Tag: Entrepreneurship



For the second year running, WashU Olin has been named one of “10 Business Schools To Watch” by Poets & Quants.

In a recent post, Olin received recognition for two of its strategic pillars—entrepreneurship and global experience—that have been successfully implemented into the curriculum.

“Every course at Olin has to be accountable to entrepreneurship and innovation… That took entrepreneurship from being a really strong niche to something every Olin student is going to be exposed to,” said Cliff Holekamp, former professor of entrepreneurship at Olin.

However, Olin “places equal – if not greater emphasis on global business.”

“Deep global immersion in international business issues, cultures, and practices sets an important foundation for business today,” said Dean Mark Taylor discussing the MBA global immersion trip. “The cohort [also] really bonds as everyone gets to know one another and works together—especially as they begin the program by being thrown into the deep end on the global immersion where, at some point, every student must adjust to a foreign culture.”

P&Q also highlighted Olin’s location, accelerated graduation path, and the option for a STEM-designed specialized master’s degree paired with an MBA.

“We’re leaning into the needs of today’s business students, differentiating WashU Olin by leveraging our unique assets, preparing them to be globally-minded and globally-mobile and providing the tools to confront the challenge and create change,” said Taylor.

Other schools listed alongside Olin included the Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, University of Chicago’s Booth, USC’s Marshall, and IMD.

Read more of the P&Q article citing Olin as a top 10 school to watch.




Daphne Benzaquen

Daphne Benzaquen, MBA ’17, was very clear about what she wanted out of business school: An opportunity to be her own boss. And that’s what she’s done with the launch of her personal lifestyle brand daph., conceived at Olin from her personal experience.

She’s been written up in a variety of St. Louis-area publications including St. Louis Magazine and the St. Louis Business Journal, which named her a 30 Under 30 honoree in 2019.

Can you tell us a little about daph? What inspired you to found it? Was it conceived at Olin?

daph. was born out of an unmet need. During my MBA studies at Olin, I was in search for a functional, fashionable backpack that not only carried my essentials, but also had a sleek and polished look.

In 2016, I embarked on an adventure that led to a self-taught crash course in designing leather goods, meetings with leather makers across Peru and a website designed from scratch. I wanted to create a brand that bonded my unique style with my Peruvian roots.

After a year of international communication, editing and design, I launched daph., a sustainable fashion brand that empowers its customers to give back.

Why did you decide to get your MBA and how did you land at Olin?

I went to business school with the goal of being my own boss and the ultimate decision-maker. Never did I imagine I would become every single department of a company. No day is the same and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

St. Louis is home to me so Olin was an easy choice. Both St. Louis and Olin have become a hub for innovation and creativity. The connections made through the program are invaluable.

I’ve met lifelong friends, mentors and contacts, which has led to amazing opportunities to grow my business. Attending Olin gave me an all-encompassing view of business while introducing me to new skills and experiences that have sparked new interests and passions, something not found at all schools.

In what ways was your experience at Olin formative in your experience and goals?

I was lucky enough to attend various events held at Olin where I heard from experienced, notable experts in various fields. For example, I participated in a Taylor Community Consulting Project. In that experience, alongside my peers, we positively contributed to the growth strategy of LaunchSTL, a nonprofit organization with the goal of building up nonprofit’s young professional boards.

To conclude my MBA, I studied abroad at various European business schools with students from all over the world. We visited global companies, hearing from top executives at the company and gaining insight on international business strategies and customs—something vital in my business.

Olin taught me how to think about various business issues differently and from diverse perspectives. I learned how to push the boundaries and test out new, unique solutions to everyday company problems.

I always say getting my MBA from Olin was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Were there particular courses or professors who were particularly memorable?

My confidence to start daph. began during my Introduction to Entrepreneurship with David Poldoian. During this course, I was pushed outside my comfort zone when it came to coming up with a business solution.

I was able to use skills gained in other courses to come up with a complete execution plan to an idea that was just in the making. It taught me how to think outside the box, which I do every day now.

Hearing from other entrepreneurs in the St. Louis community, along with conducting feasibility studies, gave me the push I needed to take the risk and start something on my own.

What are the next steps for you in your career?

