The purpose of this paper is to study the learning of entrepreneurs in authentic learning environments. The research questions are: How do entrepreneurs assess their compentencies, and how do employees and external consultants assess the compentencies of these entrepreneurs? What are the competence strengths and weaknesses of entrepreneurs? What are the learning activities that entrepreneurs perform? Design/methodology/approach - Ten small business owners participated in a self-assessment and an assessment by employees and external consultants. Follow-up interviews elicited work-related learning activities. The interviews were transcribed. Descriptive statistics, t-tests and correlation tests, and a qualitative analysis of interview transcriptions were performed. Findings - Competencies are being rated differently. Competence assessment is a potentially powerful learning source. The top competence strength is having a learning orientation. A total of 99 learning activities were found embedded in the innovative work processes of the entrepreneurs. The top three learning activities were reflection, observation and experimentation. Research limitations/implications - The study is based on only ten entrepreneurs. Research is planned with a larger numbers of subjects. Practical implications - Competence assessment needs to be provided for entrepreneurs in the sector as a tool for deeper self-reflection, and further performance improvement. Originality/value - Much research on skills development and workplace learning is about employees in large organisations. However, employers in small and medium-sized companies are also an interesting professional group to study, since they create working and learning places for employees. Not much is know about their competence development. This study addresses that target group.