By Arial Starks
Do you have an idea you want to turn into a career, but you don’t know how to run your own business? Whether you need help learning how to effectively run a business, or you have started a business but want to gain skills to make your company even more successful, an MBA might be the missing piece you need. We sat down with Stacie Pawlicki, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Vanderbilt, to learn how an MBA degree sets new entrepreneurs up for success.
How will an MBA help me with entrepreneurship?
An MBA offers experiential learning opportunities where you’re able to get instant feedback in a risk-free environment, which can help student entrepreneurs avoid making mistakes that could result in setbacks for their business. Pawlicki notes there is particular coursework in an MBA program that is beneficial for anyone starting a business, due to the hands-on experiences the classes offer. She references courses at Vanderbilt Business taught by serial entrepreneur Professor Michael Burcham.
“The courses Dr. Burcham teaches helps you think through many of the different steps and necessities to starting a business,” she says. “Particularly, through one of his courses, ‘Launching the Venture,’ you team up with other students and learn what it takes to launch a venture, put together a pitch deck, and then, at the end of the course, you actually pitch your idea to a panel of entrepreneur and investor judges.”
What will I gain from an MBA that will help me successfully run a business?
An MBA program supplies students with key business concepts across functional areas (like operations, finance, accounting, and marketing) needed to help a business thrive. Students looking to pursue entrepreneurship gain confidence, community, and experience from an MBA, which all come together to set an entrepreneur up for success. MBA programs offer students a large network of peers, faculty, and alumni from whom you can learn and seek resources or support.
“Coming into an MBA program, whether you are pursuing entrepreneurship or not, you get access to a community made up of other students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the local community. You’re going to be surrounded by like-minded peers, and you’re going to be connected to a bigger network than you started with, which can be tremendous as you grow your career,” she said.
Earning an MBA also teaches students important soft skills like strategic thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and effective communication, which allows them to pivot and react quickly when issues with their business arise.
What opportunities does Vanderbilt Business have to help students with entrepreneurship?
Every business school has different resources available to aid students in their entrepreneurial journey. At Vanderbilt, there are many events, programs, and people who can make the path to success a little bit easier. The Center for Entrepreneurship hosts an annual Entrepreneurship Conference, a day-long event where students can learn from and connect with alumni speakers and entrepreneurial experts. Vanderbilt also holds several pitch competitions every year that allow students to work on their business model and then present it to a panel of entrepreneurs and judges for the chance to win financial prizes. These are just two opportunities of many that the Vanderbilt Center for Entrepreneurship offers to students and alumni interested in entrepreneurship.
“When you’re in the Vanderbilt MBA program and you have a business idea, you have access to resources where you can go to get feedback or connect to an expert you are needing at the stage you are at in your entrepreneurial journey,” said Pawlicki.
Pawlicki adds that participating in the hands-on opportunities available to students also gives them a foundational level of business experience.
“When you’re not just learning about entrepreneurship, but you get those hands-on experiences, it gives students room for error, while also providing them with feedback and critique so that they can apply what they’ve experienced to a real-life business,” she said. “Given the growth of Nashville, it’s an amazing time to be a part of the city as it grows, and our MBA students get to capitalize on that. There are many entrepreneurs and investors in our local community that Vanderbilt offers opportunities for students to connect with.”