Allow Me to Introduce … Part 3

Hey readers! Have you heard of CORE Leader? Did you know a current Sternie amongst us is the CEO and founder of this company?

62% of the Stern student body come to school to work in finance, management consulting, or marketing (official Stern statistics here). The remaining 38% pursue non-traditional industries such as non-profit, entertainment, or technology. But there are the special and very talented few that become entrepreneurs during their time at Stern. I am lucky and honored to not only know one of them, but also to call him a dear friend: Chris Shaw.

Chris Shaw Core Leader

Chris is a current full-time MBA2 and a US Army veteran. During his time in the Army, he was stationed with the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina (just like me!) and is now CEO and founder of his own company.

Evelyn: Hi Chris! Thanks for sharing your story. Can you tell the readers a little about yourself and what you did before Stern?
Chris: I am from Old Chatham, NY, a small town near Albany and went to Cornell University for undergrad. Before Stern, I flew Kiowa Warrior Armed Reconnaissance helicopters in the US Army for eight years. I deployed to Afghanistan twice, where I mostly flew at night, staring into two round, green TV screens one inch from my eyes (AKA night vision) for about 1,000 hours of my life.

E: Wow! You’ve had an amazing military career. When did you realize you had the “entrepreneur bug”?
C: I actually wanted to start my own company before even applying to Stern. In fact, I didn’t know exactly what my business would be, but I knew that the skills from an MBA degree would help me reach that goal.

E: Can you tell the readers a little about your company, CORE Leader?
C: CORE Leader is a team building business. However, unlike most businesses in this category, we do not do “trust falls” or scavenger hunts. Instead, we teach a battle-tested form of dynamic problem solving and reinforce it with a mobile, military-style challenge course. Think “Tough Mudder” meets “Escape the Room”.

E: What are some of your favorite parts about being a CEO, founder, and entrepreneur?
C: I like that I can set my own priorities and focus entirely on what is important to me. I enjoy not only coming up with features of the brand and the product experience, but also testing out new ideas without seeking approval. Finally, I like the feeling of making a sale and knowing that I just made my business more valuable and financially stable.

E: I can only imagine how tough an entrepreneur’s journey is at the beginning. How has Stern supported you as an entrepreneur?
C: Stern has been instrumental to CORE’s success. Besides the knowledge I’ve gained through their classes, the Berkeley Center awarded me a $10,000 fellowship grant to support my work this summer. I couldn’t have asked for better support from the school.

E: What classes at Stern best prepared you for CORE Leader success?
C: I used lessons from every class I took at Stern while starting CORE. A few examples really stand out though. A combination of Accounting and Corporate Finance allowed me to put numbers to the business plan. Brand Strategy helped me understand my personal brand and how I could turn it into a highly differentiated business. Social Problem Based Entrepreneurship walked me through the development of a business plan, which resulted in a solid foundation for the getting the company off the ground.

E: If you had advice for an entrepreneur pursuing an MBA, what would you tell them?
C: Getting an MBA will definitely make you a better entrepreneur, no matter how deep your prior subject matter expertise in your venture’s industry. Every class you take will give you tools to make smarter business decisions as a founder.

E: Okay, time for my favorite part. Evelyn’s Quickfire Attack: KMC elevator or stairs?
C: Oh man. I’m the worst and I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but… sometimes I take the elevator to the 2nd floor!

E: If you want to catch up with a friend: Sosnoff or 4th Floor Starbucks Lounge? (if neither – list where)
C: I like to hang out in the lobby after classes to catch up with people.

E: Finally, what does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
C: Taking on all the risk and reaping the potential reward (or enduring the failure) of a new business. It is a hard path. It can be uncertain and lonely. If it is your calling – if, as Prof. Galloway says “you feel like you just have to do it” in spite of the inevitably bleak risk-adjusted reward possibility – then commit to it and go at it, full force. If you hesitate at all, you will find it very hard to do what it takes to really succeed.

Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Chris! Learn more about CORE Leader here.

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That Non-Traditional Recruiting Life

Hey everyone!

Today I wanted to share my unique recruiting experience at Stern. For those who haven’t read my past blog posts, I am a career-switcher who has chosen to recruit in a non-traditional industry (entertainment to be exact). “Non-traditional” at Stern is a very broad category that is generously labeled as anything that is not banking, management consulting, or marketing.

Hollywood Sign

My early adult life in one sentence = I went to high school, went to West Point, and went straight into the military for five years. I had 60 days of freedom between my last day in the Army and my first day at Stern. I knew before LAUNCH that I had a big challenge ahead of me: with zero entertainment experience on my résumé, how could I possibly prove to the entertainment industry that not only was I passionate about the industry, but also qualified to work in it?

