Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Winter 2004Kellogg School of Management
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Romance and reality

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Theory: Steve Rogers
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Romance and reality

Entrepreneurship is synonymous with action, and Kellogg is providing the tools to ensure its students enjoy the best shot at succeeding in this challenging arena

By Matt Golosinski

Entrepreneurship is tough as hell, says Professor Steve Rogers.

“I’ve been on the phone with someone as his bank was literally repossessing the firm’s office furniture and equipment — including that phone,” he says.

Rogers, the Gordon and Llura Gund Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and director of the Larry and Carol Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice at the Kellogg School, knows what he’s talking about. He has been an entrepreneur himself, and today he is one of the subject’s gurus.

Make no mistake: He believes in the power of entrepreneurship to change lives, build communities and create wealth. But he’s not going to tell anyone that entrepreneurship is a cakewalk.

“The public tends to romanticize entrepreneurship, and that’s not fair,” he says. “As an entrepreneur, the pressure is all on you to ensure that capital comes in to pay your expenses and employees.”

Passion and enthusiasm — buzzwords associated with entrepreneurs — are great, says Rogers, but those qualities are limited in their ability to drive success.

“You need the skills and mettle as well. There needs to be something special inside you to want to take on this responsibility and risk,” Rogers states.

  Prof. Steve Rogers
© Nathan Mandell
Professor Steve Rogers

The mettle has to come from within, but the Kellogg School is providing students with ample opportunities to develop the skills to beat the odds. Through various courses and initiatives, Kellogg delivers one of the top entrepreneurship and innovation experiences available. The dynamic curriculum includes Professor Barry Merkin’s Entrepreneurship and New Venture Formulation, in which students develop real business plans and pitch them to real venture capitalists, and Rogers’ Entrepreneurial Finance.

But the Kellogg entrepreneurial experience also features action-learning opportunities that take students outside the classroom. For instance, the Kellogg internship program, a partnership with the Kauffman Foundation, immerses students in the practicalities of entrepreneurship. By working alongside real entrepreneurs, students gain a firsthand understanding of the challenges and strategies associated with running ventures.

“We want our students to experience every aspect of entrepreneurship: the joys of being with a successful company and the trauma associated with a company that is on hard times,” says Rogers.

Julie Boris and John Hamilton, both ’05, were among the 12 interns for the 2004 term.

The internship was an invaluable opportunity, says Hamilton. “It allowed me to see that while entrepreneurs are similar to [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs, fighting to overturn the status quo, setting their own hours and not working for ‘the man,’ they are also flying ATA, taking the El to work and their celebration lunches are typically a $2 hamburger.”

Boris, who worked with Wendy Beard, founder and owner of All She Wrote Fine Stationery and Gifts, says the internship “enabled me to combine my passion for the business and my skills from the classroom to prove that I am capable of creating my own success.”

Kellogg offers students other real-world learning opportunities, including one through a partnership with the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), an organization dedicated to mentoring high school students from low-income backgrounds. Founded in 1987, NFTE encourages students to stay in school and gives them the tools to pursue entrepreneurial careers.

Kellogg also hosts a distinguished speakers series that invites entrepreneurial luminaries to share their insights. Recent speakers included Larry Levy ’67, founder of Levy Restaurants, and Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

Also, last spring Kellogg held its inaugural Alumni Entrepreneur Conference and KICK Business Plan Competition, featuring a total of $10,000 in prizes.

While entrepreneurship demands persistence, talent and courage to face daunting risks, the potential reward is big, says Rogers. And not merely for the entrepreneur.

“Entrepreneurs create jobs for people; people who have jobs tend to be more self-sufficient, and self-sufficient people live in healthy communities,” says the Kellogg professor.

“This helps reduce crime and increase prosperity, and so we need to do all we can to make entrepreneurs successful.”

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University