How Eater Entrepreneurs Learn at Babson
This month, I taught in Babson’s Summer Study For High School students from all over the world. As always, my topic was ‘food entrepreneurship’, tailored to fit into the rhythm of their five-week program. We opened with a discussion of mindful eating (‘mindfulness’ having been a central theme of the Babson Social Innovation Lab team’s lesson last week) and closed with food industry supply chain and its impacts (‘supply chain’ being a core topic for next week).
Midway through class, Food Sol invited three of the food entrepreneurs in the Summer Venture Program to visit. “Tell us about your food journey and why you chose to launch your business” we prompted Jennifer Odera (T&Co.), Shyam Devnani (India in a Box) and Gisela Macedo (Gisela Treats). The stories that emerged were laced with lessons on fear, ambiguity, passion, commitment, creativity, tenacity and drive. The high-schoolers ate them up with a spoon.
Given who I am and my strengths (and weaknesses), I felt most comfortable with the mindful eating discussion and the interviews with the food entrepreneurs. In my preparation for class, I found the final section, on supply chain, the most challenging.
I’ve taught on food industry supply chain in Babson classrooms before. I have a slide that I’ve built and I have plenty of anecdotes. But delivering this content always feels like cerebral popcorn – I throw out a slew of disjointed yet thoroughly interconnected examples. They range in date from 1950 to last month and run the gamut in terms of scope, scale, industry segment and impact. I’ve never been able to find an organized way to explain the system.
So as Cheryl Kiser wisely suggested, I tried something different this time: I just threw the slide up on the monitor and said, “This is a simplified illustration, but I want you to get a sense for the concept.” And then I asked them to tell me what they had read or seen about the food industry. They cited GMOs, documentaries like ‘Fed Up’ and food waste. Together, we located each topic on the framework.
As I’ve written before, entrepreneurs need to drive their own educations and experiences. I could have just fired data and detail at these high school students. But without process, arrangement or clear relevance, how could I hope that anything I said would stick?
When they introduced the topics and themes and threads, I knew it hooked into their own memory, reflection, curiosity and desire (the seed of all entrepreneurship). And so, driving our discussion directly, they fed their own eater educations.