Not a lot of people know this, because it still feels pretty embarrassing.
I was rejected by 100% of the MBA programs I applied to. I only applied to two. But still. Zinger!
I felt stupid. I felt like a failure. I felt like I didn't have a bright future.
I know a lot of people have a tendency to think we have to follow a certain path to get to where we want to go, particularly when it comes to being a leader or starting a business, and it's all BS.
The programs I applied to (Kellogg and Berkeley) have world class social entrepreneurship programs and I thought they were the ticket to my being a successful social entrepreneur (entrepreneur who seeks out both social and $$ profits). I always dreamed of starting a business and felt like I needed an MBA to do that. I needed the network! I needed the business foundation!
Azulina may not be on Oprah's Favorite Things (some day!!), and maybe it hasn't been the most graceful 2.5 years starting a business in a foreign country, but I figured out how to start a business that does real good, and it came together without getting an MBA or having a business degree. I majored in Communications.
Through Azulina I've helped a family-owned workshop from a small town in rural Colombia get their ceramics into stores all over the US and in a couple weeks I'm announcing a new partnership with a foundation that's investing in bilingual education in public schools in the very town where our ceramics are made. If it weren't for my being bilingual I would never be where I am today, so it's a cause I'm super excited to support.
I didn't know it at the time, but everything I've done up until now was what I needed to start Azulina - all my internships in event planning and public relations, learning to speak Spanish as a foreign exchange student in Argentina, holding a leadership position in my sorority (Delta Gamma!), working in technology consulting, volunteering as a a pro-bono consultant in Honduras, reading every marketing/sales/business book on the market... I needed all of that to start Azulina, I didn't need an MBA to get here.
Perhaps if I had gotten an MBA I would've been fully funded two years ago and working with a pack of allstar interns, or maybe the network would've gotten me into Oprah's Favorite Things, but I'm still alive. Azulina is still here and doing well.
People love Azulina's ceramics. A family-owned pottery workshop is selling their products in 45 stores from Maine to Hawaii. I am still Azulina's only employee. I've learned to be real scrappy. And things are okay.
Most importantly I am proud of what I'm doing every day, I'm excited about what's to come and I feel comfort in knowing that those rejection letters didn't mean much after all.
Founder, Azulina Ceramics
One Final Note: Thanks to the depression that ensued after being rejected I called my world-traveler uncle for moral support and booked my first trip to Colombia.