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“Growth will need to happen on the shoulders and backs of entrepreneurs,” said Steve Rogers, the Gordon and Llura Gund Family Professor of Entrepreneurship, in a talk to graduating students on June 17.

Nota Bene 2011

Needed: Entrepreneurs

Clinical Professor Steven Rogers encourages graduates to create new businesses and economic opportunities

By Daniel P. Smith

7/6/2011 - With more than a few graduates sporting purple matriculation gowns, accepting congratulations and snapping photos with friends and family, optimism blanketed Northwestern University’s Evanston campus June 17.

Then, Clinical Professor Steven Rogers delivered a dose of reality and a challenge to graduates embarking on professional careers amid concerns about a double-dip recession as well as uninspiring GDP and unemployment numbers.

“The world needs you to make a job if you can’t take a job,” said Rogers in his talk, titled “Kellogg and High-Growth Entrepreneurship.” Rogers’ presentation to students, parents and family filled the Owen L. Coon Forum, while an overflow crowd watched a simulcast of his program in a pair of Jacobs Center classrooms.

The well-respected Rogers, the first repeat winner of the L.G. Lavengood Outstanding Professor of the Year Award (1996 and again in 2005), offered a message to students as direct as it was stirring.

While the current recession officially ended in 2009, fallout and fears remain. If economic change is to happen, an entrepreneurial spirit must take root in many.

“Growth will need to happen on the shoulders and backs of entrepreneurs,” said Rogers, the Gordon and Llura Gund Family Professor of Entrepreneurship.

Confident that the antidote to the globe’s economic malaise will come from the Inc. 500 rather than the Fortune 500, Rogers stressed the value of high-growth entrepreneurial ideas, the type of far-reaching, impactful ventures Kellogg inspires students to create.

Rogers cited a number of Kellogg alumni as prime examples of high-growth entrepreneurship in action, including:

  • Bill Angrick ’96, co-founder of Liquidity Services
  • Gidon Novick ’88, co-founder of Kulula Air, and
  • Saq Nadeem ’05, founder and CEO of Paradise 4 Paws
It’s a Kellogg tradition that needs to continue, Rogers stressed.

“Entrepreneurs are my personal heroes … because they do good for society,” he said.

High-growth entrepreneurs write a business plan and execute it through exponential expansion and wealth creation. This, Rogers noted, is where the world shifts and human ideas promote better lives and higher standards, critical remedies for the day’s current ills.

“We desperately need more entrepreneurs — people who look to explore business opportunities while putting capital at risk and hiring people,” Rogers said.