“Part of the unofficial curriculum is helping other people – it’s like having a third year wrapped inside the other two.”

As an undergraduate at Harvard, Andrea Nadosy found a retreat in “by far the most attractive studyspace on campus,” Spangler Center at HBS. There, she discovered an unexpected inspiration. “There was always a hum of activity,” Andrea says, “people talking about their ideas and passions. This energy planted seeds – for entrepreneurship.”

Nine months before entering HBS, those seeds already began to bear fruit in Meadowmere Lane, an online retailer of exquisite laptop bags. But as a business-owner in an institution renowned for management, would she feel out of place at the school?

A deep interest in entrepreneurship

“I knew going into it that HBS is all about people who are passionate about what they do,” says Andrea. “But while HBS is famous for finance, I found that there was also a great emphasis on entrepreneurship. Deep down, almost everyone here wants to start their own business; everyone was interested in the progress ofmy own business.”

In a very practical way, Andrea was able to use her experience with Meadowmere Lane as the foundation for her approach to her courses. “I would use it as an example in many cases,” she says. “Then after class, my colleagues would volunteer advice and support. One time, I mentioned difficulties I was having with a manufacturer in Asia; a classmate came up to me with a Vietnamese connection he trusted. HBS is a safe environment for testing business ideas and making great connections. Part of the unofficial curriculum is helping other people – it’s like having a third year wrapped inside the other two.”

Andrea is particularly grateful to Das Narayandas, “an amazing marketing professor who single-handedly changed the way I looked at business.” Professor Narayandas encouraged her to look at her product – laptop bags – from the customer’s point of view, from the first time they see it through the actual purchase. As aconsequence, Andrea made a number of key business changes, including an expandedrange of products and a new company name: Bobarra (the nickname of her younger sister).

Bringing her heart to San Francisco

While still at HBS, Andrea held trunk shows to display her wares to her classmates. “I also held focus groups in my apartment,” she says. “Participants wouldtalk about their ideal bag, then I would make designs that incorporated these features.”

After graduating with her MBA, Andrea moved to San Francisco where she is part of a “huge West Coast network. We just had our first-year reunion – which was held in San Francisco because so many of us are out here. Forty of my section mates showed up!”

Andrea still gathers feedback from her colleagues. Once a month, she meets with an informal group of six MBA entrepreneurs, four of whom are from HBS. “We recreate the case method for own business problems,” Andrea says. She sees her West Coast group as an extension of her MBA degree. “HBS allows you to surround yourself with extraordinary faculty and colleagues who are successful entrepreneursthemselves. Choose your own adventure – whatever experience you want to have, HBS gives you the opportunity to make it hap