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Business professor recognized for entrepreneurship research

09/29/15 - BOSTON, MA. - Kimberly Eddleston poses for a portrait on Sept. 29, 2015. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Kimberly Eddleston, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation and Daniel and Dorothy Grady Faculty Fellow in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, has received a prestigious recognition from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation for her contributions to the field of entrepreneurship.

The foundation named Eddleston a Schulze Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, an award that will come with a three-year renewable research stipend of $50,000 annually to support her innovative studies of family businesses and the careers of entrepreneurs.

“I’m honored and excited to be receiving this award,” said Eddleston, who is a faculty member in Northeastern’s Center for Family Business. “Entrepreneurship, by its very nature, is a risky endeavor. But when you look at family businesses, they survive decades, centuries, and generations. So we know many of them are doing something right, and that’s a thrust of my research.”

Eddleston is one of just four business professors nationwide to receive the professorships, which the foundation says recognize innovative and accomplished scholars at leading universities and are part of its new initiative committing $500,000 annually to advance American entrepreneurship. Best Buy founder and chairman emeritus Dick Schulze created the foundation in 2004.

Eddleston is widely published in the field of entrepreneurship and presents at conferences worldwide. She was also ranked in the top 10 among most productive scholars in family business in the Family Business Research Handbook, Second Edition, published in 2013.

Entrepreneurship, by its very nature, is a risky endeavor. But when you look at family businesses, they survive decades, centuries, and generations. So we know many of them are doing something right, and that’s a thrust of my research.
— Kimberly Eddleston, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation

The award will support Eddleston’s continuing work on a variety of research projects, one being a study she’s leading in collaboration with the Business Families Foundation. The study will focus on the role of women who often work behind the scenes to support and advance their family’s business. The research will examine how these women provide direction while at the same time maintaining family traditions as they develop and guide the next generation for leadership roles in their family’s business.

“There’s been almost no research in this area,” she said, “and I think it’s going to be a game-changer in the family business arena.”

Eddleston’s scholarship also focuses on emerging markets. The award, she said, will advance her research presented in a book she co-authored and which was published this year, Firms Within Families: Enterprising in Diverse Country Context. In the book, she and her collaborators studied family-run businesses in six countries: Switzerland, Germany, China, Brazil, India, and the United States. They found that factors that predict the success of family businesses in the U.S. don’t necessarily translate to family businesses’ success in emerging markets.

In past research, Eddleston has investigated “The Fredo Effect,” a term she coined that refers to the famous character in The Godfather films. Her 2009 study sought to shed greater light on how the “family” in family-run businesses serves to constrict or promote the firm’s success. Based on a survey of Boston-area companies, her data indicated that at almost 30 percent admitted to employing a nonproductive family member.

In addition to her research, Eddleston teaches several entrepreneurship courses and has developed a small business consulting project curriculum that has been featured at entrepreneurship conferences and in Inc. Magazine. In one course, teams of students consult with small- and medium-sized businesses to develop project proposals and perform field casework specific to the needs of their clients.

Northeastern students, she said, “come here because they have something to prove, and they want to work. With the consulting projects I give them each semester, I’m always blown away by what they accomplish.”

Eddleston is surrounded by a family of entrepreneurs and family businesses—including her father, who owns a law firm, and her grandfather, who owned a hotel—and seeing family businesses grow and succeed is a personal passion of hers. “I love entrepreneurship,” she said. “It’s one of those things where your background doesn’t matter. It’s your ingenuity, it’s your passion, it’s your skill.”

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