Chicago Business:

Jennifer Beall, 27, entered Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management determined to be an entrepreneur.

That goal had stuck with her for years. Growing up in Austin, Texas, she was initially inspired by Dell Inc. founder Michael Dell. “But I ditched the high-tech part,” she says (although she did earn an undergraduate degree in math from Duke University).

When Ms. Beall graduates from Kellogg in June, she’ll pursue her dream. For her, choosing to be an entrepreneur was easy. The hard part was finding a business idea.

“I was hoping – and I realize a lot of people who come to business school are the same way – that I would find somebody else with that golden-ticket idea, and they would just need somebody else to make it happen,” she says.

She did come up with her own idea, but it took some digging. While enrolled in a Kellogg class that compared baby boomers and “millennials,” Ms. Beall began contemplating one of the hot buttons of her generation: work-life balance.

She spent her first year of business school seeking ideas designed to achieve that – particularly for working moms. By the end of the year, Ms. Beall had compiled a spreadsheet with about 50 ideas. As it turned out, the best one came from a conversation she had while she was an intern at Chicago-based Perchance Boutique. Ms. Beall told a customer – a working mom – that she wanted to start a business to improve work-life balance. The customer’s response: “I would pay any amount of money for someone to clean my baby’s car seat. It is disgusting. And there’s no service out there that exists.”

Ms. Beall did some research and found only two possible competitors in that market: a New York dry cleaner and a home-based San Francisco business. This summer, she plans to fill the void by launching an eco-friendly cleaning service for car seats and strollers ($20 for strollers, $25 for car seats).

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik

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