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EMBA Students at Kitchentown Kitchen

EMBA Students at Kitchentown Kitchen

Santa Clara University Executive MBA Leaders Step up in the Post-Covid Era

Day-Long Collaboration Features Real Life Innovation with Food Service Start-ups

As part of a rich immersive component of the EMBA curriculum, student executives partnered with culinary creatives from KitchenTown, a food start-up incubator, to solve complex business issues - from finance and marketing, to supply chain and a variety of company-specific problems in between.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (October 13, 2021) 

With massive post-Covid changes severely challenging small businesses, the Executive MBA students at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business recently came to the aid of some innovative Bay Area food start-ups.

The EMBA program, ranked #13 in the U.S. by US News & World Report, partnered with food innovation hub KitchenTown, San Mateo, Calif.  In a high-energy workshop, Silicon Valley’s innovative executives of tomorrow helped solve pressing problems experienced by some of the Bay Area’s leading culinary creators.

KitchenTown is a food start-up incubator that fosters innovation and positive change to the world’s food ecosystem. It facilitates the development, commercialization, and launch of transformational food products through a powerful network of food entrepreneurs and innovators that creates a novel and more sustainable food ecosystem.

Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has dimmed the future of many startups and crippled food service development. This has sounded a near-death knell for culinary creativity and created unprecedented value destruction in the business aspect of the equation. However, a symbiotic collaboration with Santa Clara University’s nationally reputed EMBA program has proved invaluable.

“The strength of startups is their ability to move fast and implement quickly. What's harder is to go deep.  In their early days, they are often teams of one or two people who don't have time for long-term strategy because there are so many decisions to make right now, especially in the post COVID era. Partnering with the SCU Executive MBA students was a really exciting match, because they have the training and experience to help our founders zoom out, level up and fight the pandemic” explained Rusty Schwartz, Founder and CEO, KitchenTown.

As part of a rich immersive component within their EMBA curriculum, the student executives were allotted to carefully vetted starts-up based on a match between their skills & capabilities and the business challenges confronting the startup.  Student teams then spent an intensive day brainstorming and solving complex business issues that ran the gamut from finance, to marketing, to supply chain and a variety of company-specific problems in between.

“Our collaboration with KitchenTown creates a rare opportunity for students to really foster and enable food innovation for startups that are struggling in the challenging post-COVID era,” explains Dr. Kumar Sarangee, the EMBA program’s Director.

From the student’s perspective the day-long interaction represented a rare opportunity to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it to real problems with real consequences for any missteps.

“It was great experience knowing that there are places that support entrepreneurs and make their idea real. We also had a great conversation with them on their experience and challenges. We will definitely have an opportunity to contribute to their continuing growth.” said Hong Lu, who during the week serves as Engineering Manager at Cisco while participating in the Executive MBA program on Friday evenings and weekends.

“We always teach our students to be competent, conscientious and compassionate individuals. But to see the work that these EMBA students have done with startups at KitchenTown post-Covid has been eye-opening,” said Dr. Nydia MacGregor, Interim Dean of Graduate Programs, Leavey School of Business.

“To watch the profound impact our student leaders are having on combating the aftermath of the COVID crisis shows the true worth of Jesuit education” added Toby McChesney, Vice Provost for Graduate Programs, Santa Clara University.

About Santa Clara University

Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís. SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education. For more information see

About Leavey School of Business

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, one of the most dynamic business environments in the world, the Leavey School of Business combines academic excellence in the 450-year Jesuit tradition, with an energetic, innovative spirit that typifies the region. Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business offers one of the nation's best graduate business programs ranked No. 13 Executive MBA by U.S. News & World Report, No. 20 ranked Evening MBA by U.S. News & World Report, and No. 40 ranked Online MBA by U.S. News & World Report. Our Undergraduate Business programs rank in the Top 10% in the nation, ranked No. 49 by U.S. News & World Report. For more information, visit


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