Program Name: MBA
Year of Graduation: 2018
Program Schedule: Full Time
What sparked your interest in consulting?
I kind of fell into consulting, but looking back it seems like it was inevitable. If you look at my resume, you can tell I get bored easily. So I enjoy the excitement of getting to work on new projects with different clients in a variety of industries. I have forever been on a search to find my purpose through my work. In The Portland MBA, where I also earned the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Graduate Certificate, that purpose became clear — I want to use skills in business and finance to make a positive impact in the world. I’m able to stay true to my purpose by being intentional about the type of consulting work I take on. I primarily consult with nonprofits to help them use business skills to make a greater impact, and I also consult with small businesses to add value through social impact. My goal is to bridge the gap between nonprofits and business, because I believe that earning profit and doing good can (and have to be) one in the same.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in starting your own business?
It’s scary! The biggest challenge was having the courage to get started and then putting the company and myself out into the world. It was a bit isolating. No one close to me is going through the same thing, which is very different than when I was in my previous career as a CPA. So it’s been hard to know where to turn to for advice or support. I have to be intentional about keeping in touch with the few people I know who are able to relate to my situation — shout out to some of my fellow MBAs! There was so much I had to figure out as I went — setting up an LLC, drafting my first contract, figuring out what to charge and how to negotiate. . . the list goes on! But with each new project and client, it all gets easier. And each step of the way, I gain more confidence. Now that I have a few projects under my belt (which all turned out differently than I expected, of course), I am now confident everything is “figureoutable,” as entrepreneur and philanthropist, Marie Forleo would say.
What skills and/or experiences gained at PSU have you found most valuable in launching your business?
I was never really exposed to entrepreneurship in my undergraduate education or in my career as a CPA. I also felt that as a woman, it was not something that was available to me. Through the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Certificate, the MBA’s Pioneering Innovation class and various PSU Kickstart Weekends, I learned a ton about entrepreneurship — and was hooked! Winning two Kickstart Weekends also helped to build my confidence and prove to myself that I was capable of starting my own business. Additionally, my first client came through my connections at PSU, which has led to referrals to other clients. Don’t undervalue each and every person you meet! Lastly, the MBA Capstone was hugely helpful in giving me a framework for how to set up and manage a consulting project and its deliverables. The skills I learned through that process directly translate to the work I do now.
What advice do you have for current or prospective School of Business students who want to work as consultants?
You’ll hear everyone tell you how important networking is, and it’s true. But real networking is not about meeting lots of people and getting hundreds or thousands of LinkedIn connections. That’s a start, sure. But meaningful networking is about showing up and bringing your best self to every situation. Always do your best work, continue to learn, listen and most importantly,be kind. You never know who may become a resource, referral, partner or mentor down the line. Be mindful of the person you are presenting to the world and make sure that’s true to you and your values. Your reputation will precede you, and you may be surprised how small Portland is. Find a way to build relationships in a way that works best for you — as an introvert, I prefer one-on-one coffee dates or happy hours over larger group settings. If you choose to go the independent consultant route, you’ll have to be okay with the ambiguity of not knowing what you’ll be doing in a couple months, but it’s also exciting. If you do good work, give back and stay true to your values, know that you will be successful. And happy.