Tartisan, an artisan bakery in Melbourne, is the brainchild of Vanessa Whatmough, a full-time MBA graduate from Melbourne Business School, Australia.
Despite working beforehand as a media strategy manager for The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, the food industry was her passion, and baking rustic cakes had always been a hobby—it took the MBA program to arm her with the knowledge needed to pursue her raison d’être.
“I was young, full of ideas, and now had a box of invaluable business tools I could use to ensure my plans had the best chance of succeeding,” she says.
While on the MBA at Melbourne Business School—ranked in 2017 by Bloomberg as the 12th best MBA program outside of the US—Vanessa undertook an internship with Hawkstone Venture Capital, working with them on the Entrepreneurial Mindset module to investigate Melbourne’s bakery and cake industry.
“With the mentorship of CEO John Hollingsworth, I developed and tested a business model for a cake shop café that I would open after graduation,” she says—Tartisan opened its doors in November 2017.
Being the owner of a small business, Vanessa is the figurative head of every department—strategy and business development, accounting, marketing, people, and business culture—so she puts into practice the knowledge gleaned from every module on her MBA.
“Perhaps the most valuable lessons from the MBA have revolved around people management, leadership, and negotiations,” she explains.
The Melbourne MBA's People Management module armed Vanessa with the best recruitment procedures, driving her ability to view the holistic benefit of each candidate—“it also have me an understanding of the motivations of staff as individuals, and the rewards they might respond to,” she adds.
On the MBA, Vanessa also procured the skills needed to be a strong leader, with powerful communication skills to harness the potential of each employee, build strong relationships with her supply chain, and revel in customer service.
“I enlist an allocentric, empathetic mindset in just about every interaction I have,” admits Vanessa, “whether that be with staff, customers, suppliers, the council, even my landlord—these interactions are richer and more amiable as a result.”
Soft skill development comes from beyond the lecture halls on the Melbourne Business School MBA too—the MBA class of 2017 boasts 23 different nationalities.
For Vanessa, that meant the opportunity to learn how to manage and respond to a multitude of personalities, cultures, and industries—something that happens daily working in such a client-oriented industry.
In such a competitive marketplace, those people skills have to be balanced with a strong seasoning of innovation—alongside staple business modules like Strategy, Finance, and People Management, Vanessa cites the “revolutionary” modules designed to provide students exposure to real-world business problems as making a huge difference.
“I found subjects such as Entrepreneurial Mindset, Innovation Bootcamp, and Social Enterprise Consulting Practicum particularly rewarding,” she says.
“We worked with a number of organisations and business leaders who invited us into their workplaces to challenge their thinking, but who then went on to become valuable personal mentors of mine as I created my own business.”
Furthering her immersion into company practice, toward the end of the Melbourne Business School MBA, Vanessa went on an exchange to University College Dublin’s Graduate Business School, where she studied a week-long program called The Future of Food.
“It was an excellent deep-dive into the industry I was about to enter,” she says. “Going on an exchange was just another example of how I was able to tailor the MBA to my interests.”