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Lauren West had planned on pursuing her MBA at Oregon State via the nine-month option.
But then she learned about the OSU Advantage Accelerator.
To intern at the Accelerator, which aims to help local innovators commercialize their intellectual property by using MBA students as business advisers, West would need the two-year path to her degree.
So that’s what she decided to do.
“I’m very happy I did,” said West, who’s on the MBA program’s commercialization track and is scheduled to graduate in March 2015. “It’s been phenomenal.”
Through the Accelerator, West attended the Willamette Angel Conference and led the due-diligence team for a company that was awarded $325,000 in funding. She also worked in market research for a solar-cell startup, Inspired Light, identifying a point of market entry for a new type of cell.
Her final role at the Accelerator was business manager for KW Associates LLC, a high-tech startup in the industrial furnace industry. She created a leasing revenue model to help with customer acquisition, identified partners through her Oregon State contacts, calculated unit value and came up with marketing material for manufacturing customers.
“She’s awesome,” said company president Paul King, who had heard through the grapevine that in being assigned West he was getting the Accelerator’s “best intern.”
“She’s very sharp, very energetic,” King said. “She knows what she wants and how to get it. She’s very mature in her thinking, very smart, very intuitive. I can give her a task and I don’t have to say how to do it. She knows what she knows and knows what she doesn’t know, and what she doesn’t know, she knows how to get those answers. It’s going to be hard to lose her.”
West, who graduated in 2013 from OSU’s Honors College with a degree in mathematical economics, grew up in Medford in a business-oriented family.
“My dad is definitely my business role model,” she says of her father, Phil Emard. “He started his own Lean Manufacturing Consulting firm when I was a kid. He transformed everything from helicopter manufacturers to blood labs and ER departments to be more efficient and save millions per year. He recently bought an Ace Hardware in Southern Oregon, which he and my mom (Marianne Emard) run together. He has a true entrepreneurial spirit, a keen eye for seeing opportunities, and a passion for well-run businesses; a true dream of mine would be running my own startup with him. Between us we have lots of ideas.”
West, who started with KW in June 2014, devoted 30 hours a week to her Accelerator internship during the summer months before scaling it back to 10 during the school year. She’s never been a stranger to working while pursuing her education and has taken on an array of jobs, from waitress to barista to housekeeping director to apartment manager.
Following completion of her MBA, she plans to move back to southern Oregon and work as a financial analyst.
Her advice to prospective and current MBA students is to look beyond the coursework and “find some way to get connected and do networking, and the Accelerator is where I found that. I got to meet a lot of esteemed members of the local business community.”
And she also got to learn from and be inspired by innovation-minded people like King, Accelerator co-directors Mark Lieberman and John Turner, and Rich Carter of the chemistry department, like King an Accelerator client.
“It just gives you drive, that raw passion of entrepreneurship,” West said.