Recent Wharton Executive MBA grad Jennifer Meller took advantage of every entrepreneurial resource while she was a student, including becoming a member of our incubator, the Venture Initiation Program. Before she graduated last month, we asked her a few questions about her experience as a student entrepreneur. Here’s what she said:
What school are you in and what is your major?
Wharton Executive MBA. I did not declare a major—I preferred to take the classes that really interested me the most, and wound up taking a fairly diverse course load.
How did Wharton help you become an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is promoted at Wharton. Lots of our lunchtime guest speakers were entrepreneurs and shared their experiences; we had a WEMBA Entrepreneur in Residence who gave a lecture series on entrepreneurship and met with us individually; and there were lots of classes offered that focused on starting and promoting a business, or on innovation and product development. But probably most importantly, it is access to the Wharton network that has been instrumental in helping launch our company. Through our professors and classmates, we’ve connected with dozens of industry experts who have been enormously helpful in helping us shape our business model.
How did your classes help you?
It was during a management class that I came up with the idea for the healthcare IT business, Navimize, that my co-founder and I are launching. We were learning about the JIT process and lean management principles, and I began thinking about waiting room time as wasted time. I thought about how at school, I started taking lots of Uber cabs… and about how I could see those cabs a few blocks away on my phone even when they weren’t in front of me. And suddenly this idea gelled—why not have patients know what’s happening in the waiting room before they actually head out to the doctor’s office? In innovation class we ran a Darwinator tournament where over 450 ideas for new products/businesses were submitted. Navimize came in second place. It was then that I knew that I was really onto something. I continued to develop the idea in Innovation class along with my co-founder, Kavita Mangal, and then through the fall in Ethan Mollick’s entrepreneurship class. Bob Borghese taught us about legal and transactional aspects of entrepreneurship, and inspired us to have the courage to strike out on our own. I also took a Healthcare Entrepreneurship class offered in the full time program, and gained perspective on hospital systems and their priorities from the Chief Innovation Officers and Hospital CEO’s who came to lecture in our class.
What’s been the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur at Wharton?
The hardest thing about being an entrepreneur in the WEMBA program is having to manage not only work, school, and family, but also formulating and launching a business. I’m not really sure how it all got done these last 9 months.
What’s been the best thing about being an entrepreneur at Wharton?
The best thing about being an entrepreneur at WEMBA has been the unwavering support and encouragement from our classmates.
What advice would you give to a new student who wants to start his or her own business?
Advice to a new student: If you believe in your idea, then just go for it. Work hard and ignore the haters.
What Wharton Entrepreneurship programs did you participate in and how did they help you?
We were fortunate to have been accepted to the Wharton Venture Initiation Program in the fall of 2015. VIP provided us with great advisors who met with us monthly, opportunities to practice our pitch and network, regular newsletters alerting us of opportunities and special programs, and access to special events with local investors. We also made it to the semi-finals of the Wharton Business Plan Competition, which was a great experience, and provided us with great feedback and help from a series of investors and advisors.
How does it feel to be graduating?
Graduation is a bit bittersweet in the WEMBA program. Since we are an executive MBA program, we meet only every other weekend. We’ve all come to cherish the tme together, as most of us are older, and have the ‘real life’ responsibilities of work and family, and so that WEMBA Friday night every other weekend gave us a chance to act young and have some fun. Our classmates are all amazing, smart, interesting people from diverse backgrounds. Many have had fascinating experiences that they’ve shared both in and outside of the classroom. So how does it feel to be graduating? I am beyond excited, feel a deep sense of accomplishment, can’t wait for the next chapter to unfold, and I’ll sorely miss the regular contact with all of my dear and cherished friends.