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Dean Emeritus Donald P. Jacobs (2nd from left) presented the Kellogg Alumni Master Entrepreneur Award to Joe Levy '47 (3rd from left) at the 2006 Kellogg Alumni Entrepreneur Conference. Standing with them are Mort Kamien (left), who holds the Joseph and Carole Levy Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, and Steven Rogers (right), the Gordon and Llura Gund Family Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship and director of the Larry and Carol Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice at Kellogg.

Entrepreneurship alive at Kellogg

Alumni Entrepreneur Conference honors enterprising graduates while sharing their insights

By Aubrey Henretty

5/31/2006 - Entrepreneurship is everywhere at the Kellogg School, and a recent conference highlighted just how deep this can-do passion runs.

During his opening remarks at the third annual Kellogg Alumni Entrepreneurship Conference, held May 31 at the James L. Allen Center, Professor Steven Rogers shared some telling results from a survey researching the prevalence of entrepreneurship at Kellogg.

A full 85 percent of the 1,500 surveyed alumni who majored in entrepreneurship at Kellogg are involved in entrepreneurial ventures. In total, these graduates have created 329 new businesses, more than 7,200 new jobs and revenues amounting to $1 billion. The evidence, said Rogers, leads to an obvious conclusion:

“If you come to Kellogg, if you major in entrepreneurship, then entrepreneurship is definitely in your future.”

Rogers, the Gordon and Llura Gund Family Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, set the tone for the daylong celebration of Kellogg mavericks. The conference, sponsored in part by the Larry and Carol Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice, offered participants at the sold-out event an action-packed agenda — including keynote addresses, panel discussions and The Marketplace, an exhibition of 14 alumni-run businesses. The conference provided a forum for academics, alumni, current students and other members of the Kellogg community to discuss mergers, acquisitions, patience, persistence and all things entrepreneurial.

Several prominent alumni were also feted during the event, including Joe Levy Jr. '47, who received the 2006 Kellogg Alumni Master Entrepreneur Award. The award was given by Kellogg Dean Emeritus Donald P. Jacobs and Professor Morton Kamien. Mr. Levy and his spouse Carole have been significant supporters of entrepreneurial practice at Kellogg for many years, including the establishment in 1988 of a distinguished professorship in their name. The Joseph and Carole Levy Atrium, a centerpiece in the social life of the Kellogg School, is also named in their honor. The Levys have provided scholarship funds to the school and Mr. Levy serves on the Kellogg Dean's Advisory Board, in addition to having providing his mentorship generously throughout the Kellogg community.

Other esteemed alumni award winners included: KidSnips co-founders Jill Gordon and Kim Stolze (both '80), who received the 2006 Kellogg Alumni Rising Entrepreneur Award; Fifth Third Bank Vice President Leslie Anderson '01, who received the 2006 Kellogg Alumni Supporter of Entrepreneurship Award; and INCISENT Technologies Founder and CEO Pat Ryan Jr. '95, who received the 2006 Kellogg Alumni Social Entrepreneur Award.

Featured guest Doug Cook '98, CEO of Chicagoland window-replacement company Feldco, a conference co-sponsor, delivered a lunchtime keynote focusing on what he suggested some consider a decidedly unromantic aspect of entrepreneurship: the acquisition.

“Acquiring a business is absolutely nothing like acquiring a piece of real estate,” Cook said. Where real-estate transactions are generally quick, straightforward and relatively painless, the due diligence process [associated with an acquisition] is long, nerve-wracking and full of surprises. The effort demands the establishment of a real relationship between the principle players themselves, Cook explained, not merely their attorneys, for instance.

“Acquiring a business is a lot more like a blind date,” he said. And like a blind date, its success depends less on the network of people who set it up than the connection between the main players. If all goes well, resulting in a “second date” or a sale, the work is still far from complete.

“Actually,” Cook said, smiling, “the sale is when it begins.”