Two of my favorite words are “free” and “learn.” For that reason, at SmallBusiness.com, we are always looking for the best possible ways to learn how to do something new or better without having the spend lots of money in the process. However, I’ve learned also that it’s not always a good idea to cut corners when trying to learn something about running a business: a great instructor or course can be a bargain if you are like a friend of mine who describes mistakes using the metric, “that cost me the equivalent of tuition for a year in an Ivy League college.” Fortunately, these courses are free but they are noted for being excellent ways to fill in the gaps of knowledge you might need to start, run and grow a business.


Starting a Business

My Own Business Institute (MOBI), Santa Clara University

(Note: The My Own Business Institute (MOBI) was created at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. Funded with a $17.5 million endowment, its mission is to support the vital social and economic contributions of small businesses worldwide.)

This course is designed for someone who wants to start a business. Compromised of 15 sessions, you can cover the coursework at your own pace and learn the essentials. The content is clearly explained and has an emphasis on learning how to write a business plan. All of the sessions of the course are available for preview.

Session   1: Deciding on a Business
Session   2: The Business Plan
Session   3: Home Based Business
Session   4: Financing the Business
Session   5: Business Organization
Session   6: Licenses and Permits
Session   7: Business Insurance
Session   8: Communication Tools
Session   9: Buying a Business or Franchise
Session 10: Location and Leasing
Session 11: Accounting and Cash Flow
Session 12: E-Commerce
Session 13: Opening and Marketing
Session 14: Managing Employees
Session 15: Expanding and Handling Problems


Business Expansion

My Own Business Institute (MOBI), Santa Clara University

(Note: The My Own Business Institute (MOBI) was created at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. Funded with a $17.5 million endowment, its mission is to support the vital social and economic contributions of small businesses worldwide.)

This course helps established business owners advance their business to the next level. Comprised of 15 sessions, you can cover the coursework at your own pace. Learn how to strengthen operations, seize opportunities and plan for the future. This course covers appropriate internal controls, expansion opportunities, evaluation methods and exit strategies.

Session   1: Getting Financial Controls in Place
Session   2: Getting Your Team in Place
Session   3: Customer Feedback
Session   4: Achieving Lowest Expenses
Session   5: Develop Negotiating Skills
Session   6: Alternatives for Capital Allocation
Session   7: Advanced E-Commerce
Session   8: Growth By Duplication
Session   9: Vertical Integration
Session 10: Franchising Your Business
Session 11: Global Expansion
Session 12: Buying Businesses
Session 13: Public Ownership
Session 14: Selling Your Business
Session 15: Considerations for Family Succession


Entrepreneurial Marketing

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

This free online course is available as part of MIT’s Open Courseware program. Professor Jin Gyo Kim covers basic marketing concepts, methods, and strategic issues relevant for start-up and early-stage entrepreneurs. There are two major questions:

  1. Marketing Question: What and how am I selling to whom?
  2. New Venture Question: How do I best leverage my limited marketing resources?

Specifically, this course is designed to give students a broad and deep understanding of such topics as:

  1. What are major strategic constraints and issues confronted by entrepreneurs today?
  2. How can one identify and evaluate marketing opportunities?
  3. How do entrepreneurs achieve competitive advantages given limited marketing resources?
  4. What major marketing and sales tools are most useful in an entrepreneurial setting?

Because there is no universal marketing solution applicable to all entrepreneurial ventures, this course is designed to help students develop a flexible way of thinking about marketing problems in general.


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How Small Businesses Are Succeeding in Very Small Towns

Examples of small town small businesses who are working together with big results.