Farida Yahya: Do You Really Need a University Degree To Build A Successful Brand?


I got eight admission letters from various universities. Of course, while I picked my favorite and studied Biochemistry for 5 years, my sojourn into the entrepreneurial world makes me wonder if I really needed a degree to become an entrepreneur.

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When you read about the lives of successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, Ralph Lauren, and Simon Cowell, one common theme is that they don’t own a university degree. And yet, these people are one of the world’s wealthiest, brimming with business prowess.

Now, I know many argue that these are outliers, and we need a degree for discipline and also to become part of a community. But, in the seven years that I have been a business owner, one thing that stands true is that having a degree isn’t the only way to becoming a successful entrepreneur. In fact, the best and brightest entrepreneurs out of Africa are those who acquired skills relevant to their business while running and building their brands.

You are probably wondering if having a degree isn’t necessary. Of course not! However, the beauty of being an entrepreneur is that entrepreneurial spirit and mindset aren’t things you can learn after reading one book, writing an essay, or having a business idea. It’s more than that. It digs deeper into having business flair, charisma, and being ready to acquire and use skills as, and when, needed to achieve your goal.

Now, beyond just having a university degree, many argue that having a business degree is pivotal to your growth as an entrepreneur. Let’s take a look at the variables:

How does having a ‘business degree’ help?

One of the main benefits of a ‘business degree’ is that students learn about virtually every aspect of successful business maintenance, ranging from accounting to human resources and ethics, business management, sales strategies, customer service, etc. Now, for a college degree, you get to specialise in a particular sector and know all there is to know about that one field.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned to wear many hats at once, especially when I just started my company. So, having basic knowledge about these areas would be helpful. But if you only know the basics, you may be restricted when the time comes to exhibit more than just basic knowledge about a certain aspect of running your business.

For example, one business strategy I use is networking.  Networking allows you to become part of a community. And it is these connections that help you whenever you have problems and provide access to business opportunities.

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Communication skills are also necessary when you are pitching your business idea, seeking investment, posting job ads, or even managing your team. Identifying these skills and finding the resources and tools to equip you with these skills is a viable alternative to a college degree when sojourning into entrepreneurship.

While entrepreneurship will see you put hours every day into learning and becoming the master of your business, having a degree requires learning for a specific time. Successful business owners have their eyes and ears wide open and are always learning.

You might not need a degree, but you need to:

Learn to market your brand

While it’s important to incorporate traditional marketing methods (word-of-mouth marketing, posting banners and flyers, networking, etc), you can also market your business online – thanks to social media and the internet. You could open Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest pages for your business, depending on the industry/niche your business is located and where your target market is.

You could also set up a blog or website as well.

Find a mentor  

Mentors are people who have ‘walked the talk’. They have had years of experience running a business and can hold your hand or guide you on how to run a successful business and avoid common business mistakes.


You’ll need to know how to delegate, who to delegate to, and when to do it. You must learn to delegate tasks to other people. This will take the burden off and allow you to focus on the most important aspect of your business – growing your business.

Proper Cash Flow

Any business will quickly run into the ground without proper cash flow. Therefore, you must have a flexible business plan, how to spend money wisely, how to reinvest profits into your business, how to pay your employees, and how to prepare your taxes.

These are some of the fundamentals of building a successful brand, and I believe they can be learned and harnessed, whether or not you have a college degree.

Do you agree? Share your opinion with me.

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