Teaching Food Entrepreneurship
The Class of 2017 had more food-focused students than I’d yet seen in 6 years at Babson. This sudden uptick fueled my desire to teach them and boosted my confidence that if I offered a course in food entrepreneurship, it might have a shot at running.
Run it did. Last September, twenty-five MBAs signed up for the first iteration of “Food Entrepreneurship”. This September, I am delighted to offer it a second time.
Figuring out how to design 19 hours of class time that stretch across a massive, interconnected, global and ancient industry is a daunting task. On top of that, the food industry is undergoing incredible transformation. So while the history of food may be relatively straightforward to study, its future certainly is not. And entrepreneurs are most interested in the future.
As such, the course has to be highly experiential. I provide frames around content, but students drive—a lot. This isn’t comfortable for everyone. So finding a blend and balance of instructor expertise and student opinion is crucial. Unlike in some other sectors, since everyone eats, student opinion on the food industry really matters. Business students interact with the industry daily and personally. As both users and influencers, their points-of-view hold immense value.
The overview and framework of the food industry is core to the course. To be successful, food entrepreneurs must maintain a nuanced understanding of the sector they’re operating in. That includes all major forces and influences on each supply chain activity.
The favorite elements of this course last year were the panels of guest experts (20+ industry experts across the 4 supply chain activities of farming/food-making, distribution, restaurants, and retail) and the real-world consulting project where student teams presented recommendations to local food business leaders based on real-time challenges.
Across higher education, the pressure is on to give students more access and chances to engage with real businesses in real time. Certainly, that’s what I was looking for as an MBA at Babson. And so the design of this course keeps that objective front and center.
My hope is that students will start to see the dynamics surrounding each part of the food-business puzzle as well as how they fit together for success (or failure).
This course is applicable to students working on a food business already as well as those exploring the industry as a potential career path. As an intensive elective, there is not the capacity to get to the level of detail and specificity that each student might like. The course aims to scratch many surfaces and to provide the frameworks to help students organize their questions, resources and priorities.
Above all, “Food Entrepreneurship” is intended to be an immersive, individually-shaped experience to build understanding of the food industry and surface opportunities within it.
For more information on the course, visit the Graduate Entrepreneurship course listing here and look for EPS9507 – Food Entrepreneurship.