Category: Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Answers: Salim Holder ’07S (MBA)

The following is a Q&A with Salim Holder, a 2007 graduate of Simon’s MBA program and co-founder and CEO of 4th Ave Market.

Salim Holder '07 (MBA)Tell us a little about what your pre-entrepreneurial career in marketing/branding was like after you left Simon. How did that lead you to your current role as CEO of 4th Ave Market?
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to run my own business. I wasn’t really sure in what, but I knew that was something that I wanted to do. More importantly, I wanted to run a business that had a positive impact on the community it served. I have always felt compelled to see the world and my contribution to it as something much bigger than me. Getting my MBA was the first step in this pursuit. I learned about business at Hampton University, mastered it at Simon, and set out to get some hands-on experience with real companies. For the next ten years post-MBA, I was able to manage some of the largest global brands in multiple categories and in multiple regions of the world. I learned to turn around declining brands, drive deeper engagement in stale and mature product categories, and deliver double-digit gains in revenue and significant improvements in profitability in nearly every category I worked in. As much as I loved what I was learning and what I was able to achieve, I never lost sight of my original mission of having a positive impact on the broader community. After ten years working in the corporate world, I decided to step out in faith to pursue my entrepreneurial endeavors. I figured if I can help these other businesses grow by millions of dollars a year, I could do the same for myself.  

So, in January of 2018, I decided to chart my own path. Part of doing so brought me to General Assembly, where I am a distinguished instructor for a digital marketing certification course and digital marketing workshops. In June of 2018, my current business partner and I purchased an E-Commerce company to become the largest Black-owned online beauty and hair retailer in the US…and 4th Ave Market was born.

What skills did you learn at Simon that best prepared you for your current role?
The quantitative, economics-based approach to business that Simon taught me has significantly boosted my career. Prior to Simon, my professional experience focused largely on the qualitative “soft” skills. Being able to use data to drive my decision making process and being able to take a structured approach to problem solving has proven invaluable for me.

What is your advice for prospective students? Or what was the best piece of advice you received?
Best advice I received during my MBA program was to focus on the learning and not on the test results. In other words, “Bs get degrees.” While I’ve always been a competitive person seeking to be at the top of everything I do, I realized the grades would have no impact on career trajectory, but what would be important was my ability to grasp and use the information. Since life is an open book test, we can always use our notes, books, etc. after graduating to get the right answer, but it requires a strong understanding of the topic and questions that need to be answered.

Tell me a little about where the idea for 4th Ave Market came from. What is the meaning behind the name?
For decades, people of color have been underserved by the retail industry. Major retailers and manufacturers have treated the needs of the Black community as an afterthought. Access to relevant products is limited or controlled by others who are not from and/or do not invest back into the Black community. Meanwhile, Black innovators and business owners are systematically blocked from gaining distribution and awareness of their innovative products. Furthermore, the most influential people in the hair care community, such as barbers and stylists, are undervalued and underrepresented in the field of brand partnership opportunities. What’s shocking is that this hasn’t always been this way.

Less than a hundred years ago, “Black-owned” pockets of a segregated America were economic powerhouses. Whether they were Black-owned banks, schools, courthouses, or salons and local stores, the Black dollar circulated seamlessly through the Black community ten times more than it does today. The 4th Avenue District in Birmingham, Alabama, was a mecca of economic vitality and one of the most successful examples of the entrepreneurial power of the Black community. It is the inspiration for 4th Ave Market.   

Over the past few months there has been additional momentum behind the Black Lives Matter movement and broader issues of social justice, and your company is a leader in this space. Can you tell us a little more about the intersection of your professional ventures and your passion for social justice and equity?
In my experience, I have seen that the playing field is not even. While Black consumers spend $2.5B in hair and beauty products—which represents 85% of sales of ethnic hair care products—they only own 7% of the stores. We shouldn’t have to fight to get a seat at the table; instead, we can create our own table. We shouldn’t just participate in industries; we need to be owners of the industries we participate in. I believe a strong economic platform is essential to achieving social justice and equity. Luckily, we don’t have to recreate the wheel as we have great frameworks in the 4th Ave District from Birmingham, Alabama, and Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

If individuals are interested in supporting 4th Ave Market, what are some of the best ways to do so—either directly or indirectly?

