Learn to launch your own business in this free online course from a top business school

BY Sydney LakeJanuary 12, 2023, 2:46 PM
A “Now Open” sign outside a commercial tent at a parking lot in Huntington Park, California, as seen in March 2021. (Photographer: Jessica Pons—Bloomberg/Getty Images)

In the year after the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. saw an entrepreneurship resurgence. More than 5.4 million people filed business applications in 2021, a 20% application increase from 2020, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Data for 2022 isn’t yet complete, but between January and November, 4.65 million applications were submitted, suggesting a decline in business formation last year.

While millions of people set out to become an entrepreneur every year, it’s no small or easy task. That’s why, since 2015, Santa Clara University has offered a free online entrepreneurship course for people looking to start their own business, create jobs, and develop economic growth. Fortune ranks Santa Clara having top business school programs across various formats.

Although it’s not a replacement for an online MBA or other business management degrees, My Own Business Institute (MOBI) is a self-paced course that focuses on business basics for people with a variety of educational backgrounds and resources, program executive director Andrew Starbird tells Fortune. Just last year, the school issued 2,200 certificates to students in more than 100 countries, he says.

“Regardless of education, experience, or financial resources, MOBI provides the essential training needed by an aspiring business owner,” Starbird says. “One of the greatest benefits of the program is that it connects training directly to the basic requirements of starting a business and provides students with immediately actionable skills to kick-start their businesses.”

What you’ll learn in the free entrepreneurship program and how to get in

Santa Clara’s MOBI program covers the basic requirements for starting a business, including raising money, managing employees, and finding new customers. The curriculum was developed by staff at Santa Clara’s Leavey School of Business and other entrepreneurs. To start the program, prospective students just have to visit the program website and submit their email address.

There aren’t any prerequisites for getting into the program, meaning anyone can sign up. Students range in age from 20 to 70, are evenly split between men and women, and are racially and ethnically diverse, Starbird says.

“I think that the key takeaway is that anyone can learn the basic skills needed to start a business, regardless of their background,” he says.

The program sessions cover topics including business risk, insurance, and controlling costs—but the program’s most popular topics are communication tools and ethics, Starbird says. MOBI offers four online courses to earn a certificate of completion: Starting a Business, Business Expansion, Quick Start Entreprenuer, and the Sales and Marketing Badge Short Course.

Why Santa Clara offers this course for free

The program was created by Phil and Peggy Holland; Phil was an entrepreneur and founder of chain restaurant Yum Yum Donuts in Southern California, and Peggy was an educator. Motivated by the Los Angeles riots in the early 90s, they decided to help people who were impacted to start businesses and create jobs, Starbird says. 

Also due to its location in Silicon Valley, the Leavey School has a strong focus on entrepreneurship and offers several programs supported by donors, grants, and the endowment to help communities with limited resources. MOBI alone works with more than 75 partners in more than a dozen countries to help aspiring entrepreneurs get the education they need to start their own business—one example being a partnership with PEPY Empowering Youth in Cambodia to offer training in their native language, Khmer. 

“MOBI has students all over the world who start businesses that create jobs and economic growth in their community—wherever they are,” Starbird says.

Check out all of Fortune’rankings of degree programs, and learn more about specific career paths.