Entrepreneurship at ESSEC: Starting a company as an MBA student

By Ingrid Cazalis, Global MBA 2013-2014, France

As Steve Jobs said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do, but if you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. As with matters of the heart, you will know when you will find it.” I think I’ve followed this advice pretty well, having moved more than 15 times around the world, travelling and trying new experiences, such as starting the Global MBA.

Before I started school in September 2013, I had an idea to create my own company based on my entrepreneurial spirit and my personal experience of chronic illness. Of course, I had to face criticism that it is difficult to pursue an MBA and create a company at the same time, but I preferred to trust in myself and my energy.

ESSEC is known for innovation and entrepreneurship, and I can say that I really feel this in daily life. My first step was to create a business plan, which – I discovered – is not a static document, but a living strategy, changing from day to day. My second step was to present my project to the ESSEC Social Entrepreneurship Chair and ESSEC Ventures to join a business incubator and get support. This was particularly attractive, since 80% of projects sponsored by ESSEC Ventures are successful 5 years later. After some interviews, I finally joined the ESSEC Ventures incubator. The ESSEC Ventures team offered great support and was always available to offer advice and orientation. ESSEC has the resources to help student entrepreneurs, so don’t forget to ask! I also received help from the finance professors, as well as students in the MBA in Hospitality Management and the MBA in International Luxury Brand Management, who helped me on some particular aspects of my project, such as how approach a hotel and how to create luxury package offers. I also organized three focus groups to get some real qualitative data.

The ESSEC Alumni Association also helped me out a lot, giving me many opportunities for discussion and exchange. Some of the entrepreneurs in the incubator, like Deways or Heimanu, gave me precious advice for my project. Of course, it’s tough to have meetings with your prospects, future partners, and suppliers, while at the same time juggling MBA assignments, group projects, and final exams, AND to do a good job as a class representative. All my life, however, I’ve been driven by hyperactivity and good time management, so these last months have flown by and have gotten more and more interesting.

Finally, at the beginning of January, after 5 months of work, I discussed my project with key French doctors, but I did not receive the support I expected. Even though my project’s credibility didn’t fully depend on them, I decided to halt the creation of my company. I think in entrepreneurship it is also very important to know when to stop to keep your losses affordable.

My days as an entrepreneur are not over, however. With some teammates, I applied to the Hult Challenge in November 2013 and we were selected to advance to the regional finals in Shanghai. This means a new business model is coming soon!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting Ingrid! Two things strike me: your amazing energy and capacity to go out and do it and your ability to make decisions, in this case backing off after so many efforts...congrats!