Babson Accelerators Drive Ventures—and the Leaders Behind Them
Maeve Rabbitt MS’21 is deeply committed to her venture, the sustainable apparel brand Mauve the Label. She plans to produce and start selling her first collection of sweatshirts by March 2022 and is hard at work developing manufacturing relationships.
“I want to go for it,” Rabbitt says.
What has set Rabbitt—along with countless other entrepreneurial leaders—on a path to success?
Babson College accelerators.
Rabbitt, along with classmates Nadianita Audiantary MS’21 and Sarah Katz MS’21 participated in Summer Catalyst, one of the many accelerators propelling Babson entrepreneurs.
Accelerating Entrepreneurial Leaders
Babson College’s Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership is home to a diverse portfolio of accelerators, including the Women Innovating Now (WIN) Growth Lab, C200’s CHAMPION Program, and the Black Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (BWEL) Program, all created by the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL). The array of accelerators also includes the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship’s Summer Venture Program, and its online counterpart Summer Catalyst, as well as the Fast Track Cohort.
While each of these programs has its unique characteristics, addressing the specific challenges that its participants are facing in their ventures, these accelerators do share a common thread: a dual emphasis on the development of entrepreneurial leaders and of their ventures.
Over the course of these programs, participants find motivation, support, and accountability, all while receiving coaching specific to their stage of business, accessing content that integrates Babson’s Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® (ET&A™) methodology, engaging in networking opportunities, and much more. Participants also are able to apply their new skills and knowledge in real time, learning and growing as they go.
Describing this “split screen focus,” Kara Miller, director of WIN Global, says, “We want to build the founder as an entrepreneurial leader.” To date, the WIN Growth Lab has worked with more than 300 founders across 14 cohorts.
For Charmain Jackman, CEO and founder of InnoPsych, participating in the WIN Growth Lab in fall 2020 pushed her “to think bigger and bolder” about her business goals. Even a year later, she continues to think big when it comes to InnoPysch, which seeks to increase access to mental health services for people of color. In fact, Jackman quit her full-time job in June so she could focus on growing the business, as well as on her consulting work.
Since participating in the WIN Growth Lab, she has worked with 12 companies to create well-being content for employees who are people of color. Looking ahead, Jackman wants to make upgrades to the InnoPsych platform to expand and automate matching therapists and patients and to position her startup for fundraising.
In the Black Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, CWEL Executive Director Shakenna Williams ’94 has created a six-month accelerator for Black women entrepreneurial leaders that not only delivers business curriculum and coaching but also enables a deep sense of sisterhood and community. Now running its third cohort, BWEL provides a space to explore the specific challenges that Black women face as they seek to grow and scale their businesses.
“The opportunity to go all in on not just your venture but also yourself as a leader is transformational. No matter how the venture shape shifts in the future, you now have a skill set and a mindset.”
Smaiyra Million P’21, Blank Center executive director
One goal of BWEL programming is to equip its participants with strategies for mental health and well-being as entrepreneurs. With sessions such as “Protecting Your Magic: Wellness Strategies for Black Women Entrepreneurs” and “The Miracle of Mindset: How to Think and Take Action Like an Entrepreneur,” coupled with strategy and goal-setting consulting, resources, and a network of experts, the accelerator serves these entrepreneurs’ business and personal development goals and is a partner in their growth. In just a little over a year, BWEL already has impacted more than 120 Black women entrepreneurial leaders.
Appreciating the support that is unique to a community of peer entrepreneurs, some Babson entrepreneurial leaders have chosen to pursue multiple accelerator programs. Current WIN Lab participants Kate Kohl MS’21, Nathalya Mamane MBA’21, and Rabbitt all participated in Summer Catalyst, the Blank Center’s online summer accelerator, and then applied to the WIN Growth Lab. Sequencing accelerators in this way helps to provide the entrepreneur with continuity in support and structure while they work to move their venture to the next stage of business.
Rabbitt’s venture started as a Leading Entrepreneurial Action Project as part of her MSEL coursework, and Summer Catalyst was her first opportunity to work on it outside of class. Over the course of 10 weeks, the Summer Catalyst accelerator enabled her to develop her presentation skills through “hot seat” pitch practice sessions, networking skills through office hours with experts, and most notably, leadership and people management skills with intensive coaching from her dedicated advisor, Beth Goldstein.
Laying the Foundation
Over 13 years, the Summer Venture Program and Summer Catalyst have worked to develop 360 entrepreneurs. “The opportunity to go all in on not just your venture but also yourself as a leader is transformational,” says Blank Center Executive Director Smaiyra Million P’21, describing the impact of the accelerator. “No matter how the venture shape shifts in the future, you now have a skill set and a mindset.”
In the WIN Growth Lab, Rabbitt has found structure and accountability while continuing to develop her entrepreneurial leadership skills. Feedback from mastermind experts has focused her efforts on refining the Mauve the Label brand and reassessing her strategy. She is focused on “starting small” and intends to use her first collection as a focus group, obtaining feedback from customers to iterate and evolve her designs, with the hope of launching additional apparel items in summer 2022.
Thinking back on her WIN Lab experience, Jackman notes the meaningful connections she made, the power of a peer entrepreneur community, and the relevant business curriculum. Above all, she found resonance in Babson’s ET&A approach and a new confidence to try, learn, and recalibrate.
This accelerator, like the others in the Blank School, has a lasting impact: “It really gave me a foundation,” Jackman says.
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