CEO & Founder of Chobani!

3 weeks until graduation – I can’t believe it!

Even though we have a ton of fun senior week activities coming up, I still have a lot of work to do before the semester ends. Even more than getting good grades, I just don’t want to let my team members down! I have a final this week in my Pricing class and three presentations – one in Customer Insights, one in Entrepreneurial Finance, and one in Decision Models. Yikes, so much work!

In this post, I want to write about a guest speaker we had this week. The founder and CEO of Chobani Yogurt came to Stern to talk about his success story. Hamdi Ulukaya said, “I scraped together funding to buy an old yogurt plant in upstate New York in 2005, with help from a Small Business Administration Loan. I didn’t have any concrete plans, and the place wasn’t in good shape — with water dripping from the ceiling and paint peeling for the walls. But when I got the idea to start making Greek yogurt in the U.S., the company fixed the factory up and ran with it, and I basically lived in the plant for five years to get Chobani off the ground.”

He talked about his strategy to focus on a substantial, yet healthy yogurt solution for consumers. He brought a low sugar and preservatives product with catchy packaging to the shelves, and it was a hit from the start. He refused to outsource any part of the process and instead controlled everything from production of the product to it hitting the shelves in grocery stores. He also emphasized his appreciation for his dedicated workers and how they inspired him to do more for the community and give back to people (especially children) of the town Chobani started producing in.

It was an inspiring discussion because it was really about a man that came to the U.S. for the first time with nothing – no job, no money, no future. He saw a need for something in the market and had a very simple idea. From there, it was passion and determination…and now he is a billionaire.

Along with Hamdi, we’ve had some other great speakers come to Stern – people I would never have had exposure to had I not been here getting my MBA in NYC. Some of these speakers include the CEO of Twitter, CEO of JCrew, CMO of Diageo, Founder of KIND Bars, etc. So many amazing, inspiring leaders in today’s changing business world.

That’s it for today. More next week…have a good weekend!


Spring Gala, Speakers, Bonobos, and SCC!

This has been an incredible week. As we gear up for finals here at Stern, it’s nice, albeit challenging, to still have so many exciting events going on. Last Saturday was our Spring Gala at the Gansevoort. Students dressed in their best and danced the night away. What was nice is that I even met some second years I didn’t know already. It was a great way to bond with my classmates and, like almost any girl, enjoy a night of playing dress-up.

The second unforgettable experience this week was when Peter Gelb, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera came and spoke to a group of students about attracting new, younger audiences and the how opera must adapt to the digital age. He spoke with humor about his transition from Sony Classical Music to the Met and some of the errors he’d made along the way. He talked about the ways this old institution is striving to innovate and the financial difficulties it faced as an entity that must rely on donations to remain sustainable. Mr. Gelb spoke frankly about the need for opera to infiltrate culture on a wider level, which was his motivation for streaming performances in movie theaters across the globe. As an arts buff, his talk left me wondering how I could use my business education to give back to a place like the Met Opera one day.

The third privilege I had this week was that Ann Moore, former CEO of Time Inc. came to speak at my Leadership in Organizations class. Unlike many of the speakers, Ms. Moore did not allow Stern to videotape our conversation because she wanted to be as open and honest with us as possible. She spoke about the career challenges she faced as a woman and the difficulty she had letting people go during economic and industry downturns. She talked about managing her relationships from the personal to the political to those at work, and she discussed tradeoffs she has made along the way. What struck me most was that Ms. Moore did not have any regrets in her 33 year career at Time. She talked about the ways she had pushed the organization to allow her to change it and how we can all look to do the same in our own careers. Lastly, she discussed the difficulty of integrating digital natives from our generation with other generations, who may not be as comfortable or familiar with technology.

My last two adventures for the week begin now. I am starting my Friday off with a Luxury and Retail Club trek to men’s clothing retailer Bonobos. Then I will present the results of my Stern Consulting Corps project for the NYU Langone Medical Center Department of Integrative Health, followed by a reception. It’s clearly going to be another amazing Stern-filled day, but I wouldn’t want it any other way, especially as the year winds down. I will have to report back on these events next week!

Strategy Forum & A Film Screening

Last Thursday I went to the “Strategy Forum: Achieving Strategic Advantage Through Innovation,” organized by the Strategy & Operations Club, and the Management Consulting Association at Stern. The keynote speaker was Mumtaz Ahmed, Chief Strategy Officer of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, and a Principal at Deloitte Consulting. He talked about what sets exceptional companies apart from others, and how to achieve sustained competitive advantage (being in the top decile for 10 years, so that it’s not a coincidence). According to him, the three rules are as follows: 1) better before cheaper; 2) revenue before cost; 3) there are no other rules. It was all based on data and analyses that Deloitte has gathered over many years, and I thought some of the conclusions were unexpected: for instance, according to the data, there is no evidence that innovation is a key driver of exceptional performance. It was interesting to hear what he had to say.

Then on Friday, as part of “research” for my Stern Consulting Corps project, I attended a screening of the film Stoker (great film), followed by a Q&A session with director Chan-wook Park, and stars Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. It was a room of roughly 70 people, so it was relatively intimate, and I was starstruck the whole time. I don’t want to divulge the content, but all three of them were really nice, and Matthew Goode was hilarious.
This, of course, was followed by a 2.5-hour client meeting; after which I had to rush to make it to one of the biggest Stern events of the year: Think Social, Drink Local, or simply TSDL. It’s an annual runway fashion show (featuring MBA students & Stern administration wearing fashion from top NYC designers!) and dance party, all rolled into one big event in a gorgeous venue. I’m sure one of my fellow bloggers will cover TSDL this week, so in the spirit of avoiding redundancy, I will leave it at that. I will say it was an amazing night though—and a great way to start the weekend!

Industry Captains

The highlight of this week for me was getting to have a one-on-one conversation with Josh Shimkin, Director of Worldwide Digital Products & Premium Services at Marvel Entertainment’s Digital Media Group. He’s a Stern alum, and he was volunteering for the Office of Career Development’s “Industry Captains-in-Residence program, an innovative new mentoring program that brings highly successful alumni to campus to share industry insight and offer guidance to full-time MBA students through accessible, one-on-one conversations.” I had the chance to talk to him for half an hour Wednesday night; an informal chat, where he shared his experience before and after business school, answered my questions, and advised me about my options. I’m very interested in Entertainment, Media & Technology, so it was great to hear from someone working in that space, and to see some of his cool projects at Marvel. I’m really thankful for alums such as Josh, who take time from their busy schedules to have an honest conversation with us, and to help answer our questions.