you need … it’s not impossible, but very few per cent will be secure without some type of education,” Jain said. 

Jain has been with the city for more than 25 years, and provides young entrepreneurs with grant money from the city to finance their businesses. He also oversees the summer company program, which is a starter program where many people as young as 18 sign up to begin their business journeys. 

Based on the cases he sees, “70 per cent of [young people] realize how hard it is to run a business without having the necessary education,” he said.  

The city offers online training modules, webinars, and consultations as part of its support program for small business entrepreneurs.

With a file from Lisa Yeung

About this article

Posted: Feb 4 2023 2:00 pm
Filed under: Business Education First-Timers News Spotlight On Small Biz