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Entrepreneurship on the Rise: How MBAs Can Help

It may be a matter of necessity, or simply a desire to be independent, but for many--including MBA students and graduates--the sate of the economy has ushered in an age of entrepreneurship. According to the Kauffman Foundation, in 2009, business startups reached the highest levels in 14 years with 558,000 businesses opening monthly.

The number of entrepreneurs pursuing MBAs has also increased.

In 2009, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the number of Babson Online MBA graduates planning to start a business increased 50 percent. Additionally, 27 of the June 2009 Harvard MBA graduates were also opening their own companies. This year, the number of entrepreneurs pursuing an executive MBA at London Business School, Dubai, tripled.

MBA Programs in entrepreneurship

From Pepperdine University in Malibu to New York University, MBA programs have classes and programs to encourage entrepreneurs and help them start their own businesses.

At the MBA Entrepreneur Fellow Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, for example, students not only graduate with an MBA degree, but with a business. During this program, businesses are conceived and developed with the assistance of professors and business owners. "I'm excited to make my mark in the region," fellow Brian Mohney tells "Hopefully, I can give a student the same opportunity some day."

As part of the "Discovery to Market" program at Johns Hopkins University, MBA students learn firsthand the processes involved in turning scientific discoveries into profitable ventures. If these students succeed in assisting with a project, they could have the opportunity to join the company.

Ranked as the top U.S. News & World Report entrepreneurship school, Babson College offers the entrepreneurship Intensity Track (EIT) for those who are planning to launch a business upon graduation. EIT businesses include Enerflux Agroenergia, a Brazilian renewable energy company, and The Working Dawg, a dog daycare company. Babson has also opened a program to train San Francisco-based entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship the World Over

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Greek Minister of education, Anna Daimantopoulou, met with Greek entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley venture capitalists to seek their assistance and ideas on how to emerge from the country's economic crisis via business creation. The goal was for these Greek expatriates to review and co-finance projects with the Greek government.

As part of the Special Topics in International entrepreneurship course at New York's Pace University, MBA students study entrepreneurship in different countries, including Israel, Tanzania, and India. "I had always thought I'd be working for a large company," Pace graduate Melissa Lopez tells U.S. News & World Report. "After that course, I wanted to see if I could do something for myself."

The only African business school in the Financial Times' Global MBA rankings 2010, the University of Cape Town promotes entrepreneurial skills across all economic levels of the South African society. Young entrepreneur David Mashiyi already wants to start two companies, one to monitor fleet vehicle performance and another to provide reusable, multifunctional bags to retail stores.

"It is our job to give them the skills and aptitude to grab these opportunities with both hands," Elli Yiannakaris, director of the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development, tells the Cape Times.

Entrepreneurship Beyond Business School

Patagonia founder and self-described company philosopher, Yvon Chouinard described the essential quality of the entrepreneur in Bloomberg Businessweek, "You have to want to break the rules and prove that your way works."

MBA graduates are jumping into all sorts of ventures. With her husband Chip, Pepperdine MBA graduate Crystal Reibel opened Beyond the Olive, a store that sells olive oil and vinegar produced in California. "It simply makes sense," Crystal writes on the company's website, noting there are more than 600 extra virgin olive oil producers in California. "With the current state of the economy, why wouldn't we do what we can to support our local economy."

Winner of the business plan competition at her alma mater, New York University's MBA graduate Belinda Di Giambattista established a company called Butter Beans. Equipped with an executive chef who has worked in Michelin restaurants, the company provides healthy food and nutritional education to Brooklyn schools. It also markets fashionable lunch boxes.

For the budding business owner with limited time to attend school, online MBA programs in entrepreneurship can be a good option. When it comes to the type of business to open, Entrepreneur offers information on promising areas, including green power, the senior market; education, and discount retail. Home, health and pet care are also booming sectors. Regarding franchises, reports that branches of Subway, Dairy Queen, Dunkin Donuts, Super 8 Motel, and Days Inn have all done well over the past decade.