Clay Olsen (MBA ’22) arrived at Darden knowing his “why,” or his professional purpose. He wants to help small businesses reach their next level of growth.

“One of the main reasons why I chose Darden was the culture of seriousness about getting the most out of the classroom and turning students into future CEOs. After you graduate, you could effectively run a company,” said Clay.

With his strong foundation in private equity, Clay came to Darden hoping to spend the next two years exploring entrepreneurship through acquisition (ETA). The Batten Venture Internship Program (BVIP) gave Clay confidence as he pursued ETA as a career path.

Confirming Career Goals Through A Valuable Summer Experience

Clay Olsen's Batten Venture Internship Program

The BVIP experience program gave Clay the opportunity to spend his First Year summer internship with Craneworks, a nationwide business owned by Darden alumnus Barker Squire (MBA ‘17). Craneworks inspects, maintains and repairs cranes for the United States Navy and Marine Corp. Clay and Barker connected with the help of their shared Darden professor Bobby Parmar.

“My goal for the summer was to work for a small business so that I could help create value and understand what it was like for Barker to run his company. The internship was successful at meeting these goals, and I had clear eyes going into my Second Year,” Clay recalled.

After a summer that affirmed his passion for ETA, Clay started his own self-funded search. He has been in discussions with business brokers in geographies close to family in Texas and the Midwest, as he and his wife recently welcomed a baby girl. Clay sees ETA as well as private equity as two possible post-MBA paths that will help him achieve his career goal of helping small businesses thrive.

Helping Future Darden Students Explore Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition

As the Head of ETA for Darden’s Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club (EVC), Clay also wants to help current and future Darden students explore and pursue ETA. Through a combination of Darden efforts, such as new ETA-focused courses and faculty, the Southeast Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition Conference, and EVC Club- and Batten Institute-coordinated education and events, more Second Years will graduate into the ETA space this year than in years past. Clay recommended classmates interested in ETA to take advantage of the many resources available, both at the School and beyond.

“The ETA community at large is very open to networking; even investors welcome interested MBA students to reach out. Work at networking in the space and get smart on it quick,” Clay said, recommending LinkedIn and

Finding Support and Guidance From Darden’s Batten Instutite

He found excellent career support from the Batten Institute, too. Clay encouraged students to collaborate with MJ Toms, Batten’s interim managing director and director of education and experiential learning.

“You have to figure out which ETA model you want to pursue and that’s a big decision,” said Clay. “It was great to have MJ as a sounding board.”

Clay expressed gratitude for the confidence and clarity his BVIP summer experience gave him. He feels even more ready to “take the keys to a company and run it,” as well as “help management teams figure out how to strategically grow their companies.”

“When I learned about the Batten Venture Internship Program, I thought it was so neat that Darden is supporting entrepreneurs and people who are on a nontraditional path,” Clay said. “I really appreciate the program and the help it gave me.”