I will continue to grow daph. into a national lifestyle and fashion brand.




Shannon Turner in Alausi, Ecuador.

Shannon Turner, MBA ’18, had a dream about using the skills she gained from her education to promote positive social impact. She shared her congratulations for WashU Olin’s No. 1 ranking in Inc. magazine for top entrepreneurship programs for MBAs—and her gratitude for the support she received while here in creating her organization. She shared a little about her story below.

Can you tell us a little about Maria Lida Foundation? What inspired you to found it? Was it conceived at Olin?

The Maria Lida Foundation is a nonprofit organization with the mission of promoting self-sustaining economic development in Alausi, Ecuador through tourism, education, and training programs.

Alausi is a town located in the Chimborazo province of Ecuador, South America, that experiences poverty. The area is near and dear to my heart because it is where my father and his family are originally from before immigrating to the United States.

CEL team working on consulting project for Maria Lida Foundation in Alausi, Ecuador.
CEL team working on consulting project for Maria Lida Foundation in Alausi, Ecuador.

It has long been a dream of mine to use skills from the education and resources I’ve been blessed with for positive social impact. The idea for the Maria Lida Foundation was conceived during my time at Olin through an Intro to Entrepreneurship course taught by Cliff Holekamp.

In this class, I was able to pitch my social venture idea, receive feedback, and explore its feasibility with my classmates. The class also helped me to focus on my social venture idea and use the many tools afforded to me while I was a business student at Olin. This focus eventually led me to launch the Maria Lida Foundation shortly after my MBA graduation.

Why did you decide to get your MBA and how did you land at Olin?

I worked in the legal field for several years before pursuing my MBA degree. In that field, I worked with underserved populations and realized that I very much enjoyed using skills to help empower people.

In addition, I recognized that business could be a great path to help empower underserved populations in a sustainable way. Since I had only worked in the legal field, I decided it would be beneficial for me to receive a formal education in business to help me pursue my dream of using business for positive social impact.  

Some of Maria Lida Foundation’s English class students in Alausi, Ecuador.
Some of Maria Lida Foundation’s English class students in Alausi, Ecuador.

I chose Olin for my business school education because it had an excellent reputation and provided many opportunities to explore entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship as a student.

In addition, I read many articles on the various opportunities in the St. Louis region to explore entrepreneurship including incubators, accelerators, forums, meetups, etc. to help support entrepreneurs.

This was all very appealing to me because I knew that I would be able to network with like-minded individuals, obtain access to incredible resources, and work on my dream of creating a social venture during my studies.

How did you decide to move down the path of entrepreneurship?

I’m drawn to entrepreneurship because I think business and innovation are great ways to solve problems and help empower underserved populations. During this journey I’ve met many entrepreneurs who are aiming to use innovation and grit to help alleviate the world’s pain points.

This includes the many entrepreneurs I met during my internships with the St. Louis Arch Angels and Arch Grants (in which I secured by being a student at WashU. Many thanks to the leadership of these organizations including Brian Kinman and Emily Lohse-Busch for the opportunity to work in St. Louis’ incredible entrepreneurial ecosystem.)

I very much admire these individuals and strive to do the same.

In what ways was your experience at Olin formative in your experience and goals?

My time at Olin gave me tools and resources to pursue my dream of using my education to give back to my roots. I started my business school education with a passion for social entrepreneurship and Olin had many class opportunities in this space.

Olin also provided me with incredible experiential opportunities such as building my idea in classes, serving on the board of a local nonprofit organization, working on a consulting project for clients in Ecuador, and helping a local social enterprise grow. These opportunities helped me build the confidence and skillset needed to take a leap of faith and launch a social enterprise after my MBA graduation.

Were there particular courses or professors who were particularly memorable?

My Intro to Entrepreneurship and Hatchery classes with Cliff Holekamp are particularly memorable as they helped me to truly explore the possibility of launching a social enterprise post-MBA.

This includes pitching my idea to various audiences, receiving feedback, introductions to key stakeholders in the St. Louis community, etc. It was wonderful to put my vision of using business to help underserved populations into action through these classes.

I also had incredible experiences with Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. Through Olin’s CEL programs, I was able to work on a consulting project for an Ecuadorian firm, sit on the board of directors of a local nonprofit organization and create strategies to help a local social venture grow.

