The MBA has traditionally been viewed as a gateway into lucrative careers in investment banks, consulting firms or large corporations. But there’s been a shift in recent years: students are demanding the skills needed to start their own businesses. They want access to local startup ecosystems, to investors, and to professors with experience in entrepreneurship.
Unsurprisingly, business schools are cashing in on the trend – not only by offering elective options in entrepreneurial subjects and equipping students with the essential skills needed to run a business (time management, innovation, entrepreneurial finance), but also by providing invaluable extra-curricular opportunities like mentoring or financial and administrative support.
London Business School (LBS), for example, has its own incubator, which gives students fundraising and pitching practice opportunities, and ongoing support from its faculty. Cass Business School’s Centre for Entrepreneurship offers alumni access to a venture fund.
And Cambridge Judge Business School’s Ignite programme provides teaching sessions, mentoring, and advice from over 300 successful entrepreneurs.
And herein lies one of the MBA’s greatest attributes: networking opportunities with some of the brightest people in the world – people who could become a future business partner.
Read more: Is a specialist MBA a sensible option?
As David Morris, associate director at LBS, points out, “without the right community, being an entrepreneur can be a lonely business. Many of our students have actually met their business partners here”.
Consider FilmDoo, the UK video platform founded by Weerada Sucharitkul and William Page, which was launched off the back of one of Page’s MBA projects. “My supervisor [at MGSM in Sydney] was very supportive of the idea and encouraged us to set up the company. He now sits on our Advisory Committee.”
Of course, an MBA cannot give students a winning idea or create an entrepreneur out of someone who does not have passion in the first place.
But it will give those that want to start a business the time to develop and refine a plan, and it offers students the opportunity to fail in a safe environment: “They can try out disruptive, off-the-wall ideas – without the risk of bankruptcy. It gives them a sense of what can be done and how to do it,” says Dr Andrew Ward of EU Business School.
And for those lacking the right idea, Search Funds – where a would-be entrepreneur, usually with an MBA and limited experience, persuades around a dozen investors to support them search for and acquire an existing business – offer an interesting alternative.
Despite these schools’ best efforts, however, entrepreneurship still remains a minority pursuit in the world of business education. But MBAs are broad-based degrees, teaching everything from finance to marketing to law.
So even if you decide not to found your own business, the worst outcome is that you graduate and get a great job.