Former Senate President
Manny Villar

Getting a college education has always been a life goal, even a status symbol for Filipinos. Having a college diploma—that big, laminated piece of paper hanging in your living room—is considered by many as one of the indicators of success. And it is important to strive to get an education. A good college degree will certainly help you as you go about building your career. But it is not everything. Getting an education is not limited to the four corners of the classroom.

With the advances in information technology and especially now with the pandemic preventing face-to-face classes in schools, there are countless ways to learn. You can enroll in online classes, you can just scour Google for articles and learn yourself, or, you can do the tried and tested trial and error approach as you actually learn and practice in real life.

I remember someone asking me if I would have been a successful entrepreneur had I now entered the University of the Philippines College of Business Administration. It’s a tough question. I am very grateful to my alma mater because UP education not only taught me about the concepts, principles and processes of business but more importantly it ingrained in me the idea that there is a bigger society beyond my family and my enterprise. As I mentioned in my previous columns, UP helped me to dream big and bigger.

But I have always been an entrepreneur. I considered myself an entrepreneur even before I entered UP. That is precisely why I took Business Administration: to improve my business acumen, so to speak. And I did not go to school to become an entrepreneur. I did not go to a classroom to understand the lessons of entrepreneurship. I learned it from the small stall in Divisoria where my Nanay Curing and I would sell shrimps and fish early in the morning. In that tiny stall, I learned about sales, customer service, marketing, financial management, communication and more importantly the values of hard work and perseverance.

My formal education improved upon those things I learned informally. So when I ventured in my first business of selling and delivering seafood in Makati, it was the combination of the things I learned from the schools I attended and the school hard knocks. They all contributed to my passion of becoming an entrepreneur.

Nothing should prevent you from becoming an entrepreneur is the point I am trying to make. If you cannot attend formal schooling then go to the internet and enroll in the numerous online courses there. Coursera, Udemy, even Harvard Business School provide great business management courses online. I was casually browsing some of these sites and saw many interesting topics from Fundamentals of Finance and Accounting to Introduction to Negotiation to Work Smarter, Not Harder. If you don’t like the structure of online classes then you can just learn what you need to learn by searching YouTube or other platforms that for the most part provide free information about a multitude of topics.

And if learning from a computer screen is not for you then there is always, well, life. Go and start a small business and learn as you go. There are some basic stuff you need to learn before you plunge into the world of entrepreneurship—how to get licenses and permits, etc.—but if you have the determination then go for it. The mistakes you learn along the way are more useful than the correct answers you give during a quiz or midterm exam.

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs do not have formal schooling. But some of the most successful business minds came from great schools. It does not matter where you learn, the important thing is you learn. The pandemic has negatively affected many businesses. But it has also create opportunities for other forms of enterprises. When quarantine classifications tell you to stay at home it did not say stay at home doing nothing. Learn. Then go out and conquer the world.