The following blog post was written by Mikayla Hart, 2016 MBA Candidate. I’m very grateful that I participated in UR Simon the other weekend. This annual event, which is for Simon’s newly admitted MBA and MS students, was a busy couple of days. Students met future classmates, attended a case discussion led by Professor Greg […]
The following blog post was written by Sarah Spoto, 2017 MBA candidate and Simon Leadership Fellow
What do you think of when you hear the word “entrepreneur”?
A young man in a hoodie hunched over a computer, perhaps? A graying–but young at heart–millionaire venture capitalist, maybe?
Whatever you envision, I bet you didn’t picture three young women from Simon Business School trying to end food deserts in upstate New York. We’re not your average entrepreneurs; we’re social entrepreneurs.
Trying to solve social problems through business is tough. Launching a start up is difficult even if profit is your main motivator, but when you add in a mission for social impact, the challenge becomes that much trickier. This is compounded with skepticism from many sides: those who believe that companies have no business trying to do more than increase shareholder return and those who are hesitant to trust for-profit businesses to handle today’s most pressing issues.
Fahria Omar, Kat Cook, and myself launched Oasis Foods as part of Professor Michael Wohl’s Urban Entrepreneurship class. For the class, we were given this daunting task: end food deserts in Rochester, New York. Soon we had an idea for a frozen pre-prepared meal company that served its healthy products straight to consumers via vending machines. We want to give people access to healthy food where there are very few choices besides convenience stores and fast food. After six weeks of work that extended far beyond spreadsheets and formulas (think: cold calls, food pantry tours, and chats with City representatives), we presented our final project.
The course might have concluded, but it was only the beginning for Oasis Foods. We applied for our first business plan competition. And failed. So we tried again. And again. We eventually got the break we were looking for: a chance to present at the Finger Lakes Regional Contest of the New York Business Plan Competition in Geneseo. There have only been a few other times in my life when I was as nervous as I felt while we were waiting for our results from that competition.
Ultimately, the hard work paid off, and we made it to the final round of the New York Business Plan Competition in Syracuse. That was a whole new ball game. We worked feverishly to prepare, including one marathon 12-hour meeting, which took place after I had literally run a half marathon that morning. We couldn’t pull off those long nights if our team wasn’t a good fit. Fahria is creative, innovative, and the best relationship manager of the group. Kat is all about the operations and logistics, not to mention keeping us all sane with her humor. Launching a start-up is like no other experience. You can’t accomplish it simply by going to class. You need to step out into the world and solve a problem that really matters.
When Oasis Foods was announced as the winner of the Social Entrepreneurship category in Syracuse, I knew that it was only the first happy step in a long road filled with challenges, failures, and wrong turns. But I also knew we were committed, focused, and bold enough to try to make a positive impact through social entrepreneurship. I know our team won’t stop until we’ve done just that.
Learn more about Oasis Foods and experiential learning at Simon in WHAM 1180’s Eyes on the Future podcast from June 25, 2016, featuring Prof. Michael Wohl, Associate Dean David Tilson, Kat Cook, and Fahria Omar.
Three recent Simon graduates are among Poets & Quants’ Class of 2016 MBAs to Watch. Megan DaGraca (M&T Bank), Mohammad Shaikh (BCG), and Gregory Sheldon (City of Rochester Research Fellow) are included on the list. Classmate Mikayla Hart (Accenture) appeared on an earlier list.
As a student, DaGraca was a Forté Fellow and actively involved in the Simon Marketing Association and the Graduate Business Council. During his time at Simon, Shaikh pursued his passion for social entrepreneurship by founding Nia Nest, a food subscription service powered by mobile savings. Shaikh’s teammate, Sheldon, is also passionate about social entrepreneurship. His ultimate goal is to start a business that helps alleviate poverty, either by expanding access to learning opportunities or providing affordable, nutritious food for families in urban areas.
We are so proud of all the members of the Simon Class of 2016!
As someone with a passion for analytics, Zakia Barnes, 2017 MBA candidate, found a natural fit with Simon. Even though she was skilled at using analytics to problem solve in her daily life, she knew that rounding out her skills with an MBA was key to adding value in her professional role.
Having completed her first year at Simon, Zakia feels right at home. She enjoys opportunities to learn from her classmates and is committed to producing high quality work — a characteristic she shares with her peers at Simon. This determination and dedication will serve her well as she embarks on the next step in her journey: A summer internship with the Global Leader Program at Whirlpool.
Wherever you’re headed, get started at Simon.
If you have any questions, please contact the Admissions Office.
Meet Senthil Sevugan, a senior consultant at Deloitte in New York City and a 2015 graduate of the MBA program.
Tell me a little about you and about your career.
I grew up in a handful of cities before embarking upon my journey at Simon. Born in Chennai, India and raised in a few cities, including Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I had the exposure to multicultural co-existence from a young age. My parents’ upfront investment in my international schooling paid off in my job search. I was recruited by a multinational consumer goods firm with which I started off in a global rotational program and spent four years in three countries performing a wide range of cross-functional roles pivoted by technology. After graduating from Simon, I joined Deloitte’s technology consulting practice in New York. I enjoy my work here as it compliments my ambitious mindset and pushes me beyond my comfort zone.
How did you know Simon was right for you?
Retrospectively, I can list out a number of “right” things about Simon that I will carry with me and cherish for a long time. The professors and quality of learning definitely stand out. It is very true that the job search becomes a high priority once we get in the mix, but that does not change the ultimate goal of a Simon degree — a quality education. I came into B-school with no prior business education other than my hands on learning experience at Reckitt Benckiser. I still remember having goose bumps in my Pricing, Macroeconomics, Cases in Finance, and Financial Statements Analysis lectures.
Who impacted you the most while you were at Simon and why?
The professors, my peers, and the staff in the Admissions Office, where I worked as a graduate assistant both years. The difference between a college education and a Google education is the experience and method of learning. At Simon, you will find some of the top pioneering professors in their respective fields. The way you will learn things here, it will stick with you and become part of your basics and second nature. My class had exceptional students. Learning from each of them and pushing myself to stay on par with them was also very pivotal to my positive experience. I also enjoyed my time working for the pleasant and smart personalities in the Admissions Office. It gave me the opportunity to positively influence interested candidates and help the School source good talent.
What did you like to do in your free time at Simon?
I had a great set of friends with whom I used to do all sorts of things, including hitting the gym, playing some low stakes house poker, and watching movies. We would also play board games, Frisbee in Whipple Park, and ping pong in Simon’s basement game room.
Do you remember where you were when you received your Simon acceptance? How did it feel?
I was in Malaysia taking a break between my job and my next phase in life (B-school). I felt really happy and relieved.
What was your most memorable Simon experience?
Taking part in the flash mob dance at our Black Jack Ball graduation party.
What is your advice for prospective students? Or what was the best piece of advice you received?
Start laying the groundwork for your job search as soon as you accept your admission. When you hit the ground running, you will learn to balance academics with the job search, and having a head start by reaching out to the Career Management Center will really help your case.