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Why MBA: University of Bath – School of Management

Julie Butterworth used an MBA in the UK to transition from her previous life a professional ballet dancer to a hugely successful entrepreneur.

By  Gabi Champagne

Mon Sep 15 2014

Julie Butterworth started out as a professional classical ballet dancer but an injury forced her to retire at the age of 30. With no academic background it was hard to find employment in the “real world”.

But as a hugely successful entrepreneur, she decided to peruse an MBA at the UK’s University of Bath School of Management, in a bid to deepen her knowledge of the business world, and develop some academic grounding.

Where has your career path taken you?

After an injury forced me to retire at 30, I decided to travel with my three young children for six months. It was a bit of a struggle as the children were often unpopular in restaurants and hotels. This is when I decided to review hotels, first from my perspective but then from a business perspective. I eventually decided to build a website that is an online magazine full of hotel reviews, funded by advertising.

When I found that people wanted to book hotels through the site my friend developed an online booking capability. Soon we had most of the largest hotel chains as clients, and the company grew to 200 global staff in three years.

Eventually I sold the company to one of my clients for a ‘comfortable sum’, and moved back to the UK to rest.

I got bored very quickly and decided to start another two companies.

Why did you decide to begin an MBA in the UK?

As a dancer, I had never taken an academic degree. I had a huge chip on my shoulder about it, so I decided to take a distance learning undergraduate degree in business.

Although I was learning, my experiences as an entrepreneur had taken me beyond that level and I became bored with my study. I wanted to deepen my knowledge and understanding.

In many areas of business I relied on others to advise me, and a good friend to whom I am eternally grateful suggested looking at taking an MBA instead.

In what ways did Bath stand out from other business schools?

I researched UK business schools and I really loved the fact that the Bath MBA had entrepreneurial [learning]. Bath is a beautiful city and the university campus is perched high on a hill overlooking the American museum and surrounding countryside.

I really loved the multi-cultural range of the cohort and the diversity of career backgrounds. I found myself sat within a cohort of bankers and lawyers, engineers, architects and even the odd cricketer. It made for interesting class discussions and problem solving techniques.

During the course, myself and fellow student Cindy Burkhardt began a gender equality initiative group called Equal. I was awarded the Dean’s Award for my work on this.

The group will continue within the university after we have graduated, with Cindy and I in advisory roles.

What do you plan to do when you finish your MBA?

I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps surprisingly, I would like to work for someone else – I did a stint at English Heritage just before joining the MBA and really enjoyed it.

It’s important to immerse yourself in as many different experiences as you can. My experiences to date as an entrepreneur, along with the MBA, give me a fantastic arsenal from which to draw on, and I want to be able to make a positive impact and make a real difference to a company.

I want to continue learning, and by working for someone else I can do this.

What are the main benefits you’ve reaped from the MBA program?

I have always been determined to succeed – I have my dance training to thank for that – but I feel now that I have more confidence in my ability.

The theoretical knowledge I have gained will help support my future business decisions. I know that I have good instincts, but I now also have the academic tools to test and develop those instincts, [and] a stronger foundation from which to manage projects in the future.

Working across various cultures both in my own cohort and during my global residency in Beijing has been hugely beneficial in terms of cross cultural understanding.

Group work has shown me that there is more than one way to achieve a successful outcome, and it is important to listen as well as to lead.

There is no room for arrogance in leadership. I’m so excited by what the future may hold in store for me, and I can’t wait to get out there and put this MBA into practice.