As a resident of Houston, Texas, it may have been inevitable that Eric Sonnier’s first business experience, as a co-op student during his junior year in college, was related to the oil and gas industry. At Caterpillar Global Petroleum Group, Eric was “responsible for a pilot program that put generator sets in the field and collected feedback from engineers.” He did a number of site visits “and got my elbows dirty, but I wasn’t really passionate about it.”
A subsequent internship with Xerox in Rochester, New York, through the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) program, came closer to his sweet spot, exposing Eric to the rigors of marketing and finance. After graduating from the University of Texas, he went into consulting with Deloitte. “I saw consulting,” Eric explains, “as an option for keeping my options open.” Three and a half years with Deloitte gave him experience in numerous industries, including oil, telecom, and retail.
Then Eric became interested in entrepreneurship. “I wasn’t sure it was right for me, but you don’t know until you test it,” Eric says. “I went from the largest professional services company in the world to an 11-person startup, MdotM, in an industry with an uncertain but bright future.” But Eric felt the call. “I became 100 percent passionate about entrepreneurship. I knew I had to be involved in an early-stage company with a small team.”
An entrepreneur for other entrepreneurs
Once he decided to get an MBA, Eric was convinced that HBS “was the right fit. Any business school will teach you the fundamentals of business, but HBS teaches you how to think, how to approach a problem, and how to draw conclusions from limited data that you feel confident sharing with ninety other confident, intelligent people.”
Instead of waiting until graduation to launch a business, he has already started a company, with fellow MBA candidate Broderick McClinton, called Equity Endeavor, LLC. “We’re focused on spurring local economies by creating more efficient entrepreneurial ecosystems,” Eric explains. This summer, Eric and Broderick will test the model in New Orleans and Austin. “We see a gap in funding and networks that the three major entrepreneurial centers – Silicon Valley, Boston and New York – already have. We want to build better models for smaller cities.”
Equity Endeavor has a residency in the Harvard i-lab and frequently takes advantage of Rock Center’s assistance through its legal office hours and Entrepreneur in Residence programs. Eric and Broderick are competing in the New Venture Competition and have received funding from the Rock Summer Fellowship Program to help fund their tests over the summer. “It’s amazing how many resources are available to you here,” Eric says. “All you have to do is ask.”