When I found out that I had been accepted to CBS, my path changed forever. I have to admit that I was extremely nervous about attending. I knew my classmates would be coming from illustrious careers in investment banking and management consulting, and I didn’t know if my business experiences selling chocolate truffles and books in the Caribbean would bring any value to my peers. I knew I had a lot to learn and I was right—the first year of business school flew by and many times I felt that I was barely keeping my head above water. I worried that I had made the wrong decision, and then I received an email about applying to the Entrepreneurial Greenhouse Program in the Lang Center.
It was the fall of my second year at CBS and the pitch competition to apply for Greenhouse was fast approaching. What I had learned as a small food business operator combined with what I was now learning through the core business school curriculum had begun to materialize into one very simple idea—that the folks starting new ventures in food and farming were vastly underserved. I immediately felt that with the help of the Greenhouse program I could find a way to transfer some of the key tools from business programs and technology startups to people starting up in food.
What began as little more than a hunch about how to help food producers turned into a full-fledged business thanks to Greenhouse. The program was the source of invaluable classes, guest lectures, board meetings, one-on-one meetings with Cliff Schorer and Brendan Burns, and multiple additional opportunities to pitch my idea in front of seasoned executives and entrepreneurs. Exposure to all of these resources through the lens of my start-up literally changed my life and my perception of business. Although I did not know it at the time I applied to business school, this was exactly what I had needed to take my previous knowledge to the next level.
I went on to not only apply for funding for the Lang Board but also to win a $50,000 investment from the Lang Fund for my start-up, Local Food Lab. One year later our business is growing and we have raised an additional $200,000. We have run three six-week start-up accelerator programs for first-time food and farm entrepreneurs, and we have hosted three capstone investor pitch events of our own.
We are now working on an online platform that will take the learnings of this past year and make it easier for entrepreneurs around the country and around the world to launch new food businesses. Not a day has gone by since Greenhouse when I have not used something I learned in the program.
I am amazed at how far I have come in my entrepreneurial journey since my first cluster meeting and will be forever indebted to CBS and this great program.