The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation shows you the entire business spectrum. You see small businesses and their challenges, you see startups working on new technologies, and you see what venture capitalists look for and how they fund these startups.
I work with numbers all day and constantly look at financial statements for corporations. When I see the financials of an entrepreneur, my mindset changes to ‘I want to do everything possible to make sure this person succeeds’. I’ve become addicted to the many entrepreneurial opportunities Polsky and Booth have provided me. Here are a few favorites with which Chicago Booth students may not even be fully familiar.
Polsky Small Business Growth Program
I’ve now consulted for three different clients through the Polsky Small Business Growth Program. Your team may be made up of University of Chicago undergraduate and graduate students, as well as students from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Polsky provides a coach who observes your interactions with the client and team and gives you feedback. In nine short weeks, you interact with the client and manage the relationship, figure out the project scope, and work on the deliverables. It doesn’t matter if you’re assigned to an industry you know nothing about because you will figure out how to get smart about it. Phase One is all about market research, customer discovery, and competitive analysis, while in Phase Two you put together your recommendations for the client and give them a roadmap for implementing the recommendations.
Ever since my first experience, I’ve been completely hooked. I have had a restaurant client, a retail client, and a client in catering and events. This program gives you a chance to interact with entrepreneurs week after week. In nine weeks you’d think things would stay stable, but a lot of things change and you end up needing to adapt your recommendations. This program is how I caught the bug of growth strategy, operations improvement, and entrepreneurship.
Polsky Small Business Financial Fundamentals
This program helps small business owners put together a loan package so they have a higher chance of securing a loan. Through the Polsky Small Business Financial Fundamentals, my team and I helped business owners put together historical statements as well as projections of financial statements. We engaged with the entrepreneurs to see what their goals are for the future of their businesses, and analyzed the feasibility of achieving those goals with current expertise and capacity constraints. We also helped them align the business operations to achieve their financial objectives.
The Polsky Center offers Mentorship and has a variety of mentors you can book an appointment with. They are experts in their field and are available to help. For example, I had a meeting with a Marketing mentor who spent ten years at PepsiCo. He helped me think through frameworks for my client that I was then able to use for the Polsky Small Business Program.
Polsky’s YouTube Channel
Polsky has a series on Entrepreneurship Essentials available on their YouTube Channel. These one-hour talks by experts have proven to be very useful to me as I embarked on advising businesses.
Sterling Partners Investment Thesis Challenge
My friends and I formed a team for the Sterling Partners Investment Thesis Challenge (SPITC). We proposed ideas for an investment thesis and were selected to work with mentors at a Private Equity firm and with Professor Chris McGowan. We ended up talking to over 50 experts in the field to understand their pain points and developed a thesis to create value by addressing the market demand. Professor McGowan is phenomenal! He met with our team every alternate week to advise us on our thesis development, sharing his PE experience and the source of his unstoppable energy.
Elfman-Wareham Private Equity and Venture Capital Lab
My team from SPITC was eligible to enroll in the Private Equity and Venture Capital Lab. If you secure an internship with a Private Equity (PE) or Venture Capital (VC) fund, you are also eligible to apply. In the VC Lab class, we heard from speakers who built billion-dollar businesses. I learned about VC fund structures, their economics and governance, cap tables, term sheets, and boardroom dynamics.
New Venture Strategy
This class has been another favorite of mine. I took New Venture Strategy with Professor James Schrager, and now I am also one of his Teacher’s Assistants. We learn strategies that help us evaluate if a new business is a good idea. If one hasn’t habituated to reading The Wall Street Journal regularly, this class will make you want to maintain your own log of WSJ.
Ultimately, there are so many more opportunities at the Polsky Center I have yet to take advantage of, including the Venture Capital Investment Competition and the Private Equity Case Challenge. Learning about strategy and entrepreneurship at Booth has changed my mindset in terms of what is possible for me and where my career might lead. The Polsky Center has opened my eyes to new possibilities and I am excited for what the future may bring.