CELect team meets with client

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Be a Pioneer for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship Entrepreneurs are trailblazers, rainmakers, problem-solvers, cheerleaders and business strategists—and that’s just before lunch. At WashU Olin, we foster an entrepreneurial spirit in every student, whether your plans include a startup, Fortune 500 company or somewhere in between. You’ll have the chance to develop your entrepreneurial chops, with courses, an MBA platform, experiential learning opportunities and connections to the thriving St. Louis startup community.

By the numbers

videoFor the second consecutive year, Inc and Poets & Quants named WashU Olin's MBA the number one program for entrepreneurship globally. Hear from current students and recent alumni who spoke with John Byrne following this announcement in the video to the left. Four Olin entrepreneurs share how they turned their innovative idea into a reality, and how Olin fostered that entrepreneurial spirit in practical and actionable ways.

Olin also ranks #1 for percentage of female startup founders and has the highest average funding among any business school globally, according to analysis by business banking app Tide. And Princeton Review ranks WashU Olin #16 Top School for Entrepreneurship Studies (graduate programs, December 2019)

Coursework and experiences to chart your entrepreneurial path

Entrepreneurial thinking and innovation in the marketplace are the keys to prosperity in business today—whether the customer is a global client or around the corner. At Olin, you learn the skills and put them into practice.

  • Develop your own business plan in the Hatchery course.
  • Offer strategic advice to early stage startups in a Center for Experiential Learning Entrepreneurial Consulting Team.
  • Apply the power of data analytics to local small businesses in the Metrics Clinic.
  • Compete for seed capital to fund your startup.
  • Concentrate your MBA with the Entrepreneurship platform (20+ credits).
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Strange Donuts project in Shanghai

Learning by doing

WashU Olin’s global immersion for first-year MBA students includes field research through which students work to provide innovative strategies for a US business to enter the local market.

Your immersive experiential learning spans three continents. As students gain an enhanced understanding of business expertise and international leadership, they also develop an appreciation for the role innovation plays in all organizations.

Building your entrepreneurship skills

videoIt all starts with the ability to recognize problems and devise innovative solutions—solutions that will create change, for good. Here you’ll roll up your sleeves and get right to work. Developing your own business plan. Helping existing startups refine theirs. Putting your plan to the test in a business plan competition. Bringing fresh ideas to the boardrooms of established companies. Working with local and global entrepreneurs to offer strategic consulting advice.

All this happens in an environment designed to let you experiment, push boundaries, refine ideas and get better the next time. Your learning lab will be St. Louis’s humming startup ecosystem.

Valerie Toothman,MBA ’08, executive vice president for brand and beverage marketing at Drinkworks

“The act of creation is what I get excited about.”

—Valerie Toothman, MBA ’08, executive vice president for brand and beverage marketing at Drinkworks

Valerie’s interest in innovation inspired her pre-AB InBev/Drinkworks career as a biomedical engineer. “The biggest passion point for me is a natural curiosity for solving ambiguous problems,” she says, “whether in the realm of a medical device or of beer, whether that’s talking to surgeons and patients or brewmasters and beer consumers.”

Innovation and entrepreneurship courses include:

  • Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship
  • Social Innovation
  • Introduction to Entrepreneurship
  • The Basics of Bio-Entrepreneurship
  • Venture Advising
  • Managing the Innovation Process
  • Business Planning for New Enterprises (The Hatchery)
  • Foundations of Business
  • Business Fundamentals for Nonbusiness Students
  • Sustainable Development and Conservation through Entrepreneurial Collaboration: Madagascar
  • Venture Capital Methods

Olin’s MBA Entrepreneurship platform helps you further explore career opportunities and find networking opportunities with startup innovators and investors.

In and out of the classroom

The St. Louis business community holds WashU and its students in high regard. That creates two very important things—access and opportunity.

Outside the classroom, you can work with senior executives and entrepreneurs in case competitions and consulting engagements. Inside the classroom, take an entrepreneurship course with WashU students from other disciplines—medicine, social work, engineering and more—a dynamic mix of backgrounds that spurs innovative thinking and shifts perspectives.

Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning offers two consulting courses to give you an up-close experience with an entrepreneurial venture.

The first is the CEL Entrepreneurial Consulting Team (CELect) course, in which you engage in a consulting project for an early-stage St. Louis startup. During the semester-long course, you’ll work closely with the founder as you gain information to better understand the venture’s challenges and advise on strategies to drive the business forward.

The Metrics Clinic course connects you with a St. Louis startup looking for data-driven consulting on a business challenge in the areas of finance or marketing. These six- to eight-week consulting projects, focused on enterprises in the startup ecosystem, are student led and faculty supervised.

Tony Zhu, BSBA 2017

Olin’s classroom extends beyond campus to St. Louis’s thriving innovation district, which includes Cortex Innovation Community, a vibrant, 200-acre hub of business, innovation and technology, and downtown’s T-REX, a nonprofit technology startup incubator. Student teams consult for startups, working one-on-one with founders for an up-close learning experience.

A hub of innovation, Washington University inspires entrepreneurial efforts. The university provides the infrastructure, educational programs and research support to tap the entrepreneurial spirit of faculty and students. In fact, innovation and entrepreneurship are a strategic priority at WashU. The Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers a range of programs open to all WashU students. Its signature IdeaBounce® is both an online platform and an event for sharing venture ideas and making connections. Learn more about university-affiliated entrepreneurial endeavors on the Fuse website.

Startup capital for budding entrepreneurs

The Holekamp Seed Fund allows students to compete for $1,000 grants (20 awarded per year), providing student-run startups an injection of capital to get them off the ground. Olin’s BIG IdeaBounce® is an elevator pitch contest with $2,500 cash prizes. Any WashU student with a serious business plan and a passion to get it started is eligible to apply.

The Skandalaris Venture Competition awards up to $15,000 to startups for commercializing their ideas, launching and pitching to investors.