Category: Programs and Opportunities

Oasis Foods: Not Your Average Start Up

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.

Kat Cook, Fahria Omar, and Sarah Spoto celebrate their Finger Lakes Regional win of the New York Business Plan Competition.

Kat Cook, Fahria Omar, and Sarah Spoto celebrate their Finger Lakes Regional win of the New York Business Plan Competition.

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.

Oasis Foods won $10,000 in seed money for taking 1st place in the Social Entrepreneurship/ Non Profit track of the New York Business Plan Competition.

Oasis Foods won $10,000 in seed money for taking 1st place in the Social Entrepreneurship/ Non Profit track of the New York Business Plan 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.

Get to Know Simon Vision Consultants

The following blog post was written by Albert Chatigny, MBA 2015. Albert is now working as a senior business operations analyst at Home Depot.

The Simon Business School experience is characterized by a myriad of opportunities, including access to top-tier faculty, exposure to trends and shifts in a variety of industries, and various clubs that allow students to develop a customized approach to personal and professional growth. When our first classes started two years ago, I had a minimal amount of project management experience and aimed to address that deficiency immediately. The advisors in our Career Management Center suggested I look into the Simon Vision Consultants (otherwise referred to as Vision) as a potential avenue for improving my profile, so I decided to look into the club.

Albert Chatigny, MBA 2015

Albert Chatigny, MBA 2015

Vision provides a few different ways students can gain additional real-world experience while at Simon. The primary mission of the club is to connect local businesses and entrepreneurs with talented Simon students who can help them understand and address business problems. A Simon student project manager meets with a client each quarter to brainstorm a rough project plan, then recruits a team of three to five Simon classmates to work on the project to completion (usually a two month process). Our students have provided high-value deliverables in marketing research, pricing policies, social media initiatives, sales strategies, and company valuations.

One aspect of Vision that students find very refreshing is that they serve as the majority of the organization’s guidance. The student leadership team is free to implement new policies in order to foster higher levels of client satisfaction and student engagement each year. This year, we partnered with Simon’s Net Impact club, which opened opportunities to work with more socially-focused businesses and to engage a more diverse set of students. The partnership helped with an initiative to double the number of projects Vision took on compared to the previous academic year.

My experience with Vision has been incredibly valuable and eye-opening. As a past project manager, I was able to work with a team that took a deep look into the problems that a not-for-profit business faced, and to explore well thought-out strategies for addressing those issues. As former president of the organization, I had to recruit the right students to help take the club to the next level. Along the way, I was able to improve my communication, time management, delegation, networking, conflict management, and business development skills far beyond what I had initially hoped. Vision gave me the platform I needed to effectively supplement my MBA training, and ultimately, become a more marketable asset, which is exactly what I needed to accomplish while at Simon.

My Experience with The Consortium and OP

The following blog post was written by Alonso Moreno, 2017 MBA Candidate

It’s hard not to feel some level of intimidation when going into an MBA program – especially if you’re a member of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, where my peers are about half of the country’s top minority MBA talent! If you’re not familiar, The Consortium is an organization whose mission is to reduce the underrepresentation of African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans in education and business. The University of Rochester is one of 18 member schools that make up The Consortium – in fact, I’m proud to say that the University of Rochester is one of the organization’s founding members.

The Consortium kicks-off each year with an Orientation Program (also called OP) where first-year students attend a series of seminars and workshops to jumpstart their career development. Students also have the opportunity to network with various corporations and interview for internships. As you can imagine, OP is one of the greatest perks of The Consortium and students have to be prepared!

facebookBeginning my preparation for OP, I had all the confidence in the world because the Simon staff involved were nothing short of encouraging and helpful. My prep included: fine-tuning my resume, practicing my pitch, and conducting company research. I was fortunate enough to work one-on-one with Kelly Gibbon, Director of Career Management at Simon’s Career Management Center (CMC). Although there were many more individuals who ultimately played a role in my experience at OP, Kelly was my first point of contact for OP preparation. She was always available to answer questions via e-mail, schedule times to talk or even just review some of my materials. Without her help, my time leading up to OP would have been a lot more stressful and wouldn’t have been as enjoyable.

Upon joining Simon through The Consortium, I heard of the great network and support I’d gain by joining the school. I don’t think I came to fully appreciate what this meant until OP. The staff, student liaisons, alumni, and fellow classmates from Simon were all there to help each other. With their guidance and recommendations, I was able to further build my confidence. If there’s one piece of advice I have for an incoming MBA candidate: work on your personal pitch. It’s important to be able to articulate your professional experiences and accomplishments into concise points. This is what made networking with recruiters and having interviews at OP so much easier, and the reason why I can truly call OP a success.

While The Consortium program at Simon may not be the biggest compared to other schools, the level of support from staff, alumni and student liaisons was unmatched at OP. All the individuals I had the privilege to meet and work with, including my fellow classmates, helped create a close-knit atmosphere. The relationships created at OP made it that much easier to be successful during my time at Simon. I gained all of this even before sitting for my first class at Simon! I can only look forward to what the next two years have in store.

Are you interested in applying to graduate business school through The Consortium? If so, the process is simple. Especially if you plan to apply to multiple members schools because it will save you both time and money!

The first things to keep in mind are the deadlines: Round 1 is October 15, 2015 and Round 2 is January 5, 2016. No matter which deadline you target, you are encouraged to start the application early so you know what materials are needed to successfully complete your application. The Consortium does a great job on their website of detailing the application process, but there are some “common” pieces to the application that will be used by all schools: GMAT or GRE scores, transcript(s), resume, core essay #1, the optional essay, along with your general application information. There is also a school-specific essay that you will need to complete that only Simon will receive, as well as a core essay on your commitment to the mission of The Consortium that the schools will not see. The “ranking” of schools on The Consortium application can sometimes be confusing so it is recommended that you speak with a Consortium staff member or Simon Admissions to fully understand what implications the rankings might have.

If you have questions, contact the Simon Admissions Office at admissions@simon.rochester.edu or (585) 275-3533. You can also read more about The Consortium at cgsm.org or on Simon’s website.

MBA Internship Reflections

The following blog post was written by Jay Gillespie, 2016 MBA Candidate

jay

Jay Gillespie, 2016 MBA Candidate

I didn’t understand how well Simon prepared me for a management position until I began my summer internship in the marketing department of Bigelow Tea. I have an arts background (worked as a full-time actor prior to Simon), and I would like to transition into brand management and marketing.

Bigelow Tea treats their MBA interns like full-time staff so I was completely involved with the entire marketing team – everything from traditional brand management and market research, to social media planning and analytics. I was well prepared for all of it. And when it came to analytics I felt like I was on the cutting edge.

What I liked most about my internship was that I worked with an extremely talented and hard-working team that provided a lot of support (very similar to the Simon community!).

As I reflect on my internship, one interesting story comes to mind. After only one month on the internship, I was asked to attend the national marketing and sales conference and give a twenty-minute presentation to the national sales team. I was a little nervous, but it went smoothly and the senior brand manager complemented me afterwards.

My internship was a lot of work, but the experience was rewarding and I feel highly valued. In fact, the team has mentioned how it would be great to have me around full time, very exciting.