Startups | Projects that were started in B-School

Hi everyone,

It has been a while since my last post. The semester is almost over and as I reflect on the last two years, I realize how much work we have put into it. Today I wanted to highlight 6 startups and projects that were started by my peers while in business school.

Lenore Champagne Beirne and Ronica Reddick met at Stern and they are both currently working on a project called the Little Bright Notebook. It is a project design tool for creators and innovators. They combined their experience in coaching, entrepreneurship, and creative work to build a notebook that helps you plan for your next big idea.

Little Bright

Leah Shisha and Isha Vij also met at Stern, and they decided to launch Caper: a company that plans and organizes bachelorette parties. They both realized that there was an opportunity to take the stress out of the planning and to create an amazing experience for the bride-to-be and her friends.


Chris Shaw has decided to use his previous military experience to start an innovative leadership program, called CORE leader. His company offers different team building and leadership activities that can be tailored for your team.

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Sarah Manning started Colabas, an ecommerce store. She started it in her ‘Social Problem Based Entrepreneurship class’, where she got a chance to visit India and to conduct on the ground market research. Her company curates and sells socially conscious jewelry, accessories, and décor products handmade in India. Some of the proceeds are also donated to charitable organizations.

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Juan Sebastian Cadavid started Grou (sounds like Grow), a marketplace for farmers in Latin America. The marketplace aggregates products from multiple farmers in order to provide the quantities that large buyers need. At the same time, it allows smallholder farmers to identify opportunities to sell their crops at fair prices.

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Finally, Perryne Vyas Desai started TujaTravel, a travel service company. Her company helps individuals and groups organize their trips by helping them build their travel package. So far, Tuja Travel has organized trips in Tanzania, Costa Rica, Fiji, and Spain among others.

Tuja Travel

I hope you take a few minutes to check them out! I will be back soon with a personal post reflecting on these last 2 years.

Until next time,



*Disclaimer: All the pictures on this post belong to the respective businesses.

Mid-Semester Check in…

This is how I ponder

It suddenly hit me that it is almost the end of the semester!  I am spending the bulk of my time at Columbia University, where I took advantage of one of the different experiential programs that Stern offers. I am taking a course on the public education sector in the US from K-12; it is divided into a seminar and a consulting project. One of the interesting parts is that it takes a multidisciplinary approach where I am studying with other MBAs, MPAs, Law, and Education students from different schools. It has been fascinating to see the different perspectives that we bring to the table, and to realize once again that this reflects the complexity of the “working world’’. The course focuses on the changes that are needed in public education, and I have learned a lot about organizational change and organizational design – concepts that can be transferred to any other company that I work for once I graduate.

Up on the hill – mornings on the Columbia U. campus

In other news, a couple of weeks ago I had to choose my spring courses and it was one of those moments where I realized that this was it!  There is so much that I still have to learn, and so little time to do it.  This is my 2nd business degree, but I am only starting to scratch the surface. Being at Stern, working on different projects, interning, studying with my peers has been such an intellectually stimulating challenge. It also hit me that this is the last time I get to see my friends who are studying abroad next semester, and that now is the time to really make time for them. I am so excited to graduate, to go out into the world and to chart a path for myself. Yet, I would like to stay in this bubble a little longer. In Kinyarwanda they say: “akaryoshe ntigahora mwitama” – it literally translates into “the sweet doesn’t remain in your cheek” meaning that you cannot hold onto great times forever. I now understand the mixed emotions that the class of 2015 felt last fall.

To end on a happier note though, as I had mentioned in a previous post last year, I will be taking full advantage of the January break. I am going on a DBI in Israel, and after that I am planning on visiting a couple of countries with some of my closest friends.  I cannot wait!

Until next time,


One Month In – Reflecting On My Summer Internship Experience

It has almost been a month since the semester begun and I am definitely overdue for a post.  This semester has been quite busy. Once again, I somehow ended up doing much more than I intended  – I am working as a Graduate Fellow for the Office of Career Development (OCD), planning the spring break trip for Stern in Africa, and taking an education practicum at Columbia Law that’s worth 12 credits – I feel like all of these deserve their own posts (more to come)!! Of course I love being busy and being active but as I sit in front of this computer, 10pm on a Sunday night, after a weekend trying to catch up so that I can start the week fresh – I know that I definitely need to learn the definition of work/life balance.

Today though, I want to talk about my summer internship! image1I spent my summer in San Francisco working for a tech company.  I was on the sales team, and had an account management role. Funny enough, it took me a couple of visits to our client’s office in San Jose for me to realize that I was in the famous Silicon Valley! You should have seen the smile on my face!!

