A Guide to Launching a Business


A Guide to Launching a Business


Successful entrepreneurs understand that entrepreneurship is a process that can be learned and improved upon with experience. This course provides a series of lessons that can guide aspiring entrepreneurs, and those professionals who work with them, through the steps that will greatly increase their chances for successfully turning their idea into a successful business. This course can be used as a step by step manual to walk an entrepreneur through the process of launching a venture.

The specific objectives of this course:

  • Learn what entrepreneurship is and who are typical entrepreneurs

  • Understand how opportunities for new businesses arise in the market and how to spot them

  • Learn how to assess the difference between an idea and a real business opportunity.

  • Learn how to build a business model, how to test it, and how to adapt it to what the market really wants

  • Understand what business plans are used for and how to construct a winning plan

  • Gain a realistic understanding of what methods of financing make sense for your business

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Course Instructor

Dr. Jeff Cornwall is the Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Cornwall has spent more than forty years as a serial entrepreneur and teacher of entrepreneurs. In the 1970’s he started several small businesses and was involved in various family ventures. In the late 1980’s, following several years in academics, Dr. Cornwall co-founded Atlantic Behavioral Health Systems in Raleigh, NC and spent nearly a decade leading the company as President/CEO. Dr. Cornwall remains active as an entrepreneur with the digital content venture he co-founded in 2014, Entrepreneurial Mind, LLC. In his academic career, Dr. Cornwall has received national awards for his work in curriculum development and teaching. In 2013 the United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship named Dr. Cornwall the National Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year. He has authored nine books and numerous articles on entrepreneurship.

Curriculum Overview

Lesson 1:  Course Introductions

Lesson 2: Who is the Typical Entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship is a process that can be learned.  This course offers an overview of the core knowledge and skills all entrepreneurs need.  By learning and practicing basic entrepreneurial skills an entrepreneur's chance of building a successful venture goes up dramatically.

Lesson 3: The Life Cycle of a Business

Contrary to what many believe, entrepreneurship is not a personality type.  Anyone who has a passion to start a new venture, to take advantage of a gap in the market, bring an invention to market, or to offer a product quicker, better, or faster can be taught to keys to successfully launch and growth a new business.

Lesson 4: The Process from Idea to Launch

This Lesson provides an overview of the life cycle of a business, which is the framework used to understand the stages a new venture progresses through as it develops.  It also helps to organize the unique skills required for each stage in the growth of an entrepreneurial venture.

Lesson 5: Entrepreneurial Thinking – A Different View of Risk

A big mistake that many new entrepreneurs make is to try and launch a new venture as soon as they come up with an idea.  This is what leads to many entrepreneurial failures. This Lesson highlights the stages of evaluation and development that should take place from idea through the launch of a new venture.

Lesson 6: Change and Chaos – The Entrepreneur’s Best Friend

Change in an industry threatens existing players in the market.  They are so invested in the status quo that they cannot react to the new realities that change ushers in.  But to an entrepreneur, change in a market or industry offers the opportunity to solve the "pain in the market" that change creates.  The soil is loosened to allow the entrepreneur engage in the creative destruction of the old and be the agent to bring in the new.

Lesson 7: Avoid the Temptation to be Impulsive – Follow the Three M’s

Don't fall into the common mistake of "ready, fire, aim."  Successful entrepreneurs learn to be patient and asses if their idea is really a viable business opportunity.  

Lesson 8: Market Feasibility

The first step of assessing an idea is to determine if there really is a market.  Just because you think there is a need does not mean that the market agrees. And even if there are customers who want what you offer, are there enough to make the business viable?

Lesson 9: Financial Feasibility

Step two in assessing an idea is to determine if you can make money with your business model.  Even if there is a market, customers in that market may not be willing to pay enough to make the business sustainable by creating enough cash flow to cover your operating costs, your overhead, and provide you with the income you need to live your desired lifestyle.

Lesson 10: Personal Feasibility

The final step in assess an idea is to make sure you have the knowledge, experience, skills, and passion to launch and grow a venture based on your business model.

Lesson 11: What is a Business Model?

A business model is how we conceptualize all of the moving parts of a successful business.  They all need to be in place and they all need to work together to provide value to the market.

Lesson 12: Business Model: The Lean Canvas

The lean business model canvas is a tool that simplifies the complex task of building, testing and refining a venture's business model before an entrepreneur gets ready to actually launch a business.

Lesson 13: Customer Discovery

The core to any business model is to offer the right value proposition to the right target market in the way they want it delivered to them. Customers are the ones who can help us understand the answers to our questions about our business model.

Lesson 14: The Power of the Pivot

Just when you think you have your business model correct, the market will often surprise you.  Listen to the market! It will tell you what it really wants from you if you just listen. While testing a business model the entrepreneur learns things that help them revise, change and improve their business model. These are known as pivots.

Lesson 15: The Business Model Canvas

A second business model tool offers entrepreneurs a canvas that helps them get prepared to launch their new business.

Lesson 16: Business Plans and Business Planning

While some experts advocate doing away with business plans entirely, they do play an important role for many entrepreneurs.  The business plan is the format used to communicate your business model to bankers and investors. This lesson summarizes the key components of a solid business plan.

Lesson 17: Financial Forecasting

The language of business is accounting.  No business model or business plan is complete until it is translated from verbal concept to a financial forecast.

Lesson 18: Realistic funding opportunities

Where do entrepreneurs really get their funding from?  This lesson provides a realistic overview of funding possibilities for new ventures.

Lesson 19: Bootstrapping

Most entrepreneurs have limited access to outside funding.  Bootstrapping is a collection of tried and true practices that entrepreneurs have found to get their businesses launched when they have limited or no funding.

Lesson 20: Outside Funding

Once you have your plan complete, how do you convince investors or other funding sources to pay attention to it?

Lesson 21: The Pitch

Entrepreneurs must learn to effectively pitch their ideas.  This lesson offers important tips for effective pitches.

Lesson 22:  Conclusion