“Let’s see your shoe…just put it up here on the table.”
Reluctantly, I shed a nondescript black flat with a gold buckle and plop it on the table.
“This is great,” observes Carter Cast, a management professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Cast whips out his smartphone and starts snapping away, taking photos of my shoe from different angles.
He’d asked my opinion about a startup idea for comfortable, stylish flats for women pitched by two MBA students in his New Venture Discovery course. I’d explained that I didn’t see a huge market need. There were plenty of options available: My current footwear were comfortable, affordable, and–I liked to think, anyway–stylish. He relayed the pictures back to his students, who emailed me later for my “perspective on comfortable, stylish shoes to inform our shoe design.” I was flattered–and surprised.
A few years ago, this conversation wouldn’t have occurred. For starters, Cast, the former CEO of Walmart.com, didn’t teach at Kellogg. For another, his class didn’t exist. In fact, entrepreneurship, as a structured path at Kellogg didn’t really exist. If you possessed any entrepreneurial DNA, you probably decided among Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, Rice, or Babson.
The episode is emblematic of a major shift going on in Evanston, Illinois. Kellogg, long considered a world-class destination for students keen on marketing and consulting, is finally catching the wave of get-out-of-the-classroom entrepreneurship education.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the school’s seismic shift toward entrepreneurship took off, but one thing is certain: Kellogg is working in overdrive to recover lost ground. The B-school has silently plugged away for the past two years, scrapping old courses, creating a dozen new ones, hiring 19 adjunct faculty with real-world entrepreneurial experience, renting space in a downtown Chicago tech hub, and establishing ties with schools across the university. They’ve even released a slick video with cameos from new faculty and successful alumni. Now, those changes are bearing their first fruits.
So why the push for entrepreneurship now? School officials say students, alumni, and even faculty called for change. But that’s only half the story: no major business school can afford to ignore entrepreneurship. From corporate innovation departments to technology startups, the market is demanding more entrepreneurial MBA, and big-name B-school are jumping in the game. Last month alone, Yale’s School of Management launched a formal entrepreneurship program, while Columbia Business School hosted its inaugural entrepreneurship conference. Kellogg undoubtedly understands that it’s easier to act now than to play catch-up later.
Kellogg’s recently released entrepreneurship video