Career, Executive MBA

Catching Up With Executive MBA Entrepreneurs: Part 1

By Brett Twitty-

If you’ve listened to our recent ExecMBA Podcast episode with Career Coach Jim Collins featuring career outcomes for our Executive MBA Class of 2019, you may know that the number of students interested in entrepreneurship typically increases across the 21-months of our Executive MBA program.

With this in mind, we thought we would catch up with a few of the entrepreneurs in our Executive MBA Class of 2020 about their ventures, and learn a more about how their Darden experience has helped them with their businesses.

This is part one of a two-part series, so check back for more interviews next week! We’ve included links to the podcast interviews below, and we also recommend reading our earlier post about entrepreneurship and the executive formats.

Taison Bell (Class of 2020) and Tim Harvey (Class of 2020)

Company: Owl Peak Labs

Listen: Taison Bell | Tim Harvey

Additional Reading: Critical Care and Infectious Disease Specialist in Darden Executive MBA: What to Know About the Coronavirus with Dr. Taison Bell (Pt. 1 | Pt. 2)

What do you do? We seek to revolutionize diagnostic imaging and save lives by adding novel infrared capability to existing diagnostic platforms.

How has Darden helped you with your start-up?

The startup simply would not have happened without Darden. I was approached by a classmate to launch the company, and ever since we’ve been pulling in other classmates — anywhere from our website, obtaining professional emails, finding board members and connecting with helpful advisers. Nearly every person who is helping us is either a Darden alum, student or was a connection made by Darden. Even our professors have been helpful and supportive. We have been incredibly grateful and humbled by the support.

Ashley Keating (EMBA ‘20)

Company: The Mediterranean Movement

Listen: Ashley Keating

Additional Reading: Discover Darden Student Profile – Ashley Keating (EMBA Class of 2020)

What do you do? The Mediterranean Movement is a robust platform supporting people who desire to make positive changes to their health and their lives through a Mediterranean diet-based lifestyle. We offer nutrition coaching, virtual meal planning services, and accountability groups to help people achieve their goals in a delicious, sustainable way. 

 How has Darden helped you with your start-up?

Although I thought about starting a business for years, I never really had the resources and platform to make that happen. My time at Darden has given me just that. From the wealth of knowledge of my peers, to the classes I’ve been able to take, to the resources at the i.Lab, I have felt supported and encouraged along my entrepreneurial journey.

My classmates have been truly inspirational. Some of them currently own businesses, have started them in the past, or were on their way to becoming founders. Seeing how it could be done and hearing about their lessons learned was eye-opening and inspiring. Ultimately it was one of my classmates who urged me to pursue this idea full-time, and I even found my business partner (a registered dietitian with a master degree in the Mediterranean diet) through one of them.  

The value of the classes I’ve taken at Darden cannot be understated. Certainly an MBA helps a business owner become more well-rounded in finance, strategy, and operations, and these things are important for running the day-to-day operations. Even more valuable for me, though, have been the entrepreneurship-specific classes that Darden offers. Some of the most helpful included Entrepreneurial Thinking, Design Thinking and Starting New Ventures. These allowed me to really study entrepreneurship in the same way that I would any other business discipline. Before taking these classes, I knew nothing about minimum viable project or about testing an idea in the market before spending tons of time building a product. My whole rollout strategy changed after studying some of the tenants of entrepreneurship!

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in several entrepreneurship programs offered through Darden, as well. The Venture Capital Bootcamp introduced me to the world of VCs alongside students from schools all over the country. Darden’s very own CAV Angels Investing Group allowed me and several other students to conduct due diligence on startups so that we could better understand the full process. I also had the amazing opportunity to earn class credit while working through my business idea with the director of Darden’s i.Lab and an esteemed Strategy professor. The i.Lab has connected me with alumni working in the wellness space and provided me with other help and resources, too.    

The Mediterranean Movement is in phase one of our rollout, with so much opportunity ahead of us. The journey from idea to launch has been both incredibly fulfilling and surprisingly challenging. Having Darden’s resources, including my classmates and the alumni network, behind me has made a world of difference! 

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