Tag: Entrepreneurship



“The act of creation is what I get excited about,” Valerie Toothman, Vice President for Innovation, US, at Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), told a packed room of students at the recent Olin Entrepreneurship Summit. Toothman, MBA’08, returned to campus to share her experience as an entrepreneurial innovator inside a global corporation.

Toothman has helped develop AB brands such as Budweiser Black Crown, Bud Light Platinum, and Bud Light Lime Lime-a-Rita. Her career in the beer industry began with an internship while she was an MBA student at Olin—a position that opened the door to her first post-MBA job as a Brand/Innovation Manager. She advanced to Innovation Director four years later, and has been VP of Innovation since 2015.

In her current position, Toothman is responsible for innovation in products, packaging, and graphics. She says cross discipline competence, collaboration skills, curiosity and a willingness to challenge the status quo are essential in her position.

In 2013, Toothman was named Anheuser-Busch InBev’s internal Marketer of the Year. She credits her Olin professors Sam Chun and Sergio Chayet for a strong foundation in the creative product development process. (She highly recommended Olin’s Power & Politics and Crisis Communication courses to the first year MBA students). Toothman was also honored as one of Olin’s Emerging Leaders in 2015.

Toothman’s interest in innovation also inspired her pre-AB InBev 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. I have an insatiable need to solve ambiguous problems.”

While tracing her career path, Toothman also shared some of the lessons she’s learned along the way with the packed classroom of current students. The slides from her presentation are below:

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Startup founders and angel investors are invited to a free webinar on the kinds of metrics they need to navigate their roles in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Ron King, the Myron Northrup Professor of Accounting at Olin, will introduce the latest research on metrics and why standard measurements for established companies are very different than those needed for a startup.

METRICS FOR STARTUPS

Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017

12 p.m.- 1 p.m. CT

“A startup company is not just a small version of a large company,” says King. “In this webinar, we will provide a framework for thinking about the metrics that startup founders need to manage and the metrics investors need to evaluate startups. It’s important to understand how these metrics relate and which of them may be more valuable in guiding your decision making.”

King has been on both sides of the startup equation as an investor and an entrepreneur and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this webinar. “Founders generally use metrics for their internal decision making: how do they design their marketing, their product, their target market, to scale their business,” King explains.  “On the other hand, an angel generally thinks about valuing companies by using metrics that are more appropriate for established business. So the intersection between an angel’s interest in data and the founder’s interest in data for their internal decision-making are really quite distinct.”

This webinar is targeted to practitioners. King recommends that participants bring their inquisitive nature to the webinar. “All you need to benefit from this webinar I think is the natural curiosity about a very complicated problem. The problem is how do we efficiently an effective go from an idea to a business model that has recurring revenue.

Register today.




The 6th annual Real Elevator Pitch Competition is open for submissions. Sponsored by Saint Louis University, this contest is open to all college students. Two cash prizes will be awarded to the best business plan pitches.

The Real Elevator Pitch competition takes place on real elevators in the second tallest building in Missouri: One Met Square in downtown St. Louis. Real students deliver real startup pitches to real investors while riding up 40 stories on the building’s elevators.

Submissions are due by Nov. 7, 2017 at 11:59 CST

Saint Louis University staged the first Real Elevator Pitch six years ago and it has been a successful competition ever since.

Startup business pitches can be submitted in two categories: for profit ideas and nonprofit ideas.

To enter the competition, you must submit a 30 second pitch:

1.) Record your video and upload it to YouTube.

2.) Fill out the SUBMISSION FORM

A blue-ribbon panel of judges will select the top 18 that will move on to the Final Round.

The 18 Finalists will be invited to One Met Square building in downtown St. Louis  to pitch to 30+ wealthy judges while riding up and down on 12 elevators.

See the ‘Real’ Elevator Pitch FAQs to help answer any questions you might have or email ecenter@slu.edu for more information.