11162191_10153934936592785_2710319689963526991_n I spent a lot of time recruiting last year, as I was trying to figure out what I would enjoy doing the most. I am a very curious person, and can see myself doing very different things.  Before accepting this offer though, I was hesitating between this and a startup. The startup was in New York, and I would have had an operations role.  This was a great opportunity to do work where I would have immediately seen the impact that I was having. However, I chose to accept the San Francisco offer for two reasons:

  1. The exposure: I was part of a program that was recruiting for African countries – which is where I want to end up eventually. This was a great opportunity for me to be able to learn more about what the company was doing, and to network with people on the ground.
  2. The role: I had never done sales as a role on its own, and wanted to see how it would feel, since that is what most multinational firms recruit for in Africa.  I had a great team, and enjoyed my projects.  Even though I would be successful in sales, I now know that I really do enjoy operations, and that I prefer working with clients on their strategy, operational improvements, implementations models, and such…


Finally, I had never been to California. Since I am not planning on spending my life in the US (so far), I took the opportunity and played tourist. My sister visited me from Toronto, and we went to Napa. I also visited the Big Sur, Monterey, and went to LA. I loved that I had the time to go to the gym, cook, and explore the city with friends. Overall I loved my summer experience: I learned a lot, had impact on my team, and discovered a new region. I left feeling refreshed and I cannot wait to see what this year has in store 🙂

On Part-time Internships

Hi everyone,

I hope that you are finally starting to enjoy the semi-warm weather outside. On my part, I cannot wait until school is out and I have slightly more time to be outside.  This semester has been extremely busy as I took on a part-time spring internship on top of my full class schedule, and my club activities.  But let’s start from the beginning: Why do people take on part-time internships?

The pros
1.You can try a new industry or a new role
My background is in retail, and I am currently working for a foundation. I have always been fascinated by the work that they do, and wanted to understand how it works.   Now I understand the different aspects of impact investing and how different companies approach their different CSR strategies.  I could even hold my own on agricultural value chains discussion when it comes to crops like palm oil or peanuts.

2. It’s an opportunity to add onto your work experience
Since the work that I am currently doing is different from what I did before, I am using what I already knew differently, and acquiring a new skill-set. This is also an additional story that will come in handy once I start recruiting again.

3. You explore a company that you might want to work for in the future, and extend your network
Some part-timers extend their internships into the summer, and some even get full-time job offers. I now have a new network, especially since I’m new to New York.  Even if my internship ends as just an internship, I have met inspiring people that I hope to remain connected with.

The cons
1. It can be a huge time commitment
My internship required a minimum commitment of 24 hours a week, so 3 full days. However, some of my classmates have internships that are 10-15 hours per week.  This varies depending on the company that you are working for. I thought that this would be a great opportunity so I accepted my offer, but this has definitely affected the way my semester went.

2. Most are not paid
This wasn’t a deal breaker for me since I am an international student and can’t work off-campus. I also considered the fact that I was in school full-time and hadn’t been planning on working during this time. However, as a domestic student you can sometimes negotiate a salary that helps a little with the semester.

3. Work responsibilities
Considering the fact that you are only part-time, sometimes you get stuck with the small odd jobs. People might feel that you cannot work on the pressing priorities since you will not be there to follow up.  It becomes up to you to create your own job, and to show that you can own a project.

All in all, it was a great experience. I may have over-committed myself a bit, but I am so glad I have made some great friends who helped me stay on track this semester. I can already see how what I learned here will help me in the future, and I met inspiring people.

Have a great week,

The Tales of an International Student

It is finally spring break! And while some of my peers are travelling the world, discovering new places – I have never been happier to stay in NYC. You see I am still recovering from a little mishap that happened to me about 2 months ago – where I literally saw all of my dreams and aspirations flash in front of my eyes.  Ok, I will stop with the dramatics and tell you what happened.

I went to Montreal for an interview, thinking that I would be gone for one day and then back.  On my way back, the U.S. immigration wouldn’t let me enter the States, and do you know why? My passport had about 4 months left – the minimum required to enter the US is 6 months. I had naively assumed that the standard was 3 months, that I still had a month, and that I could renew it once I was back.  They asked me to either get an extension, or to get a new passport.  Being a Rwandan citizen, a panic ensued. Our consulates do not provide passport extensions, and I would need a new passport all the way from Rwanda – which usually takes 2 to 3 months.

And so my month of waiting began. I told my professors and my spring internship what happened, and that I would be starting late. I left Montreal for Ottawa where the Rwandan Consulate is to ask for their help. I sent an expedited request to my uncle who represented me with the ministry in Rwanda, and asked for a new passport on my behalf. Then I went to Toronto and raided my sister’s closet :).  Since I literally had come for one night, I definitely didn’t have clothes to last me a month. I spent the month with my sister, half of it visiting with friends and trying to enjoy my time in Toronto, and the other half panicking about the classes that I was missing, and the spring internship that I had not started. Finally my new passport arrived, and within a week I had a new student visa from the American embassy and I was on my way back.


4 Weeks! From January 22,2015 – February 19th, 2015…  The moral of the story is that really 2 things would have helped me avoid this situation from the beginning:

1. Leveraging the Office of Global Services (OGS) – whether it was by going to the office and talking to them, or looking at the website

OGS is the office that helps international students. They issue our I-20s, give us International Students Do/Don’ts Training before school starts, and help us when we have questions. Had I thought of checking with them, I would have seen it written clearly: Only travel if your passport is valid 6 months into the future.

2. Knowing my rights

Even though my passport was valid for less than 6 months, technically they could/should have let me in. There is some small fine print that says that since I had been out of the country for less than 30 days (and in my case, 1 day!) I could have gone through and renewed my passport in the US. However, I did not know that and therefore could not build a case for it.

