2018 Best MBAs: Carr Lanphier, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Carr Lanphier

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

Open, enthusiastic, and authentically engaged and energized by the people and world around me.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Winnetka, IL

Fun fact about yourself: I had reconstructive surgery in 7th grade after a friend accidentally shot me in the face.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Michigan, Ross School of Business – BBA

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

  • Morningstar – Equity Analyst
  • Redmoon Theater – Venue Director
  • NewMoon Chicago – Co-Founder

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? I interned at Formaspace in Austin, TX for Jeff Turk (KSM ’05), and I couldn’t have asked for a more fulfilling summer. Jeff spent the summer insuring that I grew both personally and professionally, teaching me the things he wishes he’d known as an MBA. From M&A projects curated to my ETA interests, to nights working real estate construction, to conversations with Austin’s leading entrepreneurs, I had a summer that was far more than an internship – it was a crash course on life for which I’ll be forever grateful.

Where will you be working after graduation? I’ll be pursuing an Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA) opportunity, either through a search, apprenticeship or related model. ETA offers MBA’s a pathway to operating small businesses, either by identifying and acquiring a company following graduation (search model), or spending several years working under a CEO and then leading a similar company (apprenticeship).

Kellogg’s investments in ETA programming, particularly through Karin O’Connor’s development of the “Growth and Scaling” curriculum, is attracting new investors to the ETA space and giving Kellogg students the first crack at truly incredible opportunities. I’m truly fortunate to launch an ETA career at Kellogg and during such an advantageous period in the economic cycle.

 Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m proudest of becoming a Zell Fellow, which is Kellogg’s highly selective flagship entrepreneurial program (split into four cohorts: New Venture, Acquisition & Ownership, Healthcare and Emerging Market) that is tantamount to jet fuel for 30 students’ entrepreneurial careers. Zell Fellows receive executive coaching, direct funding, access to a world-class network, mentorship from world-class entrepreneurs, and fully funded trips to Israel, Hawaii, SF, and New Orleans, amongst a variety of other resources.

However, the best thing about Zell are the other Fellows; the A&O cohort includes nine of the most intelligent, motivated and wildly talented people I’ve ever met. In a matter of months, we’ve built an incredible rapport and dedication to doing whatever is necessary to help each other succeed. It’s the most remarkable group I’ve ever been a part of, and I look forward to watching the impact that each of them will have on their organizations and industries after graduation.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m proudest of launching NewMoon Chicago. I left a great job on Wall Street to join a non-profit arts company called Redmoon Theater that created “Burning Man” style-art – i.e. a DJ podium with 13 flame-throwers that synchronizes fire with music, like a fiery Bellagio Fountain. My role was to transforming a massive old warehouse (Redmoon’s new HQ) into first-class, 1000-person concert venue and then generating income to support Redmoon’s mission. After fifteen wild months, we’d hosted Maroon 5 and had upcoming events like Kellogg’s Charity Auction Ball (not joking), which is why we were utterly shocked when an over-investment in an offsite production led to Redmoon’s dissolution. Just like that, booked events lost their venue, I didn’t have a job (after telling clients they needed new locations), and organization prepared for liquidation.

Redmoon had had a second, rapidly growing business: renting its art (like DJ Fire) to events. I knew that if the artistic assets were kept together, it would be a fantastic private business. Fortunately, the two artists that ran the events business saw the same potential, so we decided to launch NewMoon Chicago. The event business’ largest clients recognized NewMoon’s potential and gave us a generous loan to secure the assets and rent unheated storage unit, which also became NewMoon’s uncomfortably hot/cold (depending on the season) office.

By scratching and clawing, we kept ourselves afloat. Within four months NewMoon broke even. Within eight months, we were doing events from Florida to Vancouver. Within ten months, I started at Kellogg, providing the legal and accounting resources necessary to formalize our operations. Over the next two quarters, NewMoon’s steady growth let me transition my focus from winning funding to exploring new opportunities to learning at the elbow of world class entrepreneurs. Only by learning the hard way did I appreciate the incredible opportunity I had at Kellogg to glean the insights and lessons that would have taken me a very bumpy lifetime to accumulate.

Who was your favorite MBA professor?  Kellogg’s professorial roster includes incredibly inspiring, generous, and insightful people. These men and women are not only willing to share their experiences, but also willing to open their personal network to students.

For example, last year a professor set up a 30-minute call with the CEO of a Fortune 500 telecom, whom he’d known for 20+ years. This year, a different professor asked her close friend, a billionaire serial entrepreneur, to share his thoughts on a background check idea. These are just two examples of the many industry leaders I’ve spoken with as a result of professors’ generosity, and the incredible connections Kellogg professors offer students every day.

Why did you choose this business school? I picked Kellogg because I firmly believe it’s the best MBA program to be an entrepreneur. In the last few years, Kellogg has made massive investments in its entrepreneurial programming, hired world-class entrepreneurs as faculty, and unveiled the incredible Zell Fellows Program; the quantity of resources available to Kellogg students is effectively an entrepreneurial scholarship unto itself.

