Yale SOM as a start-up business school

November 20, 2012

Balancing it all – the acrobatics of business school are quite delicate. I often equate Yale SOM to a start-up business of sorts. Similar to a start-up, Yale SOM provides boundless opportunities to make great impact. Given SOM’s relatively newer legacy with its ivy peers, SOM has few institutional barriers that lend itself to flexibility and change at all levels from administration to academics to extracurricular activities. However, similar to the life of an entrepreneur, there are only 24-hours a day (if you do not sleep), so it takes a keen eye to prioritization to balance so many different competing interests.

Yet these priorities differ for each person. I tend to bucket these into five categories (in no particular order):

  • Academics – Exceling in the classroom and taking full advantage of Yale’s academic resources both within SOM or beyond
  • Career – Finding a job – that’s generally the primary motivation for going to business school to switch jobs or careers
  • Leadership – Utilizing club and extracurricular activities to learn new things and to even take on leadership roles and opportunities to gain further management experience
  • Social – Networking – at the end of the day, it is the friends and SOM “family” that people often take away from the business school experience who will be great source of connections and friendships in the future
  • Personal – Any other personal aspirations or priorities.

Business school requires an innate sense of self and how to best prioritize your time. It often takes quite a while to find the best balance. More importantly, everyone’s priorities are different. While some classmates may value academics higher on their list of priorities, others may value personal aspirations as their top priority. Especially with numerous group projects, this is an important conversation to have to ensure that expectations are set appropriately.

Yale SOM in particular reminds me of start-up in that it provides a wealth of resources (faculty, career mentors, alumni, coaches, eminent leaders, etc.) needed to chart your own path with limited barriers. Unlike more established programs, SOM still has a lot of room to grow, which makes it a great place to make an impact and shape the school itself. Feedback is embedded into the DNA, which mean administration, students, and faculty welcome suggestions and ideas, especially if you are willing to get your hands dirty to lead the effort.

I came to Yale SOM to pursue social entrepreneurship as a personal motive. Entrepreneurship has always been an area that I have wanted to explore, but was too risk adverse to pursue wholeheartedly. Previously, I worked in management consulting and more recently within international development, but really wanted a more entrepreneurial perspective related to economic development. The past summer working at Endeavor in Egypt really provided me with my first experience working within a start-up and I caught the “itch.” Coming into Yale, I had a wild idea to try to launch a social enterprise. After some brief conversations with some second year classmates, I was connected with numerous people within New Haven who had similar aspirations. Ultimately, I formed a team with four other persons within the New Haven community, all bringing a myriad of complementary talents, to launch Carte Blanche Incubator Restaurant. The concept is to create a revolving restaurant where chefs can test out their concepts, patrons can try innovative healthy foods that are all locally sourced, and the community benefits through food sustainability education. Through the process, I have taken advantage of the wealth of resources that Yale offers including a Master’s Tea with the Executive Chef of Gramercy Tavern NYC, Yale Sustainable Food Project-sponsored talks with Whole Foods and other local producers and food sustainability advocates, the New Haven Food Policy Council, local chefs, food-oriented classmates, and others! I have truly been impressed throughout the process. Recently, our concept received funding from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, which provides funding, consulting, legal, and business services to potential start-ups through its Venture Creation Program (VCP). I am also in talks with professors as we refine our business model and start thinking about innovative social enterprise models that are financially sustainable, yet are rooted in the social mission. From a name scribbled on the back of a paper napkin to an actual constructed business plan, I could not have fathomed the idea coming to fruition so quickly.

Whatever your priorities or aspirations are, entrepreneurial or not, I have found Yale SOM to be a great place to discover myself, explore new topics/ fields, and make new friends!

What path will you chart here at SOM?

About the author

Nate Wong

Class of 2014