Some criteria I gave myself:

1. Leave no stone unturned: Knowing my target industry helped me focus my time and energy. I researched into every area of entertainment in order to whittle down where I found the best fit. When I applied to Stern, I had two companies that I could picture myself working for. 6 months later, when I actually started applying for summer internships, I ended up applying to over 12 different companies.

2. Listen to those that have come before you: Coffee chats with the MBA2s are an amazing way to get an honest and thorough first impression on the industry you want to recruit for. I found that not only do the second-year Sternies offer great advice on how they succeeded, but also gave helpful advice on what they would have done differently if they were in my shoes again.

3. Build a diverse network: I realized early on that my network should not only be comprised of MBA2s (re: #2), but also a variety of Stern alumni and non-Stern connections. There are a number of opportunities to meet Stern alumni in your industry thanks to events and panels hosted by OCD or the school clubs. Networking outside of Stern took more time and effort, but it was a great way for me to get a second-opinion on areas I was doing well in or areas I could improve in.

4. Think outside the box: Besides declaring my academic specialization in Entertainment, Media, and Technology, I found that immersing myself in entertainment during my free time helped me understand the industry better. I attended entertainment conferences around New York City throughout the year (the Stern Entertainment Media and Technology Association is a great resource for these events). Also, in addition to being a full-time MBA1 student, I am a part-time intern this spring at an entertainment media company in order to build some more experience before the summer.

5. Be patient:  By end of January, almost all of the MBA1s recruiting for traditional industries knew where they will be going that upcoming summer. The entertainment industry doesn’t even begin interviewing until February-March. Just because a company had not contacted me by February did not mean that they were not interested. Even with interviews, the recruiting process is not standardized, which can be frustrating because it is hard to compare opportunities. I was getting asked to come in for first-round interviews at Company A the same week that I was going in for final-round interviews at Company B.

And now …  I am excited to share with everyone that I have accepted an offer with Showtime Networks for a summer internship! I am thrilled and so humbled with how everything turned out this spring. I firmly believe that being at NYU Stern was pivotal in successfully landing my summer internship.

Following Your Passions at Stern: A Case Study

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard a Sternie describe him- or herself as a “non-traditional” MBA. It’s a testament to the diversity at Stern, both in the backgrounds of our students as well as our post-graduation goals. For a relatively small school – there are 392 students in my class – Stern does a remarkable job at providing extracurricular opportunities for students to pursue their passions. Take my particular interest: social responsibility in the apparel and retail space. Definitely “non-traditional.” However, in the five or so months I’ve been at Stern, I’ve been able to explore this interest in a number of non-academic ways:

Consulting Projects

When I learned about the opportunity to work with West Elm through the Luxury Retail Consulting Corps, I jumped at the opportunity. I was ultimately appointed project lead on “West Elm Local,” an initiative to engage local communities by including more local “makers” into the company’s product assortment. My team worked with West Elm’s Strategy team to build out an operational scaling plan to address how the initiative would work at scale. Pretty great stuff. I learned a ton about the retail industry and the complexity of implementing social responsibility initiatives in larger companies.

Centers and Fellowships

This year, Stern announced that it was launching the first Center for Business and Human Rights at a business school, headed up by Michael Posner, founder of Human Rights First and former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. The center’s first topic area is worker safety in the Bangladesh garment industry – a subject that is obviously close to heart. At the beginning of the semester, I volunteered for a symposium that brought together stakeholders from across the garment industry, and I was recently brought on as a graduate fellow working on community engagement and research projects. I have a front-row seat as business leaders, garment factory owners, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations hash out the future of worker rights in the garment industry. It’s a lot harder than I imagined.

Funding Opportunities

Students interested in social enterprise and social responsibility often find it difficult to find paid summer internships in those fields. Enter, Stern’s Social Impact Internship Fund, a fellowship that provides up to $10,000 in funding to students pursuing low-paid or unpaid summer internships at social enterprises, B Corps, and non-profits. I applied for round one of the competition, and I was very excited to learn that I got it! Now when I’m approaching potential socially responsible employers for the summer, I don’t need to worry about how I’m going to pay my rent.

Clubs and Events

Through participation in Stern’s Social Enterprise Association and Luxury & Retail Club, I am on the planning committee for Think Social Drink Local, an annual sustainable fashion show and fundraising event for the Social Impact Internship Fund mentioned above. In addition to serving a great cause, it’s also one of the hottest social events of the spring and a great way to connect my contacts in the sustainable fashion, food, and beverage spaces with the Stern community.

Trips

In October, I traveled to California to attend the Net Impact Conference with Stern’s Social Enterprise Association. Net Impact brings together a remarkable collection of students and changemakers who are committed to using business as a force for good. I had the chance to hear candidly from senior executives at Levi’s, Patagonia, Timberland, Gap, and other companies I admire. It was a great way to step back, be inspired, and recommit myself to my chosen career path. And it was even better knowing that I would be returning to an environment that would enable me to push those goals forward.