  • Become a loyal shopper at 4thaveMarket.com
  • Share our story and site with a friend—help us get PR opportunities!
  • Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • Pass along our information to an entrepreneur making amazing hair, personal, care and beauty products.
  • Become an investor in 4th Ave Market. 

Watch Salim talk more about life as an open book test during a visit to campus for Scholarship Weekend in 2016.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Alumni Chat with James Cuthbert ’09S (MBA), Sr. VP of Brand and Marketing Strategy at BET

Black and white portrait of James Cuthbert.Join us at noon on Friday, October 2, for a virtual chat with James Cuthbert, a 2009 MBA graduate of Simon Business School. Whether you are interested in pursuing a career in marketing or strategy or you’re curious about how you can support diversity, equity, and inclusion, this alumni chat will inspire and prepare you for your future career.

James Cuthbert is an award-winning marketing professional and youth advocate with over 15 years of experience, including four global CPG companies (Red Bull North America, The Coca-Cola Company, Kellogg’s, and General Mills), two non-profit organizations (KIPP Philadelphia Charter Schools and The Center for Youth Services), and currently the Senior Vice President of Brand and Marketing Strategy at BET.

He graduated with a B.S. degree in Business Management from Pennsylvania State University and went on to earn an MBA from the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School. In 2017 and 2018, he was named a “40 Under 40 Brand Marketer” by Brand Innovators (the largest network of brand marketers in the United States).

We hope you’ll be able to join us! If you have questions, please reach out to us at events@simon.rochester.edu.

Class of 2020 MBA Spotlight: Ashley Brown and Raul Carvalho

In the final installment of the Class of 2020 Spotlight series, meet Ashley Brown and Raul Carvalho, recent MBA graduates:

Ashley Brown ’20S (MBA)

ashley.brownWhere are you headed after graduation?
After graduation, I started working for 3M as a financial analyst in their Safety and Industrials Business Group.

What was your favorite class and why?
I had three favorite classes at Simon. First, I LOVED Negotiation Theory & Practice with Erica Dawson. In her class, I learned how to ask for what I want and to not be afraid to hear no. I also really enjoyed Urs Waelchli’s classes, Corporate Finance and Entrepreneurial Finance. He broke the concepts down so that they were easy to understand but still highlighted the complexity for those with more background knowledge.

If you could use three words to describe your MBA experience, what would they be?
Whirlwind, fun, and enlightening.


What have you learned that will help you most in your new role?

So far, Ravi Mantena’s Business Modeling class has helped me the most. Understanding how to look at different scenarios and how to model potential outcomes has been immensely helpful.

What is your favorite Simon memory?
My favorite Simon memory has to be when I met my fellow June starts! They were my rock throughout my journey, and I don’t know what I would have done without them!

What advice do you have for prospective Simon students?
Don’t be scared to try new things. I was a former middle school teacher who transitioned into finance. If I can do that, you can do whatever you put your mind to. Be on the leadership board of a club. It will help you gain a better understanding of who you are as a leader AND how you can make an impact on your future organization. Don’t forget to have fun! Yes, grades are important, but so are the friendships you build with your classmates. I was in a meeting recently at 3M where one of the senior leaders said, “Sometimes you carry, and sometimes you get carried.” That will be the truth of your time at Simon. Make sure that you are helping as much as you are receiving help.

 

Raul Carvalho ’20S (MBA)

Raul Carvalho '20 (MBA)Where are you headed after graduation?
I moved to Boston to work at Holden Advisors as a consultant. 

What was your favorite class and why?
My favorite class was Game Theory for Managers with Jeanine Miklos-Thal. In my opinion, she is one of the top three professors that I had the chance to interact with. Her class had just the perfect balance of theory, cases, and simulations. In that class, I also had the opportunity to analyze current market situations through the Game Theory perspective and gain a deeper understanding of the strategy companies have used and are using in the global marketplace. 

