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Entrepreneurship News

December 10, 2013

Liz Wilkes '13: Keep Calm and Breathe

Liz Wilkes '13: Keep Calm and Breathe

While many companies are taking on different pieces of the employee happiness puzzle, no one is strategically sewing options together to provide clients a one-stop solution. That's where Liz Wilkes ’13 and Exubrancy come in.  Read on to learn more about the company and what you can do to relieve your own stress this holiday season.

Tell us about Exubrancy and what is unique about it?

Exubrancy helps company leaders foster great culture with ease. We bring community-building perks and programs to New York City-based companies. Think on-site fitness, artisanal snack breaks, massages, beer making classes, etc.

What is the one thing someone can do virtually any time to lower their stress level?

Sit up straight with both of your feet on the floor and close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting out loud a positive mantra such as “I am proud of myself” (silently if at the office?!).  Place one hand on your stomach and synchronize the mantra with your breath. Allow distracting thoughts to float by like clouds passing overhead. Even sixty seconds of this practice will have an energizing effect, though try to squeeze in 5-10 minutes for increased rejuvenation.

Also, during the holidays many people are stressed out by the prospect of getting sick. So, make a habit of washing your hands every time you pass a sink – it's the easiest way to avoid catching whatever may be going around the office. Also, if a coworker is obviously sick, encourage him or her to go home!

What has been your biggest “A-Ha!” moment to date? How did it change your business?

Originally, we hypothesized that Exubrancy would be especially appealing to companies that were losing access to the best talent based on their lack of investment in employee well-being and office culture. When we started selling, we quickly found that companies that already invested heavily in community were far quicker sells. It's always easier converting someone who already believes in your product then convincing someone that they need something entirely new (who would have guessed!).  Today, we offer clients the opportunity to maximize the impact of their investment while decreasing the resources required to implement engaging programming. 

How have the classes you participated in at Columbia Business School shaped your business/management approach?

I have been impressed by how applicable Columbia Business School’s class content has been, and the extent to which the lessons learned impact the business decisions we at Exubrancy make on a daily basis. That said, what has most blown me away is how the professors have been willing to continue to support my development and the application of the concepts they teach in the classroom. Furthermore, beyond the pure horsepower and problem-solving assistance, the emotional support and encouragement professors have provided me has been incredible. A special thank you goes to Professors David Lerner, Robert Delman ’98, Clifford Schorer, Brendan Burns ’95, and Ron Gonen ’04, just to name a few!

The Columbia Alumni Connection: How have you used it?

The Columbia community has been a huge part of our early success. A few Columbia-affiliated companies were among the first to hire Exubrancy in our early days, and that traction has been crucial to establishing ourselves in the marketplace. It was also been wonderful getting to know many more members of the broader Columbia entrepreneurial community via Columbia Venture Community (CVC) events.

Being a part of the Columbia Business Lab has also been an incredible experience -- I feel very fortunate to share an office with a built-in support network of Columbia Business School entrepreneurs. As the head of Culture and Programming, I have the pleasure of coordinating our weekly Lunch & Learns, many of which have been led by inspiring alumni entrepreneurs like Mike Brody ’07, co-founder of Payfone, and Becca Brown ’07, co-founder of Solemates.

What advice would you give to a graduating Columbia student with entrepreneurial aspirations?

Start selling.

Just because you haven't built your product or fully defined your service doesn't mean you can't take orders or pre-orders! People will tell you that they love your idea or "would buy" your product, but until they actually pull out their credit cards it can be hard to tell if you've got a real business on your hands.

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