Class Of '98

Education And Entrepreneurship

From The Trenches

There's something so old-fashioned, so 20th century, about a business that has nothing to do with the Internet . . . like WallNutz, a Portland, Oregon, company that produces kits for painting murals on children's walls.

Becca Williams, 26, completed the entrepreneurship graduate program at the University of Arizona in 1998 and founded her company in the wee months of 1999. She sold her first products last December. A former financial analyst, she's currently a staff of one. But she'd be a staff of zero, she feels, if it hadn't been for studying entrepreneurship.

"Meeting and listening to entrepreneurs was the most helpful part of the program," says Williams. "We talked about boot-strapping, maintaining ownership of your company, how rewarding it can be, and the realization that you're going to be the one doing everything at first."

And there were always plenty of professors on-hand to help "shoot holes in ideas" and address potential problems.

"Studying entrepreneurship gave me the encouragement to do it. I was able to learn the process, get the product out there and market it in ways that I never would have known."

All At Once

If you think that MBA students are dropping out before graduation to start their own Net companies, it only feels that way. Granted, it happens. Last fall, three Stanford students quit midstream to pursue dot.com dreams; Northwestern lost eight graduate students to Internet enterprises; the University of Pennsylvania let go of 25. But it's actually more common for students to juggle both education and enterprise, according to a recent report by the Graduate Management Admission Council. And David Downes, director of the MBA program at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business, says 20 percent of his entrepreneurial graduate students are concurrently working on their own Net-related companies.

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Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the May 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Class Of '98.

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