As a non-traditional business school student with a biomedical engineering background, I wanted to use my time in business school to build business experience and explore other career interests. Prior to school I worked in Clinical Studies at a medical device company and had little knowledge of the business world. While I love healthcare, during my first year I wanted to try something different, and focused on pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities. Since my childhood summers in rural Connecticut selling tomatoes and gems (also known as rocks from our driveway) to anyone who took an interest, I always had an interest in building my own business. Wharton presented the opportunity for me to pursue this passion.
During my first year I joined the Entrepreneurial and Founders Clubs, enrolled in entrepreneurial classes, and attended entrepreneurial events to broaden my exposure. I met another first year student who had a revolutionary idea in a relatively boring, but large market, a recipe for entrepreneurial disruption. For our entrepreneurial class final, our team of six first year students wrote a business plan to create an online annuities exchange where customers could get real-time annuity quotes, similar to what Orbitz did for the travel industry. After receiving very positive feedback from our professor, three of us decided to pursue the idea further and spent the spring semester re-writing the business plan, submitting it into the Wharton Business Plan Competition, and pitching our idea. While I was also exploring other start-up summer internships, once we made it to the finals of the Business Plan Competition and won the Wharton Venture Award, I knew I wanted to pursue our idea full-time in the summer after my first year.
Our summer was intense. I worked closely with another co-founder to take our business from idea to implementation. We grappled with prioritizing our objectives. From funding, to licensing, to marketing, and website development, the summer was a real-world education. I focused on marketing by diving into the details of annuity products, working to understand the consumer purchasing process, creating a PR strategy, and developing a digital marketing plan. While progress was slow at first, by the end of the summer we launched a beta version of our website and the team was excited for what the upcoming semester would bring.
But I found myself questioning my commitment to our business. While I learned a tremendous amount about the hustle and focus essential for entrepreneurial success, I was not intrinsically driven to create a better annuity marketplace. During my limited free time I found myself drawn back to the healthcare industry. I was more interested in the recent biotech merger rather than the new retirement regulations. My second year was quickly approaching, and when it did the formal recruiting process would commence. I needed to decide if I would remain with our start-up or return to the healthcare industry.
There are two types of entrepreneurs: those who are passionate about building a business and those who are determined to pursue their passions. One is not better than the other and both can be equally successful, but the entrepreneur who has passion for both the idea and the process is driven to succeed. While I thought the process of building a company would motivate me, I learned that it was equally important for me to pursue my passion, which lies in the healthcare industry where I am motivated to work on products that improve lives.
I am so grateful to have been able to work on our start-up this past summer. My co-founders and our goals pushed me out of my comfort zone. Coming from a scientific background where there is little room for ambiguity, working on a start-up taught me to breakdown a large, unstructured problem, and make decisions without all of the information. It also helped to refocus my career and I am excited to have accepted a position with a leading medical device company just last week. It can be difficult to sift through the overwhelming opportunities available to MBA students at Wharton, but it is through this process that you will find your passion and success.