Female Start-Up Founders In North America Leverage MBA Degrees

There is a gender imbalance in the business world – but female MBA graduates in the US are founding start-ups and securing venture capital investment.

In most countries a large gender gap exists, which leads to a predominately male business environment. Despite the gender imbalance there is evidence that women are making great strides in entrepreneurship, and are establishing themselves as key players in the global business environment.

It is evident and that more and more women are beginning to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. Since 1997, the number of female-owned firms has increased by 68%.

As of this year, women own more than nine million companies, employ nearly eight million people and generate over $1.4 trillion in revenue. This includes Ruzwana Bashir, pictured above, who graduated from the MBA at Harvard Business School.

Below, BusinessBecause briefly profiles four female entrepreneurs who have graduated from leading business schools in the US. They have leveraged their advanced degrees and management skill-sets to build successful start-up ventures. Female founders are also able to inspire other women, and are helping to drive a career shift at business schools.

The Social Network

Pooja Sankar founded Piazza in 2009 as a free means of communication that allows teachers and students – some of whom are uncomfortable speaking up and asking questions in the classroom – to interact with each other. 

Universities, hundreds of which are on the platform, use the site to allow their students to post anonymous questions about class subject matter. Piazza has grown to have more than 600,000 members.

Pooja graduated from the MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business, based in California, in 2010. “I was so inspired [to be] learning from many successful company founders in my entrepreneurship classes,” she says. “Their stories gave me the courage to follow my dream of starting a company.”

Most recently, Pooja founded Piazza Careers, which allows tech recruiters to hire from a selected pool of highly qualified STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – candidates.

A Thirst for Entrepreneurship

Christine Wheeler founded Drazil Foods, a start-up that makes juice-infused herbal tea drinks for kids, after moving from Japan back to the US.

While living abroad her children developed an affinity for tea, which was the drink of choice. Upon Christine’s return, she was struck by the lack of healthy, low-sugar drinks that were available for kids.

So, she decided to launch Drazil Kids Tea in 2013 and the product has since been stocked in large retail chains including Whole Foods. Retail prices for an eight-pack of Drazil teas are roughly $5.

Christine graduated from Pennsylvania-based Wharton School’s MBA in 1994. “During my two years in the program I was thrown into many new [and] sometimes challenging situations,” she says. “Learning to navigate through these [situations] strengthened my confidence and tenacity – qualities that are important for an entrepreneur.”

Drazil Foods, the company which produces the range of tea drinks, was founded eight years ago. It has raised $450,000 in funding and Christine hopes to raise further investment, of about $1 million.

The Business of Consulting
 
Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, began her career in the finance and marketing departments of large global firms including financial services company Prudential Financial and Charles Schwab, the banking group.
 
She has an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management in Chicago. “The MBA brought about a mind shift which allowed me to come up with an idea, and believe that I could be the one to make it happen… And then actually go for it and make it a reality,” she says.
 
In 2001 after leaving business school, Stacy’s entrepreneurial passion was ignited. She founded the consulting business, which provides admissions services to business school applicants to help them get into their dream programs.
 
Start-Up Mummy
 
Four months after giving birth to her first child, Allison Karl O’Kelly resigned from her managerial role at Toys "R" Us, the American toy company, and began freelance work while raising her new-born.
 
A little further down the line she founded Mom Corps, a professional staffing solutions company. The business has since grown to have a database of hundreds of thousands of professionals.
 
She has an MBA from Harvard, based in Massachusetts, and says the degree helped her to focus on her strengths, and “surround myself with the right people” to make the company a success.

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