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Thinking about building an axe-throwing bar? Anything is possible with an MBA for entrepreneurs

It might sound contradictory for someone who has already launched a successful business to head back to the classroom for an MBA. However, this is exactly what Vlerick Business School graduate John Stewart III did. Find out what led him to an MBA for entrepreneurs and how it improved him as a person and as a business leader.

In short

Why study an MBA for entrepreneurs?

John Stewart III was already a successful entrepreneur before he decided to pursue an MBA. He tells MBAGRADSCHOOLS, “For me, I would say that it is just part of my personality. I really like creating, working with various types of people, working on various types of products, technologies, things of that nature.” (00:59)

However, at a certain point, he knew he could go even further. After running his own company for four years, John decided it was time to go back to the drawing board and get a fresh start. He told us that what was important for him was “leaning into getting uncomfortable again. It had been a while since I had been in a normal school.” (01:53)

The challenge of an MBA piqued his interest. He knew that he could be more successful by doubling down on his experience with formal training at a business school.

This explains why an already successful entrepreneur would want to pursue an MBA. Now, we’re going to dive into John’s decision-making process and why he ultimately chose Vlerick Business School

Factors in deciding where to study for an MBA

It’s not easy deciding on where to complete an MBA, and it’s worth considering the following factors:

  • Location. Where you study is important for a variety of reasons. Some MBA candidates want to stay close to home, especially if they have a family. Others might want to move from rural areas to urban hubs with more contacts, businesses, and opportunities.
  • Support system. No matter how much experience you have, an MBA for entrepreneurs is not going to be easy. A solid network of classmates, professors, support staff, and career advisors will keep you going when times get tough.
  • A focus on entrepreneurship. All MBA courses will prepare you to be a business leader, but if they relate the class content toward entrepreneurship, all the better. This was especially important to John. He says, “When I looked at Vlerick, they did have a focus on entrepreneurship and consulting and strategy and that was, I felt, something that you could use no matter where you ended up.” (02:02)

Choosing Vlerick Business School: The importance of comfort

When choosing an MBA for entrepreneurs, it’s very easy to slip into a game of stats. You look at rankings, job prospects, and average salaries after graduation and pick the one that comes out on top.

However, this should be just the preliminary stage of choosing a business school. You’re going to be a part of the school for over a year, so once you’ve got a shortlist, it’s often the gut feeling that takes over. 

After considering several top schools, John chose Vlerick for quite an unexpected reason. “When I looked and compared the different programs, for me Vlerick just seemed more – it might sound a little bit weird – but friendly,” he reveals. (03:25

Vlerick has a reputation as a great business school. However, it was the welcoming feeling he felt through the enquiring and application phases that ultimately led to his decision. He advises those looking for an MBA, “I think you have to find a fit for where you’re going to end up and the people you’re going to interact with on a daily basis. You want to feel comfortable there.” (03:53)

How an MBA takes entrepreneurs to the next level

No business person is a perfect all-rounder who is strong in every area. An MBA for entrepreneurs, therefore, serves as a way of focusing on those difficult areas, which are specific to each candidate. 

Just like so many creatively minded entrepreneurs, John was very aware of his need to improve in the numbers game. He comments, “What Vlerick was able to help me with was, again, not being afraid to dive into the numbers. I can actually enjoy it now because I understand it.” (04:18)

The training setting of Vlerick Business School’s MBA program pushes students to see the bigger picture. Singling out Professor Martin Weiss, John praised the faculty’s approach. He tells us, “It really forces you to open your mind and to view all of the aspects and possibilities that you know you’re going to need in order to grow a business.” (07:52)

Putting an MBA for entrepreneurs into practice

MBA graduates are always in hot demand, especially for companies that need the expertise to push them forward. Whether it’s getting off the ground or exploring new territories, an MBA gives you the skills and the confidence to make an impact. 

After graduation, John began work with Woodcutter, the first axe-throwing bar experience in Belgium. The collaboration began quite spontaneously, with John discovering it first as a customer. His entrepreneurial mindset realized an opportunity. As he tells MBAGRADSCHOOLS, “I looked into the German market and said, ‘Well it seems to be quite open. There’s really nothing like it.’” (05:35

After a couple of conversations with management, he was put in charge of expanding their business to Germany.

Lessons learned from John’s MBA experience

John’s studies helped him mature as an entrepreneur. Previously, he would throw himself into opportunities that sounded great without thinking too much about how scalable they were. Now, with a better understanding of numbers and growth potential, he takes a more cautious, measured approach.

Referring back to his role at Woodcutter, he says, “What Vlerick allowed me to do is really to understand whether or not this is a currently successful business in Belgium, but also whether this is something that could be taken to Germany.” (06:48)

Summarizing John’s MBA experience

John Stewart III’s self-awareness and desire to improve are qualities he shares with so many other success stories. Already an accomplished entrepreneur, he knew that by testing himself, he could improve even further. 

The tests he came up against weren’t simply difficult lessons to learn in a classroom. A whole range of learning environments came together to help him push his career further. 

As a final note, he points out, “I have to say the entrepreneurship courses that [Vlerick] had, the strategy courses, the bootcamps that they provide as well as the electives…they’re all going to be useful if you decide that you would like to do entrepreneurship.” (14:03)

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