As international students, we have to pay attention to a few more things, and our student status is the priority! Thankfully that scare is over, and I will use this week to organize myself and catch up on my life – as they say, we live and learn!

Have a great week,


Winter Break, Anyone?

Last week was technically the first week of the Spring semester. Stern gives us 6 weeks of winter break! Which I know is amazing, but REALLY it depends on what you are recruiting for, when you are a 1st year MBA. You see, most of the interviews for Banking, Consulting, and Marketing summer internships happen during the month of January. This is the usually the end of Fall Recruitment, the final push. Therefore, the MBA1s recruiting in these industries usually come back on campus the 1st and 2nd week of January. This period is great as it gives us time to only focus on interviews – without having to worry about classes, midterms or group assignments.

Once again the Stern Community pulled through.  Bootcamps, behavioral and casing preps were organized by the Management Consulting Association (MCA), the Graduate Marketing Association (GMA), and the Graduate Finance Association (GFA) to prep their members.  The Office of Career Development (OCD) was open and ready to help us. For example, the MCA created a spreadsheet that allowed us to sign up for casing prep with other MBA1s that were going through the process.  From Montreal, where I was spending the break with family, I was able to sign up and conduct multiple Skype casing sessions. When I came back on campus, we had rooms that were booked at school and that we could use for more prep. Some MBA2s even volunteered their time to help us, and give us some feedback.


Recruitment is hard, it is part of the process, and we expect it. However, it can really make you question yourself, your abilities, and the reasons that you came to b-school in the first place. There are quite a few learnings that my peers and I took away, and that I am sure we will keep using the rest of this semester, for full-time recruitment and even later on.  A few that I can think of right now are: knowing yourself and understanding what the different firms are looking for, being open to more options, and more importantly remembering that there are more opportunities out there – and that we are in it for the long haul.  Fall Recruitment is emotionally taxing for everyone that is involved in it. For the ones that get offers, it is finally the time to take a deep breath and enjoy being done (for a while at least). For the ones that don’t make it, it is the time to recover, and keep fighting the battle. Like my father told me: “You will not miss what is meant for you!”.  For all of us, it is time to reflect, and to celebrate the learnings and friendships that were made through the process! But the thing that I am most looking forward to, is having a real winter break next year when I am an MBA2, 6 weeks of “freedom” that I will hopefully use to travel 😉

Have a great week,


The Last Day of Class

Tuesday December 7th was the last day of class. As I look back on this semester, I realize how quickly time flies.  I cannot believe that technically 25% of my MBA is now almost complete. I am starting to understand the MBA2s that say that 2 years is a really short time, and that we must maximize every moment.  I feel like I just arrived here, yet as I look back a lot has happened in this short period of time.  Here are my top 5 lessons:

  1. I now feel more comfortable reading financial statements.

The first time that I took financial accounting and reporting in my undergrad, I didn’t know what was going on. I just did the mechanics of the class, not really understanding why and what I was doing.  However, after working a couple of years, I can now see the light! While I will never be a pro at Statistics or Firms & Markets (microeconomics), classes are taught in a way that make you understand where they might be applicable to the working world – and that is invaluable.

  1. I know what I don’t want to do with my life – for the moment.

A huge theme that was mentioned during Launch (our introduction to Stern) was “Exploring”. Part of this journey is about embracing the unexpected, connecting and talking with people in ‘random’ fields. But most importantly pushing and questioning yourself, past your usual boundaries. This is obviously not comfortable, and I feel like I have been on a rollercoaster for the past three months. However now, I have some potential careers crossed off my list, I have some that I have added onto my list, and I am curious to see what I will learn next semester.

  1. It gets really busy.

When we started the semester, all the MBA2s kept advising us to enjoy the moment, and not to overcommit to too many things, as we would get really busy.  Of course, we didn’t know what they meant by ‘busy’.  Starting October, we were all suddenly overwhelmed with midterms, corporate presentations, coffee chats, prep sessions – the works. I have always thrived in chaos, but even I had moments where I felt truly overwhelmed. I think that we grow as much from the actual classes, as from the daily decisions that we need to make when it comes to managing our time and commitments.

  1. Take a deep breath.

In all this ‘madness’, it is still very important to take time for ourselves.  There were always more corporate presentations, classes, meetings, and happy hours to go to. However, I think that I learnt how to make the difference between what I needed to get done, and what I wanted to do.  I learnt the value of taking a ‘mental health day’  as my friend puts it, and do nothing work/school related even though I did have more coffee chats to schedule, more thank you notes and emails to send.

  1. We are family.

Throughout all of this, I have understood why Sternies call themselves family. High stress times are usually times where the strongest bonds are either made or broken. As Sternies, we have forged friendships in this last semester that will last us a lifetime. The MBA2s have been super supportive, helping us and guiding us as we maneuver this new unknown. I was privileged to attend the wedding of one of my newest friends, and I felt like I had known her my whole life. If so much can happen in a semester, how much more can we accomplish in 2 years? I cannot wait to see what will happen next year.

Happy Holidays!