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MBA Entrepreneurs' Secrets of Success

"Entrepreneurs embody the promise of America: the idea that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard and see it through, you can succeed in this country. And in fulfilling this promise, entrepreneurs also play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs."

That was U.S. President Barack Obama's explanation of the importance of entrepreneurship during the launch this year of Startup America, an initiative to accelerate the creation of high-growth enterprises. MBA programs, students and alumni can play a crucial part in the development of these new businesses, and many are already doing so, particularly in the technology sector.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, graduates of MBA programs venture into the creation of companies faster than other degree holders, and more are joining start-ups, which recruited more business school graduates for full-time positions in 2011 than in previous years. For example, 7 percent of Harvard MBA graduates went to work for start-ups in 2010, compared to 3 percent in 2008.

After surveying 3,755 alumni who graduated from 1985 to 2009, a Babson College study reported that taking two or more entrepreneurship courses influences the decision to become an entrepreneur following graduation and long afterward. Graduates also appear more likely to become entrepreneurs later in their business career--the percentage of alumni entrepreneurs increases over time, the survey found. And Bloomberg Businessweek reports that MBA grads take an average of just over 13 years to become entrepreneurs.

Attributes of successful MBA entrepreneurs

Business

MBA Sheel Mohnot, director of business development at FeeFighters.com, says graduates of MBA programs generally possess key traits that enable them to become successful start-up executives: They tend to be ambitious, highly analytical, polished, outgoing and well-connected.

    MBAs demonstrate their ambition and drive the moment they leave their jobs and move to new cities to enroll in MBA programs, Mohnot said. During business school, MBAs hone their analytical, negotiating, and communication skills through the completion of cases and other activities. Those abilities, as well as the capacity of outgoing MBAs to tap into networks for advice and funds, are fundamental for start-ups, Mohnot said.

    Prior to joining FeeFighters.com, which allows users to compare credit card processing companies, Mohnot worked as a management consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. His start-up experience includes founding an e-retailer and online magazine and directing online marketing at Kiva.org, which allows individuals to lend as little as $25 to create opportunities worldwide.

    MBA entrepreneurs expand into marriage, college applications and meals

    Marriage.com is a platform where engaged couples and wedding professionals can exchange questions and answers, ideas, and local referrals. "In a nutshell, I'd say that my MBA gave me the confidence, background and professional network to start my own business, Marriage.com," said MBA Katrina Razavi, company founder and CEO.

    Classmates and professors helped put Razavi in touch with online industry experts and investors, and her business school training allowed her to deliver corporate speeches in front of hundreds of people and manage her time efficiently. Before Marriage.com, Razavi worked as business development director for the shop-through-video platform Shopflick.com.

    While enrolled at the University of Michigan, MBA Todd Emaus built a business named BoomStreet.com that offers daily deals for baby boomers. He sold the site in March of this year and is now working on his second start-up, Acceptly.com, which is in the business of simplifying the college admissions process for high school students.

    "More than anything, getting my MBA has given me a level of topical knowledge that helps me make decisions more quickly," Emaus said. "In day-to-day start-up life there are so many hats to wear that there isn't time to learn everything on the fly. That said, being able to comprehend a [venture capitalist's] term sheet or develop brand positioning feel more instinctive as a result of my education."

    MBA Michael Laramee, co-founder of mealTrain.com, says his business school degree prepared him to write the business and marketing plans and to prioritize efforts.

    Through mealTrain.com, friends can organize meals for loved ones during significant life events like the birth of a baby, surgery or illness. In the past year, Laramee said, mealTrain.com has helped organize more than 140,000 meals for more than 16,500 families. On most nights, more than 800 families receive a meal from friends and family because of mealTrain.com.

    "I honestly feel that without my MBA, I would not have had the structure or confidence to launch my venture," Laramee said.

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