If you could use three words to describe your MBA experience, what would they be?
Intense, collaborative, and rewarding. 

What have you learned that will help you most in your new role?
As I started working part time even before graduation, I can already see how business school impacts my performance at work. The plurality of case studies, industries, and companies we analyzed in the classroom gave me a broader toolkit to approach different business problems that I’m facing and will face in the future. Our pricing classes cover a great range of topics that I currently use, as I specialize in this field. The constant group work prepared me to be efficient in business meetings. I will also add that, as a graduate in these unprecedented times because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the online classes also helped with remote work and group coordination.  

What is your favorite Simon memory?
There are many! Can I say two? Playing the MBA Soccer World Cup with my friends from school and going to Oktoberfest in Munich with a group of friends from my class. 

What advice do you have for prospective Simon students?
1.) Be humble and respectful.
2.) Do your work, put in the hours, and let the results come.  
3.) Understand the value of networking. Reach out to alumni—they walked this path before and were incredible advisors on my career search. And when reaching out, always keep in mind numbers one and two.

Class of 2020 MBA Spotlight: Vibhor Mishra and David Schryver

Next up in our Class of 2020 Spotlight series are Vibhor Mishra and David Schryver, recent MBA graduates:

Vibhor Mishra ’20 (MBA)

Vibhor.Mishra'20 (MBA)Where are you headed after graduation?
I’m joining Amazon’s Pathways Operations Leadership Development Program.

What was your favorite class and why?
Competitive Strategy with Professor Guy Arie. The course focuses on important strategic and tactical frameworks to tackle business issues and develop economic decision making processes. The cases covered in the course are highly relevant to the modern business environment and provides you the firsthand experience of learning from real life situations. Professor Arie did an incredible job with the Q&A discussion forum, where the entire class can post recent news articles and discuss them in a comprehensive manner.

If you could use three words to describe your MBA experience, what would they be?
Stressful, rewarding, and enlightening.

What have you learned that will help you most in your new role?
Time management, multi-tasking capabilities, solid business foundations, handling ambiguity, and leadership skills.

What is your favorite Simon memory?
Orientation week! Coming to your first week at Simon and getting to know your incredible classmates from all different backgrounds through series of events is the most fun experience of Simon. These classmates become your family for the next two years, and the first week of events really helps to solidify that bond.

What advice do you have for prospective Simon students?
When you arrive at Simon, whatever you will go through will prepare you for what you asked for. Just cherish the time, follow the process, and support each other. Meliora always!

 

David Schryver ’20 (MBA)

David.Schryver '20 (MBA)Where are you headed after graduation?
After graduation, I will be living in Hoboken, New Jersey (NJ is home sweet home). I’m joining Guggenheim Partners in August.

What was your favorite class and why?
My favorite class at Simon was Dean Bauer’s Macroeconomics class. It was probably one of the most difficult classes I took at Simon but also the most rewarding. Taking this class gave me a whole new perspective and a whole new tool set for making sense of the times we are living through. I would recommend that every Simon MBA takes this class before they graduate.

If you could use three words to describe your MBA experience, what would they be?
Challenging, collaborative, and rewarding.

What have you learned that will help you most in your new role?
I believe a data-focused mindset that I developed at Simon will help me the most in my new role. Simon’s analytical focus changed the way I perceive and approach challenges or problems that need to be solved.

What is your favorite Simon memory?
My favorite memory at Simon was Black Jack Ball at the end of my first year. It was the perfect way to end our first year at Simon, celebrate our hard work, and blow off some steam before heading off for our summer internships.

What advice do you have for prospective Simon students?
I have two pieces of advice for prospective or incoming Simon students. The first piece is a saying from my college football coach, “find a way to win.” Life at Simon, especially as a new first year student, can be extremely challenging and stressful. It is important to remember that while Simon does an excellent job providing support and all the resources needed, at the end of the day, it is up to each student individually to do what it takes to make their own story work out and recognize that this will not be the same for everyone. 

My second piece of advice is take things one day at a time. The MBA experience can be overwhelming at times and impossible to manage. It is important to take things one day at a time and keep your focus on the present.