These experiences helped me to obtain real life experience and skills needed to launch and operate a social venture post-graduation. I’m grateful for CEL’s leadership including Daniel Bentle, Amy VanEssendelft, Beth Doores and Al Kent for shaping my CEL experiences while a student at Olin.

What are the next steps for you in your career?

I plan to continue and expand Maria Lida Foundation’s educational programs including English, hospitality and business courses for community members in Alausi, Ecuador. In addition, it is my vision to launch new programs including providing resources to entrepreneurs working in Alausi’s tourism industry to help grow the local economy.

The Maria Lida Foundation’s leadership is pleased with its accomplishments in year one, including launching its English program, obtaining its 501(c)(3) status in the United States, obtaining nonprofit legal status in Ecuador, becoming a client for WashU’s CEL program, hiring its first program director, and hosting its first donor trip.

I am proud of the organization’s achievements and excited to grow its impact in year two and beyond!




Washington University in St. Louis and Olin Business School both continue to be top venues for entrepreneurship education—ranking No. 6 for undergraduate studies and No. 16 for graduate studies in the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur rankings for Top Schools for Entrepreneurship Studies. The rankings were announced online Tuesday, November 12, 2019, and are featured in the December issue of Entrepreneur magazine.

The newest ranking represents a one-step jump for undergrads and two steps up for graduate programs from the previous year’s ranking.

WashU’s place on this year’s lists marks a significant movement for the university. In five years, the university moved nine spots in the graduate studies rankings and four in undergraduate studies.

“The WashU community is key to this recognition. Across the university innovators and entrepreneurs come together and support one another in a way that is unmatched”, II Luscri, Assistant Vice Provost for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Managing Director of the Skandalaris Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “The Skandalaris Center is proud to do our part in supporting WashU founders and aspiring entrepreneurs at every stage of their entrepreneurial journey.”

The ranking comes on the heels of a No. 1 ranking in a first-of-its-kind analysis of MBA-level entrepreneurship programs published in early November by Inc. magazine and Poets & Quants.

Read more about the Princeton Review ranking on the Skandalaris Center’s blog.


When nearly 100 WashU Olin full-time MBA students spanned the globe this year to launch their studies, they started with a strong dose of the entrepreneurial spirit—and they carried it with them through the 38-day journey.

As students recount in the attached video, a portion of their global studies included an examination of entrepreneurship and whether a startup dining concept in St. Louis would translate overseas in the competitive market of Shanghai.

Tyler Edwards, MBA ’21, was one of the students on the global immersion. He’s eager to work in a field where he can help entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. Here are a few of his reflections since returning to the United States and diving into his core classes this semester.

In retrospect, weeks past your return from China, can you describe how the global immersion has influenced your approach to class?

The global immersion was a great way to ease students into the class format at WashU Olin. This experience has given me momentum and familiarity when approaching my courses. From our time abroad, I now look at cases from the point of view of a student, a client and as a consultant.

Rather than seeking the answers to case issues, I’m thinking about alternative routes of strategy and decision making on the business side, and applying what I know outside of class into the dialogue to better shape my experience.

I don’t think I’d be in the same position if I were only two months into school rather than having experienced the global immersion.

What did you gain from the experience that you’ve been able to apply already—particularly as it might related to your interest in entrepreneurship?

I’ve been able to gain perspective on client expectations in short-term projects and executables. The global immersion was a crash course in executing very short-term projects for clients in fields that we know very little about.

Taking these experiences out of the classroom, I have enhanced my abilities to synthesize company goals and founder visions quickly, and produce solutions that align with those visions and goals. This enhanced ability to dive into projects and get hands-on quickly has been a great addition to my experience.

Have you been able to use this experience yet in any preparation for your career next step?

I have been able to point to these experiences in my interviews and conversations with employers. It’s great to have the experience of helping an entrepreneur explore a completely different country and market in the manner that the global immersion program exposed us.

Employers are blown away when I can tell them about client empathy and customer research when I tell them about figuring out whether customers in Shanghai would eat sugary donuts. These experiences are great for applicability in problem solving, and provide for a great story to break the ice.