BSL alumni Richard Fyk brews entrepreneurial success

For the next installment of our BSL careers office interview series, where we get an insight into the lives of our business and entrepreneurial graduates, we caught up with BSL alumnus Richard Fyk, owner of SYC Brewing. Based in Alberta, Canada, SYC Brewing brews and distributes craft beer to various suppliers across the country, including bars, restaurants, and liquor stores. SYC Brewing officially opened its doors in January 2019 and has received a warm reception from the craft brewing savvy public in North America. BSL interview _ Richard Fyk (SYC Brewing)

Richard owes a lot of his initial business success to his formative grounding and the business knowledge he acquired during his MBA at BSL. “My thesis paper really helped me galvanize my plans to start my own business. I put all that I had learned at BSL into practice and it gave me first-hand experience in how to piece everything together and create something from scratch. It was very helpful – so much so that I immediately put my teaching into practice to start SYC Brewing”. 

Richard’s thesis also focuses on finance. Although far removed from the craft beer industry, Richard insists that BSL equipped him with the tools to pursue any career in any industry or sector. “Once you understand how each cog in a business mechanism operates, you soon realize that the possibilities for starting your own business are endless”. 

It was a conversation from an unlikely source that helped Richard make the decision to study his MBA at BSL. “I was working in a bank and had progressed very quickly through the ranks. I had an informal career coaching discussion with my manager where I informed him of my intent to progress even further within the organization. He told me to give it another year to have the conversation, which made me quickly realize that he didn’t have my best interests at heart. Directly after that conversation, I began researching online the best places to do my MBA and BSL was on the top of that list. The next thing I knew I was enrolled and on my way to attend my first class”. 

What really impressed Richard from the onset was BSL’s focus on entrepreneurship. He always knew he wanted to create a business for himself but he didn’t have the skills and know-how to progress his ideas into action. When the idea for opening his own craft beer brewery was solidified in his mind, the next step was to learn the necessary business skills to make it work. “After I graduated from BSL with my MBA I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but more importantly, how I was going to do it. Suddenly the thought of starting my own business wasn’t a daunting idea because I knew exactly what I had to and how I was going to do it”.

BSL interview _ Richard Fyk (SYC Brewing)2Richard enlisted the help of a friend to get the business off the ground. Together they began brewing a range of different variations of craft beer until they settled on what they wanted SYC Brewing to taste like. The next step was marketing the product. “I knew branding was crucial in the beer industry, but when you deal with it first-hand you realize it’s a lot bigger than you initially think. You have to make sure that your beer quality is great and that your branding is almost better. I learned a lot about marketing a product during my MBA and that really gave me the upper hand when starting out. I knew what to expect and how to execute my ideas into action, and it worked”.

Due to Richard’s product being alcohol, getting started is not an easy thing to do. The alcohol industry is highly regulated and so brewers have to go through every single level of government to acquire alcohol manufacturing, selling and distributing licenses. Richard had to go through the federal government for permission to make beer. Then he had to get allowances from the provincial government to allow him to brew while still having to deal with his local municipality for rules and regulations regarding the specific location of his brewery. “The entire process takes a long time because you’re dealing with all forms of government and each department’s processes and regulations, including their waiting periods. This is of course not great for entrepreneurs needing to get ahead of the competition”. However, Richard managed to get all the required licenses quickly through his dogged determination to get his business off the ground. 

BSL interview _ Richard Fyk (SYC Brewing)3

As Richard will tell you, no amount of studying and theoretical framework can sufficiently prepare you for the real thing – but it can certainly help. Having gone through the channels of his MBA at BSL to starting his own business, what advice can he give to current and future entrepreneurs hoping to create their own businesses in the future?

“Knowing what you want to achieve from the very beginning is crucial. Being willing to always learn from either your own or others’ mistakes can save you a lot of time, energy and money – so be aware of those who have come before you. You have to make sure you are agile and that you have the ability to make quick and important decisions. These can come along rarely, or twice in an hour – so be ready.  If something is not working, change it up. Make sure it’s working for you. Being a small startup we’ve done it multiple times. If something wasn’t working, we made a decision the same day and before we knew it the next day it was working. I’m a big believer in not saying ‘sorry’. If you are selling a product in a higher price range it’s because you believe in the quality, and so you’ve got to sell your vision. But perhaps the big one is to just work hard. It’s amazing what you can do with a 100 hour week. I work 100+ hours and I don’t get tired because I love what I do and what I am creating. It’s not about the number of hours – it’s about what you do with your hours that makes all the difference”. 

Well done on your amazing business achievement, Richard! We are very proud to see you and your brewing business flourish. Although it is still early days, we are sure you will create something truly remarkable that will send waves of inspiration through our classrooms as an example to all our future entrepreneurs that anything is possible with the right skills and mindset. We look forward to charting your success from across the pond and hopefully soon SYC Brewing will be a household name in both Switzerland and the world.

Finding a new kind of energy: how one BSL graduate’s journey is taking him to Oxford

We are celebrating the success of BSL alumni member Armen Danielyan. Armen is a born leader with a wealth of knowledge and the world at his feet. He not only graduated from our accelerated BBA program but has since been accepted into a first-of-its-kind MSc program at Oxford University. We took some time to catch up with Armen to find out how he was able to get the most out of his time at BSL. 

Tell us more about your time at BSL?

I enrolled in BSL’s accelerated BBA program in 2017. It was a unique study opportunity that made it possible for me to complete my Bachelor’s degree in only two years. The course was more intensive and required me to do five courses per term. During this period I was an active member of the student council and also worked as a tutor, organizing study sessions to help others prepare for subjects like accounting and statistics. 

