Current students Rebecca Wenngatz and Grace Lee
Co-founders of Nine Naturals
First place (tie) at the 2009 New Venture Challenge
“The support and constructive feedback we received through the New Venture Challenge truly made our business more powerful, and the seed funding was vital in supporting our launch plans for Nine Naturals.”
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1) What was your background before coming to Chicago Booth?
Grace Lee: I worked in finance for six years in New York at JPMorgan, UBS, and at a hedge fund.
Rebecca Wenngatz: I worked in the beauty industry prior to business school. I spent five years at Estee Lauder, Inc., specializing in marketing and product development.
2) How have the Polsky Center's resources helped shape your career as an entrepreneur?
GL: The Polsky Center has helped us pursue our dreams as entrepreneurs. The support we have received from the center has been instrumental in the success of Nine Naturals. Not only do we have free office space to operate our business, but we have access to exceptional programs, resources, and mentors as we continue to build the business.
RW: There is no doubt in my mind that I would not be where I am today in my entrepreneurial career or had been able to build Nine Naturals as quickly, without the continued support of the Polsky Center. The incubator provides us with office space and supplies that we would otherwise not be able to afford. Most importantly, the opportunity to build relationships with Polsky faculty, staff, entrepreneurial alumni, and other students in the incubator has been the most valuable experience I have had at Chicago Booth.
3) What are the most significant entrepreneurial learning experiences that you’ve had at Chicago Booth?
GL: The New Venture Challenge (NVC) is an amazing learning experience that trains students on a diverse range of skills needed to run a successful business. The process challenged me to think critically about our business model and allowed me to articulate a business plan in a precise, succinct manner. The NVC also gave us intimate access to the Booth community, including the entrepreneurship faculty and alumni who served as mentors and judges during the competition.
RW: The support and constructive feedback we received through the NVC truly made our business more powerful and the seed funding was vital in supporting our launch plans for Nine Naturals. Being a part of the Entrepreneurial Internship Program has been another significant experience for us at Chicago Booth. The program gave us the financial support and resources to continue to work on Nine Naturals over the summer in the Polsky Center’s ARCH New Business Incubator.
4) How have you been able to balance student life with building your business?
GL: Balancing student life with building a business is extremely challenging and I constantly feel pulled in multiple directions at any given moment of the day. However, being a student offers many advantages to an entrepreneur, because I am able to take classes that complement my work with Nine Naturals such as Entrepreneurial Selling and New Venture Strategy, which provide me with the tools to run the company better.
RW: Keeping up with classes and schoolwork and working full-time on Nine Naturals have been very challenging. We definitely would not be able to do it all without the support of the Polsky Center and the ARCH Incubator resources. We are always in the incubator working simultaneously on Nine Naturals and schoolwork, and when we are not in the incubator we are running to classes.
5) Why did you come to Chicago Booth?
GL: After six years on Wall Street, I was ready to change gears and pursue a more entrepreneurial career path. I was attracted to the academically rigorous environment at Chicago Booth and viewed it as the best place to fill my knowledge gaps and round out my skill set to better prepare me for entrepreneurial endeavors.
RW: I decided to get an MBA because I eventually wanted to start my own company and I felt that business school provided the best opportunity to gain essential business knowledge and to meet a network of individuals with the same entrepreneurial passion. Chicago Booth was the perfect fit for me because I was able to cater the curriculum to my educational needs and because I was impressed with the Polsky Center’s dedication to supporting students.