After a two-hour boat ride off the coast of Townsville, Australia, Garrett Nastarin had the Great Barrier Reef to himself. He’d booked a 12-person dive boat, but he was the only snorkeler in the water.
What he saw both amazed and alarmed him. Of course, he saw some of the biggest, most brightly colored fish he’d ever laid goggles on along with giant clams 3- to 4-feet across. But, in this remote stretch, hyped as one of the best sections of the Great Barrier Reef to visit, he counted just a few big sections of healthy coral.
“It was mostly specks here and there. A vast majority of the sea floor was sand mixed with white, shattered bits of coral. The lack of coral was shocking and painful to see,” says Nastarin, of Agoura Hills, Calif., an MBA ‘23 at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Nastarin’s trip to the Great Barrier Reef was funded through a Levy Inspiration Grant, a new experiential offering in Kellogg’s entrepreneurship program. The grants, which are not attached to any course, pay up to $5,000 for individual students to get out there, immerse themselves in a business problem or market of their choosing, and get inspired.
Nasatrin used his Levy Grant to explore how entrepreneurs, researchers, and businesses are tackling particular issues with ocean health – pollution, coral bleaching, acidification, etc. He’s long been interested in the intersection between profit and impact, but he’s seen few ventures tackle a very specific problem – like working to protect an endangered coral reef.
“Overall, that was a pretty special and motivating experience for me, but I also think it helped my street cred with the entrepreneurs and researchers I met with afterwards. I had seen the destruction for myself. I understood like they did.”
KELLOGG’S ‘FOUNDER FOCUSED’ APPROACH TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The Levy Inspiration Grant is just one of several innovations to Kellogg’s entrepreneurship program since Poets&Quants’ last deep dive into the program in October 2020, back when COVID restrictions still grounded experiential programs at B-schools across the world.
The program appointed a new director in 2021, David Schonthal, who is doubling down on the “founder-focused” approach to entrepreneurship that is central to the school’s Zell Fellowship Program founded in 2013. Schonthal also is the faculty director of the Zell program and has led it for the last 10 years.
“One of the interesting things about the Zell program is it focuses less on the business and more on the founder. We view ourselves as an accelerator of people, not an accelerator of businesses,” Schonthal tells P&Q.
The Kellogg entrepreneurship program is already comprehensive, with numerous courses, clubs, startup spaces, and funding opportunities. About 70% of Kellogg students will take at least one entrepreneurship class during their programs. The trick is creating a program that is relevant to and helpful no matter one’s age, background, field, or experience.
One of Schonthal’s goals for Kellogg entrepreneurship is to create more customizable pathways relevant to students’ varied and specific journeys. Someone who wants to be an entrepreneur in healthcare has different needs and interests than one who’s interested in sustainability, or consumer technology, or acquisition. Similarly, a student looking to build a FinTech business in Sub Saharan Africa will have different challenges than one looking to build it in Brazil. A 27-year-old MBA will come with a different set of circumstances than a founder who is 45.
“One of the things that we’re thinking about is how do we support Kellogg, students and alums, whenever they’re ready to start that business, whether they do it while they’re here, or they do it after they leave? What does lifelong entrepreneurship education and support look like for our alums?” Schonthal says.
NEW COURSE: ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN EMERGING MARKETS
About 38% of Kellogg’s MBA class are international, many of whom will return to their own countries to build their careers. But, Schonthal notes that the bulk of the course work in the entrepreneurial program is devoted to building businesses in U.S. markets.
So, soon after taking the reins, he recruited adjunct lecturer Efosa Ojomo to create a new course, Entrepreneurship and Market Creation in Emerging Markets.
Born in Nigeria, Ojomo came to the United States to study computer engineering with no intention of going back. Then, he began reading books on developing economies and poverty and it changed the trajectory of his life. He went to Harvard Business School for his MBA and met his mentor Clay Christensen, regarded as the world’s foremost thinker on disruptive innovation. Together, they published “The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations out of Poverty.”
“I think why a class like this is so important, is that when you’re building something for a poor, emerging economy, you are building the country,” says Ojomo, who is the director of Global Prosperity at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
“I think the more entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial minded people see that, the more they see their place in society,”
The class began last fall, and serves a mix of international students who plan to return to their native countries and students who are simply interested in opportunities in emerging economies. Just 7% of people in the world live on more than $50 a day, notes the course syllabus, and students study tools, frameworks, and real-world business problems in order to create a market to serve the other 93%.
A Nigerian entrepreneur once described to Ojomo the opportunities in emerging economies in this way: “There is a lot of low-hanging fruit, but it’s really hard to pick.” In other words, these wide open markets aren’t supported by the infrastructure, institutions, systems, etc., that are found in developed countries. So, a lot of the investment that occurs is devoted to building roads, hospitals, or large institutional systems. What Ojomo is trying to teach is that prosperity progress is actually more humble.
“You go into the country, and you figure out how to sell a product or service to the people, and the country builds the infrastructure and systems around that,” he tells P&Q. “It is entrepreneurs who are able to build companies that serve people, create jobs, pay taxes, and over time the country becomes prosperous.”
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