Since she began selling lemonade at her parents’ garage sales in the 80s, Nicole Stachowiak knew she wanted to run her own business.
After working as a manager for Intel, she is now using her Executive MBA from Bath School of Management to make that a reality, as the managing director of House of Elliot England, a global company that designs and creates authentic lace wedding boots and accessories.
In doing so, she is broaching the topic of female intrapreneurship, emerging as a role model for women in business, and an example of the potential yielded by an Executive MBA.
“Women need to be inspired and we need role models,” she says, “and that’s where the MBA is critical.”
The door to Nicole’s career with House of Elliot England was opened during the Entrepreneurship in Action module on her EMBA—now a part Bath School of Management’s Multi-Project suite, where students work on five different projects throughout the course of the MBA program.
She says she gained an understanding of how to market a new, niche product, and how to tap into not only the entrepreneurial mindset, but the intrapreneurial mindset too, allowing her to approach an existing business idea and innovate from within.
It was that understanding that encouraged her to purchase House of Elliot England in 2015—the company is now global, with a customer base split 60/40 between the UK and abroad.
“It was a small company, with a dated website, and there was very limited brand recognition,” Nicole explains, “[but] I thought it was a great idea, a great concept, and so I asked myself, how can I make this great?”
Drawing on knowledge gained during her Strategic Marketing and Supply Chain Management modules as well, Nicole was able to refine the company’s supply chain, and hone in on her customers’ requirements to build a reputable, global brand.
“I had no knowledge of all of this while I was at Intel,” she says, “[but] all the things I learned on the MBA—cash is king, marketing before sales, supply chain before product—every single one of them has proven true.”
Beginning her career within a corporate though, Nicole admits, was a great platform for professional development.
At Intel, a lot of her work dealt with niche market segments—digital signage, or in-vehicle infotainment, for example—and looking where best to invest, say in headcount, or marketing, and in turn which customers to focus more resources on growing.
This gave her an understanding of where the best areas of investment are, how to harness a market segment’s growth potential, and how to ensure that growth remains exponential.
“Starting a corporate career is a great stepping stone to setting up your own business,” Nicole explains. “It gave me the confidence to spread my own wings and fly.”
Embarking on the Bath EMBA while still at Intel, the combination of both her corporate learnings, and the education gleaned within the classroom at Bath School of Management, meant the successful transformation into her current role was an inevitability.
“The MBA gave me the confidence to go out and promote myself, and to believe in myself. Through the theoretical learning and real-life case studies you gain the confidence to go out into the real world,” says Nicole.
With that knowledge, she admits that one day she would like to venture into the world of mentorship alongside her work for House of Elliot England, transferring her education to help small businesses, and the women within them, grow.
“One of the things that stood out for me as a manager [at Intel],” she explains, “is that women are less likely to go out and self-promote—sometimes we believe doing [the job] is enough, and our achievements are not always visible.”