Grasshopper recently interviewed alumna Lesley Stracks-Mullem (MBA ’08) about her gourmet food tour company Taste Carolina and experience as a budding entrepreneur at UNC Kenan-Flagler. To read more about Taste Carolina, please go to: http://www.tastecarolina.net.
Why did you choose to apply to and attend an entrepreneurship program?
I always knew I wanted to start a business. But the numbers and finance aspects of operating a business scared me. I was an English major in college and had worked for non-profit and government organizations in D.C., but I didn’t have any business education or experience. I wanted to learn new skills and build confidence.
Why did you choose to attend the entrepreneurship program at UNC?
I always loved UNC, so it was natural to put it on my list. After I got accepted, I met the Dean at an event in D.C. and I asked him to help me choose between UNC and other schools. He asked me what I wanted to do after business school. When I told him I wanted to start my own business, his face lit up as he told me about the new entrepreneurship initiatives at UNC. That conversation fired me up.
How do you feel your Alma mater prepared you to start your own business?
One of my friends from business school said that out of everyone in our class, she thought that the MBA experience was most transformative for me. It makes sense because I feel like I had the most to learn, since I had never taken accounting, finance, marketing or economics! I didn’t know Microsoft Excel very well, and, although I considered myself a good boss, I needed to learn how to manage up and around organizations.
Now that you are a real-life entrepreneur (vs. learning about it in class), is there anything you wish you had paid more attention to while you were an undergrad?
Marketing still remains a mystery to me. It can be a creative subject — more so than finance and other numbers-oriented classes in many ways, but it still requires a rigorous understanding of formulas and statistics. I wish I had delved deeper into the analytical aspects of marketing.
What advice would you give to those considering applying to an entrepreneurship program?
Go to a program that excites you and make time to connect with professors, students and guest speakers beyond the classroom. Share ideas and ask questions. And if you have an idea for a business, don’t be afraid to share it with others and get feedback.