During orientation at Booth, we had the opportunity to hear from Booth Alumni from a variety of different backgrounds. Their number one advice to us was about the importance of taking risks while in school. Turns out, we may have taken that advice a bit too seriously. This past summer, we gathered the courage to forego a traditional summer internship in order to start a company. It was an experience that far surpassed our expectations.
As two first-year Boothies, we met last Fall in one of our favorite classes at Booth, Entrepreneurial Discovery, and discovered a common passion for health and wellness. While interning at food-focused venture capital firms, we saw an opportunity to create a food brand centered around providing affordable, tasty, nutrient-dense foods in places where such options were limited.
We understood that the summer between first and second year of b-school was the most risk-free time in our careers to start a company. So, with the support of the Polsky Accelerator (which helps students who want to work on their startup rather than do a traditional summer internship), we embarked on our entrepreneurial journey.
Our Entrepreneurial Journey
Our focus for the summer was to use customer discovery to validate our hypothesis. However, we also delved deep into product development, created costing models, learned first-hand the many supply chain challenges food startups face, and experienced our first intense negotiation.
By the end of the summer, we realized the learnings were far beyond what we likely would have gotten at any other company—big or small. Despite the ups and downs, the magic of being part of the Polsky Accelerator was that we were in the company of 13 other early stage businesses. Our cohort was there to bounce ideas off of, learn from, and provide encouragement when needed. Another key benefit of the accelerator were the mentors that held us accountable. They were available wherever and whenever we needed them—even weekends!
Starting your own company is extremely difficult, but on top of teaching us the hard skills, it taught us some important lessons:
- Starting your own company can be lonely. Having a co-founder who complements your skills sets, and who you can have open and honest conversations with is important.
- Seeing your peers land internships early in the school year can be scary. Surrounding yourself with like-minded peers to hold you accountable can make all the difference.
- Talking to customers while building your company is vital—no matter how much research you do, without talking to customers, you will never understand the true problem (thank you Professor Tebbe for teaching us that Day 1!).
There is no better time to start your own company than while at school. Regardless of whether you continue the venture full-time, the skills that you develop will be transferable to many different roles in the future. Our advice to current and future entrepreneurs? Check out the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, register for some entrepreneurship classes, and equally important, surround yourself with peers who share a similar curiosity for entrepreneurship and the startup world.
To our future Booth entrepreneurs out there, good luck and remember the incredible community you will have supporting you on your journey!
Mayuri and Danielle leveraged their tech and M&A backgrounds to kickstart Boss Bites, a nutrient-rich food product company. This article was originally published in Booth’s student newspaper ChiBus.