The Acton MBA In Entrepreneurship Could Change Your Life

Robin Bruce. Courtesy photo

Acton CEO Robin Bruce. Courtesy photo

Bruce also maintains that the school is very transparent in terms of its value proposition. “I always tell students when we’re doing admission interviews, Acton as a credential is not very valuable. We are very, very honest with our incoming students about this. … If they’re looking for a big, brand-name MBA, they should not come to Acton,” she says. “This is an entrepreneurship boot camp. We will tee you up to be an entrepreneur, but we’re not going to do a lot of extra stuff.”

Bruce acknowledges that a handful of students have been dissatisfied with their Acton experience. “Either we weren’t clear enough on the front end, or they weren’t super clear on exactly what they were looking for coming in,” she says. Some students start out with entrepreneurial aspirations and then find that they prefer the corporate route, she explains.


Abianne Miller Falla (Acton MBA 2013) already had a CPA and a master’s degree in marketing. “I don’t know that a traditional MBA would have been interesting for me,” she says. When contemplating the program, she called a former Acton professor who told her that the experience would save her 10 years of experience and mistakes. “I thought, ‘Even if he’s exaggerating and it’s only half that and it’s five years, it’s still a great learning curve, and I wouldn’t be learning with investor dollars,’” she says. She hung up the phone and applied to the program.

As for the Acton experience, Miller compares it to standing inside a booth at a carnival and trying to snatch bills from a cash whirlwind. “That’s how I felt at Acton,” she says. “I can’t learn everything that’s being shared, so how do I prioritize the information?”

For Miller, the Acton experience and effort proved worthwhile. After graduating, she co-founded Cat Spring Tea, which produces yaupon tea, and she’s been running the business for the last three years. “Acton really did reshape my brain and how I look at companies and at business,” she says. “There’s no question it’s been invaluable. I know I’m making mistakes with my company, but they’re different than what I would have been making without Acton. And I’m more aware of them.”


Not everyone agrees. Van Ness contends that the intense focus on case studies and the Socratic method didn’t offer enough in the way of actionable feedback. “Traditional MBAs do group projects and try to simulate leadership experience and give you lots of feedback on so-called ‘soft skills.’ Acton would claim it does that, but frankly it doesn’t — it’s just all cases all the time,” he says, emphasizing that the lack of direct faculty feedback, something other students noted, made it difficult to identify areas for improvement.

Both graduates and administrators say Acton is not a replacement for a traditional MBA. At its best, it’s an action-oriented program that compresses and accelerates the learning process for entrepreneurially minded students who want to start businesses and who appreciate intense self-reflection. At its worst, it’s a grueling year that results in a little-known degree and a mediocre network.

The best advice for those considering the program? Try it out. “It’s worth people coming in and sitting in on a class to know if it’s a fit. If it’s not, it’s going to be really hard,” Falla says. Or, as in her case, it may just be the ticket to a new business.


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