Finding a Job

Why Entrepreneurs Need an MBA


Why Entrepreneurs Need an MBA

Photograph by Laura Flugga

So, you want to be an entrepreneur. You’ve even applied to grad school to get your MBA because you are that confident that your idea is going to be a big hit. The problem is that you now have cold feet.

What if your idea doesn’t work? Will you be able to find a job? Your debt will be so high—how will you pay off your loans? What were you thinking?

Photograph by Laura FluggaThese are questions you should ask yourself. Becoming an entrepreneur is both exciting and frightening.

Even if you’re able to turn a great idea into a product or service, you’re still going to need an amazing team and a lot of luck. Oh, and a strong will and stomach. Through the years, I have seen students take their ideas and develop them into successful businesses. In other situations, I’ve seen students work on something and then pull the plug. They learned along the way that either someone on the team wasn’t committed enough or that the company/idea was not big enough to work.

What I have seen in every aspiring entrepreneur is a passion for the idea and a willingness to invest a tremendous amount of time in the business. Each knew there was a chance the idea might not take off but was willing to work through the process to see what might happen. That was the case with two recent alumni from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management who are now successful entrepreneurs. In many ways, they have their MBAs to thank for that.

One alum, Steve Szaronos, was in consulting and had the opportunity to return to his former employer upon graduation. As a first-year MBA, he pursued the opportunity to learn more about startups and wound up working for an early-stage company for the summer. Through that experience, he realized that he wanted to start his own company. Szaronos and his partner/classmate Rishi Prabhu worked on a business idea during their second year in the program.

They graduated and developed some interest in the company, but they then decided to pull the plug and go a different route. Today they run BeSpoke Post, a subscription service of curated products for men. They have been in business for about a year and it seems to be tracking in a positive direction.

Another alum,  Jennifer Beall, came to business school with the idea that she would start a company. She spent a lot of time exploring various ideas and eventually fell upon one for which she found a lot of support. Today, she runs a company called CleanBeeBaby, an eco-friendly child’s car-seat cleaning service in LA. Any of you who have children, or have been around a used car seat or stroller, will understand that there is a market for this service.

Regardless of your education and credentials, working for an entrepreneur or being one is not for the faint of heart. An MBA degree will give you many of the tools you’ll need, but the degree doesn’t guarantee success. You’ll incur more debt, but you’ll also open yourself up to a whole new community of people who can help you make your idea work—and in the future, maybe even participate in funding your business. Passion, timing, and the right idea, in addition to your MBA degree, will play an important role in your success.

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Hori is the associate dean of corporate partnerships at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She is the former head of Kellogg’s Career Management Center where she counseled MBA students on careers for more than 16 years.

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