SOM Blog


Going Outside the Classroom: Alumni Panels Inspire Creativity and Connections

When I told my family that I was planning on pursuing an MBA, I received a lot of support.  When I explained that I was planning to pursue entrepreneurship as my focus, however, I received some pushback. One person in particular tried to convince me that pursuing an MBA to go into entrepreneurship is essentially a waste of money. His argument was that he, and almost everyone else in my family, had started successful businesses simply by following an idea and watching it grow.

The question of if an MBA was the right choice was one that plagued me as I thought about applying to graduate school.  When I looked at the situation from a purely financial perspective, the argument of "save your money to start a business" kept coming up.  Despite that concern, however, I decided that pursuing an MBA at Simmons was the right choice, so I could build a deep understanding of the foundations of business, which would be applicable in a variety of work situations.  Now, as I attend classes and events on campus, I am constantly reassured that I made the right choice by investing in my MBA education and focusing on Entrepreneurship.  

For example,  this week I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion about starting and funding a small business, hosted by the Simmons School of Management Alumni Association.  This event was not only a wonderful source of information, it was also a valuable source of connection. Prior to the panel discussion there was an opportunity to meet a number of alumni who were there to offer their support and guidance. The alumni present ranged in age and experience, from recent graduates who were already running their own businesses to long-established entrepreneurs. In addition to hearing the various alumni stories, I was able to discuss with them the ideas I have been developing in my Business Plans class this semester, and they generously shared their feedback, suggestions for contacts in the community, and their enthusiasm.   

It was also wonderful to see how the event served to bring alumni together, allowing them to share their experiences as entrepreneurs.  I was reminded yet again that the benefits of the Simmons SOM education extends far beyond the classroom.  This connection, and the willingness of Simmons alumni to support current students and other alumni is priceless.  This supportive community is one of the intangible things that makes this program so valuable, especially for entrepreneurs.

Although the networking alone would have made for a wonderful night, the panel discussion that followed was an amazing opportunity for both prospective and current entrepreneurs to learn from the experiences of four successful small business owners.  The panel was composed of Simmons SOM alumni who had all taken different paths towards owning their own businesses, and who had faced variety of challenges along the way.  These panelists openly shared their stories and offered invaluable words of wisdom.  

Carolina Tejedor Meyers '12 SM, drew her family together to create Caramelo Clothing Company, a men's clothing store in Jamaica Plain.   Carolina explained that after making sure her family would have food on the table, she (and her family) decided to take a risk of opening the business.  Working with her sister, a fashion designer, they learned the business as they went.  She demonstrated the importance of building a network of consultants in the community around you, be it the flower shop next door, your friends, or your competitors.

Michelle Conceison, '03 SM, built her business, Market Monkeys, almost accidentally. By following her passion for music she was able to create a music marketing company for singer songwriters on the side of her day job in advertising.  Market Monkeys was a side project until it had grown to a point where it needed to be her only occupation.  Michelle described how she has approached challenges of growth and division, in addition to the many considerations that go into potential partnerships.  

Elizabeth Morrow took classes at the SOM, before starting her Business, Yoga by Numbers.  Elizabeth shared how she was able to make her vision a reality by focusing on the personal connections. She met with manufacturers, reached out to strangers in the community, and built a wealth of resources by sharing her passion for yoga with people.  She was also able to share with the audience extensive knowledge about crowdfunding and the developing regulations regarding Benefits Corporations.

Jennifer Pinck, '86 SM, Founder and President of Pinck & Co. left a successful career in construction and began consulting as a small endeavor.   Her company has since grown organically, to a point where she now employs more than 30 people.  Jennifer initiated an interesting discussion about creating a strategic plan for the future, and envisioning how as a founder, one prepares to transition into retirement.

After 3 hours of networking, refining my pitch, and meeting some incredible alumni, I left feeling more invigorated and inspired than I thought was possible.  I was encouraged by Carolina to consider working with a business partner whose strengths compliment my own.  Elizabeth's fearless drive to connect with people who could help her develop her business made me rethink my own hesitation to ask for help.  Michelle demonstrated how important it is to keep yourself open to opportunity, and Jennifer opened my eyes to how a small beginning can build into so much more.  

More importantly, I went home that night knowing without a doubt that my my decision to pursue entrepreneurship at Simmons was the right choice.  The opportunities for professional growth and exploration outside of the classroom are as important, if not more so, than what what happens during class, and the SOM continuously offers experiences like this one.  These opportunities to meet, connect with, and learn from our incredible network of alumni, make the Simmons MBA experience priceless.

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