Ana Fernanda Escandón grew up in a household of entrepreneurs. She spent her youth working various roles in her family business, and before starting her master’s in entrepreneurship with BI Norwegian Business School she even rebranded her mother’s company, “almost from scratch.”
Her family’s culture of entrepreneurship meant a business career was always in the cards for Ana. And after a bachelor’s in international business from Technologico de Monterrey in her native Mexico, she is now honing her entrepreneurial skills in the Master of Science in Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at BI.
“It’s really important to share what I’ve learned,” she says, “My mother always taught me that education is the best inheritance you can get. That’s why I’m now doing my master’s in entrepreneurship.”
Why BI Norwegian Business School?
BI’s mission statement—the school has a strong sustainable focus—drew Ana in. At BI, students have the chance to study modules in ethics and sustainability in organizations, as well as sustainable innovation.
Of the course and her classmates, she emphasizes how they share “the same values, same ideas, same missions”, something which was important for her when picking a business school.
The course structure too—from theory in first year to practical in second—was a big pull factor. Ana says the second half of the course is “more like a workshop”, where the learning is based on action with feedback and students use teamwork to their advantage.
When Ana was awarded the BI MSc International Scholarship—given to international students with strong academic records—for her course, it helped cement the decision. And now, a year-and-a-half into the masters, she says it is everything she was hoping and looking for.
These practical lessons Ana learned prepared her to take the leap into entrepreneurship.
How the program is making Ana a better entrepreneur
Students jump straight in with their entrepreneurial learning from the start. In her first two semesters Ana studied 'Developing the Entrepreneurial Mindset' and 'Entrepreneurial Leadership'.
Students can also choose to take an internship (with a startup, incubator, or established company), go on an exchange with one of BI’s partner schools, or launch their own business with BI’s startup development module.
At this point in the year, students can also choose a specialized elective in International Entrepreneurship or Pitching, Persuasion, and Communication Skills.
Choosing the startup development module over an internship or exchange was an easy decision for Ana, who wanted to immerse herself in her own business sooner rather than later.
“I am developing an idea with my teammates,” she says, adding that unfortunately, she has to stay tight-lipped on what it is for now.
So far, she is learning how to “bring down a huge idea to a real concept,” she says.
“Our teacher brought us through the process of launching a business here, how to research, and how to carry out market exploration.”
Ana has also gained a greater sense of perspective. “Outside opinion is important,” she says. “You are asked very specific questions you might not think of in the ‘dreamy’ stage of starting a new business.”
In terms of extracurricular activities, Ana is also involved with BI’s student business society, where she is head of events. She also attended the Sustainable Goals Forum competition in Oslo. The event proved important for her professional development, as she could see how other universities think differently about entrepreneurship and innovation from a sustainability perspective.
“It is not an easy task becoming an entrepreneur,” Ana emphasizes, “There are many challenges, but if you follow your passion it will work.”
Ana highlights that failure is the best way to learn. It is better to focus on what you did wrong and then move on and improve. “Just like in life,” she says, “for entrepreneurs, you need to find what makes you unique.”
In the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, students are encouraged to look at their competitors to analyze their offerings and find a niche. Of her own startup, she says “if it fails, it is also a learning process.”
Ana is also working online with her mother’s company in Mexico, applying the skills she is learning in BI’s program to a real-life environment, even if classes are online for now.
BI moved to remote classes in March due to COVID 19. When the new school year began in August, students were able to attend classes on campus. But like in most countries, classes have moved back online for now, with student safety as the paramount concern.
Making the most of student life, even with COVID restrictions in place, has also been important to her, as has leaving your comfort zone: “Go out, join societies, approach companies”, is her advice.
“And the satisfaction you get at the end, no one can take from you.”