The Smith Family Business Initiative at Cornell is dedicated to supporting and strengthening the network of owners, leaders, and alumni that work in, with or for a family business.

Founded in 2014 from a generous gift from John and Dyan Smith, the Smith Family Business Initiative provides education, networking and new knowledge for family business owners, successors, and students from across the globe.

Connect. Learn. Engage.

NBA 6720: Managing Family and Privately Held Firms

This course explores the challenges and opportunities created by family leadership and ownership. This elective is designed for students who may be involved in family firms and closely held companies in a variety of roles: joining either their own family’s or someone else’s firm, and students who will do business with family firms, consult to them, invest in them, work with them in private wealth management, mergers and acquisitions, banking, consulting etc.


Peer Leadership Forums

The Cornell Peer Leadership Forums combine the expertise of our Cornell Family Business Fellows, access to Cornell faculty, and our extensive Smith Family Business Initiative global network. Forums will be carefully curated and formed. Each forum will be unique to its constituent members, and areas of growth and exploration will be driven by the members.



This is an outgrowth of our
popular Sam Seltzer ’48
Mentors Forum. After two
successful in-person forums
in 2019, students and mentors alike have been asking for
more opportunities to connect.



Family Business: By the Numbers

5.5 million

family businesses in the U.S.


family businesses that are led by a female CEO or President.

24 years

average life span of a family-owned business.


new business ventures established in the U.S. founded with significant involvement of the family.


Take a look at blogs, news, recaps, and more created by and for the Smith Family Business Initiative.