The second reason I chose Kellogg was because our NewMoon team had trouble describing, much less marketing, NewMoon’s services. Our offerings included drones flying appetizers to guests (“Pastry Drones”) or merging beer-kegs and Segways into mobile refueling stations (“Kegways”) – clear must-haves at any party. I’d challenge the reader to articulate how they would search for a service like that. We didn’t know – which is why I picked the world’s best marketing school.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I’d advise that applicants get to know the program, students, professors, and most of all, Kellogg alumni – which is easily the most valuable asset Kellogg has to offer. Kellogg conducts alumni interviews for every applicant because every alum is a steward of the culture and community; they’re looking for people that are engaged, committed, and curious – “high impact, low ego.” Reach out to Kellogg grads you know, learn what they liked about Kellogg, the resources they found helpful, and classmates that were most insightful.

Then, if you’ve asked engaging questions and the conversation went well, ask if they’d be willing to introduce you to one of their classmates whose experience is relevant to your own. Not only will this give you something to talk about in your application and interview, Kellogg alums are some of the best people you could hope to meet, and you will have met two fantastic resources to your network that can only benefit you in future.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I’d dedicated more time to get to know classmates on a deeper level from the moment I arrived at Kellogg.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Oleg Valiev has the most remarkable, inspiring story of anyone I’ve ever met. Oleg grew up in the impoverished country of Soviet Kyrgyzstan, which suffered a permanent food shortage a when the USSR collapsed. For years, Oleg had to make the daily choice between school and waiting in a breadline to feed his family.

By 13, Oleg realized that education was the only means of escaping the poverty in his remote village, so he dedicated every fiber of himself to learning. Oleg bought and memorized textbooks for the years of school he’d missed; he taught himself English by listening to the radio and studying videos until he could speak the language. By 16, he was the village’s best English speaker, won the national English language competition, and gained the attention of American Peace Corps volunteers, who recognized Oleg’s potential and helped him get a full scholarship to a Hawaiian high school exchange program. Once he was in the US, Oleg absolutely pulverized his studies, earning a full ride to Hawaii Pacific University, an offer from Deloitte, and then scholarship from Kellogg.

Oleg is the classmate I most admire because he is truly the embodiment of the American Dream. He created a better life for himself through pure force of will, and he is a testament to what someone can become if they believe in themselves.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My dad has always preached that an MBA is a one-time chance to pivot a career, so try out different jobs while your young. His counsel gave me the courage to step into the unknown and find my calling in entrepreneurship, leaving a safe finance job to build a concert venue, counting on the “MBA pivot” if something unexpected happened. The next two years were VERY unexpected, but far from motivating a pivot. It affirmed my passion for building businesses and demonstrated the incredible value an MBA education could bring to a small business.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…scaling NewMoon Chicago.”

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Help a friend, colleague or classmate build a wildly successful organization either by being an investor, team member, or channel partner.
  2. Endow a cross-disciplinary scholarship at an alma mater.

 In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?

I would like my peers to remember me as someone who believed in them and encouraged them to live their passions; that a Kellogg degree is an incredible safety net; and putting everything on the line for their greatest aspiration is a lesser risk than holding back and always wondering “what if”.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Godfather – it’s a poignant story about growing a small business, told through the lens of a family that did what they had to in order to survive. Fundamentally, business is personal, and success is all about the type of people that surround you. Plus, the acting is fantastic.

What would your theme song be? “Space Jam” – by Quad City DJs

Favorite vacation spot: Northern Michigan – specifically Glen Lake and Crystal Lake, which are about 30 minutes apart. There’s a friendly rivalry between my mom’s less formal family gathering (sometime in July or August) and the military precision of “Sacred Week” – my dad’s family gathering, which is the same week every year, and attendance isn’t optional. It’s been an incredible privilege to grow up experiencing both.

Hobbies?I love exploring business ideas. Right now, I’m working on a finance themed sock company called GoldMenSocks.com, which is “the world’s best sock investment.”

What made Carr such an invaluable member of the Class of 2018?

“Carr is one of the most driven, fully engaged self-starters I’ve come across in my 10 years of teaching at Booth and Kellogg. He is a sharp, creative and insatiably curious; he’s a proven serial entrepreneur with an infectious passion and personality that has literally worked in the trenches and knows from first-hand experience the blood, sweat and tears it takes to bring an idea into reality. Before Kellogg, Carr left finance to join a non-profit and build a concert venue, financing the growth on his own credit cards, and then spun out an artistic event business that he ran with two full-time partners while at Kellogg. His company provides services like drones that deliver appetizers – pretty cool. He’s raised money, laid asphalt and fixed toilets. He embodies what it is to be an entrepreneur.

I’ve gotten to know Carr through my Entrepreneurial Selling (ES) course, and his experiences made him a great student to have in class; he’d ask probing questions and push for the tactics behind a strategy, eager to avoid making the same mistake twice. He is insightful and knowledgeable with a great sense of humor and a remarkable bias for action. He views every class as a potential tryout opportunity – both for professors, guest speakers, and promising companies he brings in as the focal point of course projects. The company he worked with in my class offered him their Head of Sales role, and investors he met in other classes have offered to back him.

Finally, one of Carr’s strongest attributes is his fundamental belief in those around him. At Kellogg, leaders are those that “inspire growth in people, organizations, and markets”. His commitment to helping classmates realize their ambitions – whether by making introductions, analyzing market data, or helping with cold call marathons—exemplifies what it is to be a leader. I’m happy to call Carr a student, a mentee, and a friend, and I am excited to see how Carr will impact people, communities and markets as he grows in the entrepreneur and leader I know he will be.”

Craig Wortmann
Clinical Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Executive Director of the Kellogg Sales Institute

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST: CLASS OF 2018