As an Olin Business School student, I have been exposed to an exciting curriculum for learning business. A common aspect of classroom learning is the case study, where we learn about the problems a real company faces and ultimately present recommendations to our TAs and professors. Whether reading about potential airport expansion for Southwest Airlines or how Disney should respond to the recent surge in subscriptions to video on-demand services, each case is exciting and makes us think about business from a different perspective.

Yet all of these cases are missing an essential aspect of consulting: interaction with the client. They are interesting to read, but our team could not directly interact with the client and learn even more about the business from personnel.

During one of my business school courses, I was on a team tasked with helping a company improve its client communication outreach. Working directly with a client of the company, we spent a whole semester communicating and developing recommendations. However, instead of a final presentation to the professor, teaching assistants, and fellow classmates, we sat around a table with the actual client and presented our solutions.

These experiences taught me how fulfilling it was to develop client relationships, learn about their business from employees, and then present the recommendations directly back to the client. Seeing the client be genuinely interested in our recommendations, engaged during the presentation, and curious about our ideas allowed me to recognize the value in developing a relationship with the client when providing recommendations. I quickly realized that I wanted to continue interacting with clients and helping them improve their businesses.

As a sophomore, I heard of a company called Bear Studios through the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Bear Studios is a student-founded and run business development firm offering consulting, design, accounting, and technology services to WashU and area businesses. Bear Studios provides services to companies that are small and large, young and old—to improve their models, change their strategies, or create whole new perspectives of their operations.

After my initial meeting with the directors, I was captivated by Bear Studios’ direct involvement with the client and knew this organization would present me with chances to interact with clients and help them develop their businesses.

Throughout the semester, I helped with smaller projects—learning the processes, seeing the operations behind the organization, and sitting in on client meetings. Over the summer, I was given my first major project. The night before my first phone call with the client, I read the executive summary, as I’d done so many times before during my business classes, and prepared questions. I was slightly nervous, but excited to be leading my own project.

Over the course of the next month, with the help of Bear Studios fellows, I communicated with the client and turned an executive summary into a fully-developed presentation. Being able to build a relationship with the client and talk through ideas, refine others, and produce a finished product they were excited about, was incredibly rewarding. Seeing the development of skills and interests I’d picked up in the classroom and applying them directly to my extracurricular involvement excites me for future projects with Bear Studios.

Guest Blogger: Tommy Elzinga, BSBA’19, is majoring in Finance, Film and Media Studies




Junior Madison Stoecker participated in the Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) Small Business Initiative last semester and is excited to share how she applied her in-class learning to drive impact for her client, Always Love and Care. We love to reflect on past success teams have seen—in both their own learning and their client’s growth.

Who is your client and what made you interested in working with them?

Madison: My client last semester was Always Love and Care, an in-home care provider in Ferguson, MO. What made me so passionate about it was the people behind the company: Josh and Lisa Davis. After spending 5 minutes with them, anyone can see the passion and love they have for their community. I love their mission, but I wanted to support the people behind the company as they continue to make an impact.

Can you share a highlight from your time in the Small Business Initiative?

Madison: Before we presented our final solutions, we had a moment with Josh and Lisa where they expressed their gratitude for all their ‘dream team’ had done for them. A new marketing campaign was something they had dreamed about for years, and Josh called it their ‘tipping point.’ Seeing how big of an impact our work had on their lives, and the greater impact that will come from that was worth every single minute of work.

What advice would you give to students interested in participating in the Small Business Initiative?

MS: Prioritize it. This project has a bigger impact than just a final grade. You have the chance to impact, or help someone impact, an entire community. Don’t forget why you are doing it. Also, you are able to apply skills you have learned in other classes to a real-world project.

I would encourage students to create a relationship with their clients. There is so much to learn from them. Most of all, enjoy the experience! It’s an incredible opportunity, so don’t let the stress of deadlines or little things get in the way of doing something amazing!


Check out the CEL’S CampusGroups page to learn how you can get involved in the Spring semester.


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