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MBA Programs Help to Make Entrepreneurs Bond

November 27, 2012 4:25 pm0 commentsViews: 106
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After graduating from the Richard Ivey School of Business Entrepreneurship program six years ago, William Hennessey opened several companies, such as an online lobster firm, a company that sells cleaning product packaging and even a marketing company.

Hennessey thinks that his contacts from business school have helped him to stay on a successful path since he graduated. He has said that some of his biggest customers for his lobster company was actually a graduate from his school who heard about him through the alumni program.

If you have aspirations to be an entrepreneur, you will need to build a strong network when you are in MBA school. No matter how your entrepreneurial venture comes about, MBA programs play an important role in how you network and make the start up company dream a reality.

These days, about ½ of applicants to many MBA programs state that entrepreneurship is a key interest area. This was almost unheard of 15 years ago. Now, entrepreneurship is a high ambition for many people, as opposed to something that people accidentally fall into.

The trend towards entrepreneurship probably is not due so much to the efforts of some business schools, but rather because entrepreneurship has become cool in the minds of recent graduates. This can be seen in the record numbers of MBA candidates in Canada.  Successful entrepreneurs are somewhat like rock stars today. In fact, some of the most popular shows on TV are reality shows about entrepreneurs.

One of the most important things that a strong MBA program, on campus or online, can offer to people interested in entrepreneurship is a very supportive alumni network. About one out of six alumni at some business schools are in a major leadership position and started their own firm. Getting access to people with those sort of positions and connections is a great way for a young entrepreneur to start.

Some schools have a more formal alumni effort such as an annual venture forum, where investors, professionals and entrepreneurs can connect to talk shop. The Ivey Business School has worked on setting up referral programs, such as with MaRS Common in Toronto, Canada, to assist young entrepreneurs to get placements in key industry ecosystems.

But in some cases, it is the connections that you gain in class that can plant a seed for a strong entrepreneurial venture. For example, two students who connected for the first time at the MBA program at Simon Fraser University eventually founded Saltworks, which is a desalination firm in Vancouver. The partners were very entrenched in their respective fields – software consulting and mechanical engineering – when they first got into the MBA school. Both of them thought that getting an MBA would be useful in entering different industries.

Three years after they left business school, the two men reconnected online and started the desalination business. Both of the entrepreneurs have said that the alumni contacts at Simon Fraser were important in helping them get their business started.

The owner of another start up company, Sendioso, which is an online gift certificate service, has said that consulting with other entrepreneurs during her MBA program at the University of Alberta gave her the motivation to start her own company.

She said recently that being in the MBA program really helped her to become interested in entrepreneurship. It was not just the education and the skills that she learned – it was the ability to grow a network and to connect with other classmates.

No matter what the path to entrepreneurship, the opportunities to network in an MBA program either on campus or online can provide you with value all through your life. Many former graduates stay in touch with each other and help out when someone is having a business challenge. This helps to give these new entrepreneurs confidence to continue to branch out in new directions.