This blog is the second in a series on One MBA, three very different paths. The first post features Jessica Ferrell and her leadership in the PSU and corporate environment. The second post features Carolyn Niehaus using her background in nonprofit as a lens for a corporate environment.
A tenacious hospitality manager ready for a change, an introspective nonprofit professional looking to advance, and an evolutionary biologist turned entrepreneur.
Jessica Ferrell (‘16), Carolyn Niehaus (‘17) and Molly Radany (‘18) are all graduates of The Portland MBA, but their backgrounds and goals couldn’t be more different.
In a series of three stories, each alum will share how The Portland MBA fit their career aspirations, interests, and perspectives and catalyzed their next steps.
The community entrepreneur: sharing her passions with Portland
Molly Radany cycled through a couple of careers in line with her science background, including teaching high school and entering academia. When those didn’t work out, she felt lost.
As a natural learner with strong passions, it wasn’t long before Radany connected with another scientist who shared her love of insects and museums. The two bonded over a shared sense that the Portland community needed an insectarium. “Adults love doing cool stuff too,” Radany asserts. The two built the insectarium as a pop-up business oriented around events, including tarantula tea parties, class parties, and Drink and Draws, which Radany described as “paint night with insects.”
Radany read about the Social Innovation Certificate at Portland State’s School of Business and realized she could leverage the program to take her business to the next level. After speaking with MBA Academic Director Tichelle Sorenson and attending the annual Elevating Impact Summit, Radany started the Social Innovation Certificate, and then transitioned into the full-time Portland MBA program.
Radany identifies as a scientist and artist primarily focused on finding meaning, connecting with others and learning. For these reasons, Radany often felt separate from MBA peers who were advancing in corporate careers, but she was right at home in the Social Innovation Certificate.
Radany defines social innovation as “the concept that a business can make money while doing good things in the world.” As a scientist, she viewed business critically, but as an entrepreneur and MBA candidate, Radany came to learn the power of working within the system. “This is what stood out to me, says Radany, “You don’t have to go out into the world and be a Peace Corps volunteer — you can do what you love doing, and it will benefit people. Our passion is being reciprocated at our events.”
While balancing being a full-time student and entrepreneur was tricky, Radany appreciated that she could transfer her learning from The Portland MBA directly to her business. She benefited from the MBA curriculum’s foundational knowledge, including finance, accounting, marketing and corporate governance, but it was really the Social Innovation Certificate where Radany shined. That’s where she did the big-picture, strategic thinking that catalyzed most of her professional growth. Radany learned how to understand what customers really want, demonstrate creativity within a business organization, work in a collaborative structure, and use social innovation to improve a community.
After graduating, Radany realized her interests and background were unique. The kind of organization she wanted to lend her skills to didn’t exist, so she set out to create it. She is currently developing a Portland community space focused on learning and connection, featuring local Portland thought leaders and artists.
Radany says that The School of Business gave her a new outlook on business and conscious capitalism. “There is nothing wrong with making money, but it’s how you make it and what you do with it that separates us from the traditional business attitude,” she says.
If your career path looks like Radany’s, she says entrepreneurship-focused podcasts like How I Built This compliment the technical materials and literary fiction on her bookshelf.
Karen Lowe is a 2020 graduate of The Portland MBA. She manages marketing and strategic partnerships for The Give Bin and writes regularly for Portland State’s Graduate Business Blog.