How an MBA can prepare you to be a successful entrepreneur

After graduation, those who earn MBAs follow as many employment paths as there are job sectors — a fact reflected in the diverse programs at Florida Atlantic University. Some pursue sport management, others get into the travel and hospitality fields, a few find rewarding niches overseas. But for the self-starting breed of MBA, nothing comes close to the thrill and challenge of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

For FAU MBAs who take that route, the signs of potential success are stronger than ever. In 2015, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area ranked second in the nation for startup activity, according to research from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Using U.S. Census data, the study revealed that South Florida was surpassed only by Austin, Texas -- and ranked ahead of entrepreneurial hotspots like New York and San Francisco.

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Starting or acquiring a business can be a rough road, and now more than ever, an MBA education can help focus entrepreneurial instincts and improve the chances of success.

Just ask Sam Nimah. In 2014, a year after graduating FAU's Executive MBA program, he assumed ownership of Special Care Providers of America LLC. Based in Fort Lauderdale, the company manages acute hospital-based special care units. His search to buy a company coincided with his MBA training, and what he learned gave him the tools to make more than smart decisions.

"At FAU, I gained the confidence to strike out on my own," Nimah says. "I knew I wanted to buy a business but for some reason I'd never been able to pull the trigger; it was a big step, and I was a little intimidated."

Entrepreneurs tend to go where the opportunities are, but Nimah gathered intelligence during his FAU education that helped him identify exactly which directions and opportunities made the most sense. In South Florida, health care represents one of the smartest -- partly because of the aging baby boomer population.

"We have a high demand for health care services, and there is a high demand for people who understand that field," says Ken Johnson, associate dean of graduate programs at FAU's College of Business.

He adds that many entrepreneurial opportunities await those ready to tackle the high-tech world, too — and they don't necessarily require leaving the region for the Silicon Valley. The wave of entrepreneurial action sweeping South Florida includes a number sleek tech incubators, including The LAB Miami and Fort Lauderdale's Axis Space. Companies rent office space in these communal locations knowing that they encourage networking and the dynamic exchange of ideas.

Yet, as Nimah experienced, aspiring entrepreneurs get early networking opportunities in abundance at FAU via the faculty and student body, which can make a difference in getting business dreams off the ground. "The learning environment was incredible, and the professors are engaging and provocative," Nimah says. "But I also really enjoyed the other students. The caliber of people I was with was fantastic and I've leveraged the relationships I built during that program."

Nimah stays in touch with his classmates and continues to bounce ideas off them to complement his business instincts. "We help each other out when it's needed," he says. For example, he recruited a former classmate to help gauge the efficiency of his field operations. "I asked him to ride with one of my employees for two days, and he wrote a report giving feedback."

So what else do both would-be and experienced entrepreneurs need to know as they consider the MBA program at FAU? Above all, it's to trust in FAU's rich, multidimensional programs. Students meet new contacts, gain new insights, pick up new skills -- and in the process, cultivate entrepreneurial enthusiasm and momentum in a fashion that simply doesn't happen by other means or perhaps even at other institutions.

Whether it was guidance from professors, business connections via his classmates or simply the encouragement of a strong community, Nimah says FAU came through for him. He knows that for maximum success as an entrepreneur, it helps to have support and an FAU MBA means you never have to go it alone.

© Last Updated1/10/18