Do Entrepreneurs Need a College Degree? An Interview with Entrepreneur and Franchisee Charles Bonfiglio

Growing up, most of us heard from our parents, “go to college and get a good job!” Sounds like a good plan, right? However, have you ever wondered if there was a better way? Alternatively, have you been curious how the greats like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg created their empires – especially without a college degree? This interview with Charles Bonfiglio, the CEO of Tint World, gives the audience some very solid advice about what to think about college, entrepreneurship, and owning a franchise.

Charles Bonfiglio's Background

Mr. Bonfiglio grew up in Brooklyn, New York. When he was 18, instead of attending college, he opted to go to work for an automotive franchised company. After several years, he worked his way up in the company and became the top performer.

In 1983, he decided to move to Florida with the intention of starting his own business. However, after meeting with countless banks and landlords, he found that more doors closed for him than opened. He heard things like “you are too risky to get a loan,” and other things along those lines. Although he was discouraged, he decided to switch gears and try another route.

Having a background working for a franchise company, he finally decided to open his own business that way – by becoming a franchisee. He said it was interesting how once he decided to pursue that path, the same banks and landlords were more than willing to work with him. He feels that the reason for this is because he now had a proven name brand working for him, instead of just being an unknown wanna-be start-up business.

Mr. Bonfiglio experienced great success as a franchisee. He became a multi-unit operator and even ventured into real estate investment where he started to build his own buildings.

During the interview, Mr. Bonfiglio shared some great insights into entrepreneurship, franchising, and college. You can listen to the full interview below.

His Advice

When asked what the difference was between being an entrepreneur who starts their business from scratch vs. joining a franchise, as noted above, he said that it is easier to get funding by participating in a franchise. So for him, getting in on a franchise helped him expedite his business growth.

In 2007, Mr. Bonfiglio left that franchise to start his own company, Tint World. From working for a franchise, he learned how to structure, brand, and grow a business. Throughout the 25 years before he started his own franchise, he says he tried to learn from everyone – his customers, people above him, below him, and alongside him.

Above all, he encourages people to put 100% effort into any job they have. In other words, don’t just go to college, get a job, and settle in and get comfortable for the long haul. He suggests putting your heart and soul into it so you can be the best. You can learn on the job, and sometimes it is the most important education you will receive.

Another main topic of the discussion during the interview was the value of a college degree. Most people are socialized to believe that without a degree, you really can’t make it in the business world. However, Mr. Bonfiglio has a different perspective on college.

He liked to emphasize that he does not discourage anyone from going to college. In fact, he sees much value in attending college because he feels that it helps people discipline their minds. He also points out that it is necessary if someone wishes to become a medical doctor, a lawyer, professor, or some other profession that requires specific knowledge such as that. Even if you plan on going into the corporate world, it is probably necessary to have that college degree because it serves as a “weeding out” requirement. In other words, it is difficult to gain entrance into a company without that proof a degree. However, if you are thinking about getting a technical degree in something like web design or software development, learning on the job might be more important. The reason for this is because technology changes so quickly that by the time you graduate, the things you learned in college might already be outdated.

One of the things that Mr. Bonfiglio enjoys the most these days is helping others. He loves teaching the ropes to people who are up and coming. He wants to pass on his entrepreneurial and franchise wisdom to whomever he can help.

When asked if he had any intention of writing a book full of his insights, he said he is seriously considering it. In fact, he was already featured in a book entitled Love and Collaboration: Franchisee Couples Tell their Stories. The book features 20 chapters about couples who are in the franchising business, and it tells their tales.

If you are an entrepreneur at heart, you will want to consider Charles’ advice. Yes, striking out on your own can be scary, but there are clearly some advantages. As he says, it is important to know yourself and what you want to do in life. Some people are more suited to go to college and work for a company and climb the corporate ladder. Others find that limiting and prefer to strike out on their own. Regardless of what seems right to you, take Mr. Bonfiglio’s words to heart. Learn from everyone around you. Give 100%. And ultimately, be the best you that you can be.

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