In the corporate world, it’s clear: the MBA pays off, in higher average salaries and stronger career potential.
Yet the MBA can also be an asset for entrepreneurship. Some of the most notable entrepreneurs in the world – from Michael Bloomberg and Elon Musk to Phil Knight and Scott McNealy – also earned an MBA as part of their path to success.
How is an MBA from FIU helping entrepreneurs? What did they gain from their advanced degree? Those questions and others were addressed at an MBA Entrepreneurship Panel on February 3, 2017 at FIU Downtown on Brickell.
“It pays off,” said Andres Dominguez (MBA ‘12), co-founder and CEO of Natural Sins, a healthy snack food company. “I landed here in Florida from Venezuela, and I started a business plan based on each class I took as an MBA student. I used FIU as a catapult to apply the knowledge I got in the classroom as a real live project.”
Taking risks are a big part of being an entrepreneur. Make sure you measure your risks correctly and make sure you have enough money to run your risks. You need to live and survive.
Dominguez added, “I remember Professor (Krishnan) Dandapani asked, ‘Do you want to be an entrepreneur? Are you sure? If you think it’s tough, think twice, multiply it, square it, and then think again. This isn’t a short run. It’s a marathon. It will take years.”
Anne Bousquet (EMBA ‘16), CEO and co-founder of Domaine Bousquet Winery and of WISD, an importing company, told the audience of 30 that an MBA is “what you make of it.” She added, “I went for the MBA because I wanted the whole education. I practiced economics and I jumped into the winery business, and all of a sudden I had to manage a company. I needed the whole MBA, not just finance, or accounting, or leadership – I needed it all.”
You don’t have much of a safety net. Entrepreneurship is a great adventure but you worry about everything. The MBA gives you those resources, not to jump, but to study where you’re jumping into. That’s what I learned and it helps every day.
Like Dominguez, Bousquet said that she got real business help while still earning her MBA. “I had major problems in HR in my company while we had the HR management class and I could go to the teacher and talk about it,” she said.
Bousquet said she chose FIU’s Executive MBA program, in part, because of its structure. “Two classes a month was doable,” she said. “I also benefitted from the EMBA Consortium, when we got out of the country for a week. It was an excellent experience – the whole project and structure.”
Panelist Jesus Padilla (MBA ’10, BS ’08), a program assistant with FIU Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center and with the Florida SBDC at FIU, noted that professors apply real-world context to business problems, an important learning tool for entrepreneurs.
Being the boss and the janitor.
The panel shared their entrepreneur stories, giving the audience insight into what led them to the entrepreneurship life.
The best advice: it’s not fast. It’s not an overnight thing. It’s not getting on Shark Tank and getting $20 million. Building a successful business takes working hard and it takes time. The passion and the dedication get you to the ultimate goal.
“I did the corporate America thing and it wasn’t for me,” said Alex Quevedo (MBA ’14, BA ’90), who had 20 years in upper management before founding Performance Team Sports. “But being an entrepreneur takes discipline. You’re the boss but you’re also the janitor. You do everything from A to Z.”
“It’s in your DNA,” said David Suarez (MBA ‘04), president and CEO of Interactive Training Solutions. “If you’re an entrepreneur, you kind of know already you’re an entrepreneur. For me it’s about making an impact. We all had our moments when we had to jump. There’s a critical moment when we have it jump. For me, it was knowing that I wanted to make an impact.”
Before he sold his business, Panel Moderator George Ray (MBA ‘09), a consultant at the SBDC at FIU, was an entrepreneur. “I just sold a business because I wasn’t passionate about the business,” Ray said. He pointed out, “My hustle determined my salary.”
I have a film degree from NYU. I was selling my soul, producing reality TV in LA. I was either going to stay or get out. Getting an MBA from FIU made a difference in my life quickly. I figured I’d get into marketing and I realized I was an entrepreneur. I tailored my MBA to my own needs and desires and what would work for me.
Earning an MBA helps with networking.
Helping connect with the south Florida community is a distinctive benefit of earning an MBA at FIU, panelists shared.
“Your network is everything,” said Suarez. “The best part of the program is that it’s not only an opportunity to build your network, it’s also learning those skills to build your network. The most valuable part of your education are the other people in the classes. It only takes one person to change your life. You just don’t know who that person is – yet.”
Suarez added, “I work with companies and individuals everywhere. In Miami, you have access to companies with Latin American headquarters right here. When they get their advanced degrees, guess where they’re getting them? FIU. You have access to those people and those companies.”
“Networking does help,” said Dominguez. “Thanks to FIU, I was the first client of the SBDC, a fantastic organization. I raised my first round of angel investment with the help and support of my mentor from the SBDC. Without that, I wouldn’t be doing this today.”
Quevedo said he intends to stay in Miami and is glad he chose the FIU master’s program. “This is where you will build your network for the rest of your life,” he said. “I’m a few years out of my MBA and I still have monthly breakfasts with the guys from my program.”