2011 Kellogg Alumni Entrepreneur Conference
The event showcased strategies to build innovative businesses, quickly and cost-effectively
7/21/2011 - Innovation takes many forms. At the 2011 Kellogg Alumni Entrepreneur Conference, entrepreneurs shared innovative ways to start new ventures, grow through inventive marketing strategies and take advantage of new funding resources, all with the goal of increasing the success of future generations of Kellogg entrepreneurs.
Fittingly, the conference’s theme was “Innovate for Success,” and the conference speakers lived up to the bill.
Chuck Templeton ’06, a graduate of Kellogg’s Part-Time MBA Program, received the Alumni Entrepreneur Innovator Award from the Larry and Carol Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice. Templeton delivered a keynote address about Open Table Inc., the now-ubiquitous restaurant reservation service.
The idea for the service was born when Templeton’s girlfriend called a popular restaurant in San Francisco too early in the day to make a dinner reservation. Templeton’s idea — to create an Internet-based service that would allow diners to reserve tables 24 hours a day — increased business at many restaurants by more than 50 percent and grew Open Table Inc. into a public company that today has seated more than 200 million diners throughout the world.
“Initially, investors did not like that Open Table had to sell to thousands of restaurants. Now, having installed Open Table in a large network of restaurants, the company’s position is very defensible,” Templeton said, noting that early investors made tens of millions of dollars after Open Table went public.
Gary Gardner ’82 and his wife Denise Gardner ’78 each received the Levy Institute’s 2011 Kellogg Master Entrepreneur of the Year Award. When the couple left their family’s ethnic-beauty business in 1998 to start Namaste Labs, they decided to focus on natural product ingredients and international retail sales at a time when these markets were being overlooked by existing industry players.
“We built this business on innovation: Denise did the market research, and I went to the laboratory,” Gary Gardner said. “The place where the customer experiences benefits that transcend price is where entrepreneurs generate lasting cash flow.”
In addition to the keynote addresses, conference attendees were treated to a series of in-depth workshops on entrepreneurial topics. Topics included a “Lean Startup” workshop given by John Prendergast ’03, CEO of Blueleaf.com and one of the organizers of the Boston Lean Startup Circle. Mike Samson ’04 and Ross Kimbarovsky (NU Law ’92), co-founders of crowdSPRING.com, also gave a workshop on digital and social marketing, evaluating two alumni businesses and their Web strategies in front of the conference audience.
Several other awards were given to alumni entrepreneurs at the May 25 event, including the 2011 Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Philip H. Sheridan ’96. The 2011 Rising Entrepreneur of the Year Award was bestowed on Adam Caplan ’01, CEO of Model Metrics, and the 2011 Supporter of Entrepreneurship Award was presented to former Kellogg Dean Dipak C. Jain.