Babson Magazine

Summer 2015

Cooking Up Entrepreneurs

Miguel Davilla/

Illustration: Miguel Davilla/

About 10 years ago, Dorothy Cann Hamilton, CEO and founder of the International Culinary Center, specializing in culinary and wine education, bought an inn in Connecticut. “It was a proper inn with a restaurant,” she says. “I thought since I ran a successful culinary school, I could run the inn. Well, of course, it was a disaster.”

Not a fan of losing money, nor one to accept defeat, Hamilton turned the inn and its restaurant around. But in the process, she also thought about what she should have known before tackling such an endeavor. “I thought about how does someone my age go back and learn the basic touchstones to opening a successful business?” she says.

Soon after, Hamilton began the Culinary Entrepreneurship program at ICC (formerly The French Culinary Institute), which offers a unique environment for students. Not only is ICC recognized for training some of the best chefs, including Bobby Flay and Christina Tosi, but it was founded on the tenet of a maximum amount of education in a minimum amount of time. “We’ve never followed a traditional model,” says Hamilton. So the resulting program, which focused on starting and managing restaurants, could be completed after 90 hours of course work.

Over the years, the program proved successful, but people interested in opening other food-related businesses, such as a bar or pastry shop, asked about possible courses. Chefs with established busi-nesses came seeking advice on how to scale up. Then Hamilton met Elaine Eisenman, dean of Babson Executive Education, and Candida Brush, professor of entrepreneurship, at a conference. “I told them I have all these budding entrepreneurs, and they need exactly what Babson does in spades,” says Hamilton. “Babson oozes entrepreneurship.”

So ICC and BEE connected, with BEE developing two four-day courses, one for startups and the other for scaling existing businesses, for anyone in the food and beverage industry. The StartUp Intensive covers a range of topics, including how to develop business models and plans, assess the marketplace, and build an effective team. It also helps participants understand themselves as entrepreneurs, such as what motivates them. The Grow and Scale Intensive will address such topics as what makes successful leaders, how to assess and improve operational processes, and how founders’ roles change as businesses evolve. To start, the courses will be offered on ICC’s New York City campus and at BEE. Eventually, plans are to expand to ICC’s West Coast campus in Campbell, Calif., and to offer the courses online as well.

“I do think that entrepreneurship is the word du jour,” says Hamilton. “You’re getting a lot of colleges and schools that don’t know much about it slapping a course together. But Babson studies entrepreneurship. Babson understands that it’s about more than being creative and persistent. You must be good at different skill sets to be a successful entrepreneur. It’s not quite what people expect.”—Donna Coco