For some students, starting a business means more than just having a clever idea. It’s a passion, a future career, and a chance to solve industry deficiencies or build a game-changing startup with lasting value.


With that in mind, the Kellogg School of Management unveiled the Zell Scholars program last year to provide support for students looking to turn their startups into market- and funding-ready businesses, said David Schonthal, program director and a clinical assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship.


Recently, 10 students were named to the 2014-15 class. (In photo, from left: Kieren Patel, Michael Jung, Lorena Arathoon, Tyler Wanke, Luciana Olivera, Jeremy Bolian, Priya Mathew, Gaurav Shenai, Stephen Lane and Jesse Chang. Photo by Sarah Aylward.) 


The application-only, two-quarter program — funded by Equity Group Investments LLC Chairman Sam Zell — launched in 2013 with nine students elected to its inaugural cohort. In addition to funding from the program, those Zell Scholars have raised more than $2.5 million independently to support their companies, Schonthal said.


But the advantages of becoming a Zell Scholar will last long after graduation, Schonthal added.


“It has more to do with helping people who are entrepreneurially-minded be successful founders at some point in their careers,” he said. “When they’re ready to take on the challenge and bring something new to market or start their own company, they have the confidence and experience to draw on.”


An MBA “on steroids”


The program does that by providing mentorship, coaching, networking opportunities and other business services to a set of students poised to create real change and lasting value.


This program builds upon existing resources for entrepreneurial students by offering further support and networking opportunities. As described by new Zell Scholar Stephen Lane ’16, the program is like an MBA “on steroids.”


Scholars scale up


Current Zell Scholar Tyler Wanke ’15 of medical device startup Innoblative has seen the program’s benefits first hand. When Innoblative teammate Jason Sandler ’15 was part of the program last year, the startup received program funding, which helped them compete in a number of case competitions last year.


Innoblative went on to win nearly $200,000 in cash and prizes. And last December, techonology blog ChicagoInno named the med tech company one of its “15 startups to watch in 2015.”


“The Zell program gave us so much while we didn't have much,” Wanke said. “When we rang the closing bell at the NASDAQ [last June], I damn sure remembered to thank Sam Zell.”

To learn more about this year's Zell Scholars, see the original story on Kellogg's website.

Edited by Andrea Nazarian, a student in Northwestern’s Master of Science in Communication program.