Entrepreneurs come from many different backgrounds.
Some are born into a family business and inherit the infrastructure and expertise from their parents. Others are former workers at companies who step out on their own and try to find a better way of doing things. Many others are completely self-taught in the ways of building companies and bringing new ideas to market.
But there's another source of innovative entrepreneurs, and it's not exotic or sexy: business school.
Though they are often portrayed as factories for management clones or Wall Street number-crunchers, business schools have encouraged many individuals to embrace their own entrepreneurial vision. Furthermore, some entrepreneurs even formulate their ideas and launch their companies during business school and then go on to great success after they graduate.
Here are a few examples of entrepreneurial ideas which took root in business school and later blossomed out in the real world.
Idea: Giant Campus
Entrepreneur: Peter Findley
Findley was on his third major in three years at the University of Washington in 1996 when he stumbled upon the university's Program for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the business school. As part of his curriculum, he created a business plan for a summer camp network designed to teach new media skills to pre-teens and teenagers on college campuses. The plan earned him first prize in a statewide competition, and the $15,000 award helped him launch Giant Campus.
By 2001, over 70 colleges were hosting Giant Campus camps, including institutions in Hong Kong, Korea, China, and Saudi Arabia. Today, Findley focuses mainly on online curricula for high school elective subjects such as law, forensics, veterinary medicine, and of course entrepreneurship. But Giant Campus continues to thrive, with more than 52,000 students enrolled in its courses in 2009.
Entrepreneur: Megan Shea
Shea had a lot on her mind while during her undergraduate studies as well as her MBA program at Babson College. She was helping her family relocate her elderly grandparents from West Virginia to an independent living facility in Colorado. The excruciatingly bureaucratic process spawned the idea of RetireLife.net, a site which aims to assist others like her and her family with care-assistance information and pricing.
As part of RetireLife.net, Shea developed a cost-comparison tool which allows caregivers to better evaluate cost differences as time progresses. This unique approach helped her raise $79,000 in July of 2009, and Babson let her use temporary office space even though she had graduated during the previous semester. Today, Shea and two fellow Babson graduates operate out of an off-campus facility, and RetireLife.net boasts a database of more than 5,800 facilities nationwide.
Entrepreneurs: Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan
Shah and Halligan were both experienced entrepreneurs when they met in the MBA program at MIT. But they utilized the campus's resources and the program's coursework to refine a new enterprise they eventually called HubSpot.com. The site helps users manage and master current online technology to fully leverage the power of the Internet – which is a common challenge for small business owners.
The idea was so enticing that the chair of MIT's Entrepreneurship Center became an angel investor in the project. The company was officially founded in 2006, and three years later recorded an astonishing growth rate of 300%. Today, HubSpot.com posts eight-figure annual revenues and services over 2,000 clients.
So if you are considering enrolling in business school, you needn't worry that it will retard your entrepreneurial growth. As these examples can attest, the educational experience may even accelerate it.