Lacking experience in business doesn’t mean you can’t start a startup. If you’re starting a business without experience, you can take one of two paths:

  1. Find someone with experience or
  2. Learn everything you can yourself

The first path sounds easy, but you must have a clear idea of what your contribution is to the partnership. Although it sounds easy at first, it’s actually a very tough road in a startup world where mere ideas aren’t worth much.

Let’s instead focus on the second option to mitigate your lack of business experience: learning as much as you can. This is the critical path I took when starting my first business. It paid off for me even though I knew absolutely nothing about business. I still have a ton to learn, but I now have a much better understanding of how the pieces fit together. This post will serve as a minimal curriculum to get you up and going as quickly as possible.

Books

I know books take a long time, so I’m keeping this list short. Read Josh Kaufman’s The Personal MBA followed by The Lean Startup by Eric RiesThe Personal MBA gives you a good foundation of business concepts. The Lean Startup builds on that foundation a framework for running a successful startup with minimal waste.

Read each of these in its entirety in order. If you have trouble finding time to read them, get the audiobooks and listen to them on your commute, while you’re showering, and any other time you’re able.

Don’t let this stop you from getting to work though. As soon as you know enough to get started, do it. You’re never ready. Don’t let that fact paralyze you and keep you from building your startup.

Courses

That should actually be “Course” because I’m giving you only one. Take Steve Blank’s How to Build a Startup course on Udacity. The course is free and will guide you through the process of defining your startup. This includes the bits about your startup that will make it marketable to investors should you choose to go that route.

Find Mentors

You need someone who can teach you through their experience. It doesn’t mean you always have to do what they suggest, but having that veteran watching your back can be a lifesaver.

You may already know someone who can be a mentor, but most of you reading this probably don’t. You’ll find mentors in many different places. One of my favorite sources is startup incubators. They may not be as difficult to get into as you think. Incubators are all about mentorship — pairing you with people who have been there until you can stand on your own two feet. I learned more from my time participating in a startup incubator than I have from all the books I’ve read and courses I’ve taken combined. In an incubator, you’ll learn from mentors in the context of real-world startups (yours and the others in your cohort) what works and what doesn’t. Local startup and entrepreneurship meetups are also great options.

For more detail on finding mentors and getting them on-board, I highly recommend Jaime Masters’ post How to Find A Small Business Mentor over at Eventual Millionaire. She does a great job of outlining her own favored options for finding mentors. She then goes into some depth no how to create a healthy mentor/mentee relationship. Really good stuff.

Never Stop Learning

Don’t wait on learning to end before the startup begins. “Business experience” isn’t something you either have or you don’t. If you’re doing it right, the learning never ends. Besides that, much of your learning is specific to your startup and your situation. You’ll never learn it unless you put yourself out there and start making your startup idea a real business.