What do you think has been your most valuable lesson or experience as a BSL student? 

There have been many valuable lessons during my two years at BSL, but I really value the ability to apply the theory I have learned to practical situations. I’ve always been interested in a broad variety of subjects and disciplines, and I was able to discover ways to apply what I learned at BSL to my interests, making my studies more relevant to my future.BSL

What was one of your greatest achievements and how do you feel you were supported in achieving this?

One of my greatest achievements would definitely be my involvement in the Business Innovation Week. BSL traditionally organizes the event to bring BA and MS students together and facilitate communication. There was also an opportunity for students to compete against each other and showcase a summary of everything that they had learned at BSL, through making startup prototypes and financial plans.

However, BSL and our professors encouraged the Student Council to organize the Business Innovation Week under their supervision and guidance. We could contact and invite guest speakers and plan activities like peer-to-peer teaching modules. I was one of the students involved and hosted an Excel class. I think it was a success because students were able to teach one another skills that would complement our BSL studies and help us become more prepared for professional life.

Could you give us an example of how you’ve been able to apply the theory you have learned from your time at BSL to engage with your interests? 

Being interested in many topics and skills has sometimes made it difficult to focus on one thing for too long. I realized that due to BSL’s small classes and more individualized approach, I would be able to often tailor study content and approach subjects in a way that allowed me to focus on my interests from several viewpoints, ensuring I didn’t have a one-dimensional, boring experience. This was different from previous university experiences where I couldn’t receive a flexible learning experience due to the high ratio of students to professors. 

Could you tell us about your upcoming opportunity to study at Oxford? 

I’ve been accepted to study a Masters in Energy Systems at Oxford University. I spent a long time looking for Masters programs where I could delve into this subject, but they were often limited to people with a background in science or engineering and made it difficult for people with my background to study further in this field. However, this program is Oxford’s first energy systems-related program that allows people with varied backgrounds to take part in this field. 

image1Why did you choose Oxford specifically? 

There were several factors that drew me to Oxford. This question was actually asked during the interview I had in the application process. While there are, of course, aspects like the university’s reputation and connections, I viewed Oxford differently than other ‘prestigious’ universities like Cambridge or Harvard, even before I applied. I think it happened naturally over the last couple of years, as I began to listen and read many individuals who taught there either before (such as C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien) or now (prof. John Lennox). So it just happened by chance that I became more engaged with Oxford over time, and how it became my goal to get there. But most importantly, it is the nature of their Masters degree program was what ultimately drew me in. 

How is the Oxford degree structured and what are some of the subjects you’re excited to tackle? 

Oxford’s MSc in Energy Systems is a brand new program, so I’ll be in its very first intake (probably also to be experimented upon as a guinea pig). The program will have a small intake of 10 full-time students from various backgrounds, and the idea is that we will teach each other our respective disciplines and how they relate to energy. There’s a significant aspect of peer-to-peer learning built into the structure of the program, and this was what separated it from other masters programs that I looked into. We will also be taught by professors from different departments on pretty much everything that relates to energy, from its science and various technologies to the markets and regulations. After three terms of studying, I will have to deliver a thesis by the end of summer, so the whole program is about a year long.

The idea is to prepare a specialist with broad (as opposed to narrowly specialized) understanding of energy, who would be able to integrate its various aspects and aid in making general decisions. I’m especially excited to see the new technologies that are currently being developed in a world-leading university and will be in the market in the next 10-20 years.

What values, expertise or lessons do you think you will take from your time at BSL that will help contribute to these programs? 

During the application process, I was asked to prepare a presentation about the energy system implications for new legislation put forward by the Balearic Islands, aiming to have a 100% ‘clean’ energy supply by 2050.

I had to approach the topic by talking about the implications this decision will have on all aspects of society.  My BSL experience enabled me to apply my knowledge of corporate social responsibility, public perception, and the supply chain to help make people think about how these areas will interact with energy. 

My relationship with my professors also helped when it came to the physical applications, as BSL students can enjoy a close [professional] relationship with their professors. When it came to requesting letters of recommendation, it was easier to get strong and individualized commentary from people who knew my capabilities.

What are your personal values and vision for the future? Do you have a message for prospective BSL students?

I would like to keep my horizons broad in terms of my plans. I would like to stay in Europe and learn more about energy because it is a very relevant topic and I think there is a need to approach it from every aspect. In the long term, I would like to be more involved in energy solutions across Europe and eventually in Armenia.  

My message to prospective and existing students is to make the most out of the freedom of a small business school where you can take the initiative to implement your own ideas and clubs. BSL continues to encourage students to create their own journey. So, take full advantage of every experience. 

BSL Alumnae, Ola Kayal, keeps it cool with Nabati a plant-based ice cream startup

For the next installment of our BSL careers office interview series, where we take a look at the post-BSL lives of our business and entrepreneurial graduates, we chatted with Ola Amro Kayal, founder of Nabati, an ice cream business with a twist. Based in Florida, USA, Nabati (meaning ‘plant-based’ in Arabic) is not your typical ice cream shop. It offers plant-based, organic, unrefined ice cream while sending an environmental message. All of the 100% plant-based ice cream, toppings, sauces, and desserts are served in biodegradable packaging. It is also a concept store, and they often collaborate with like-minded brands for various green campaigns.

OlaKayal_AtNabati_1_ByMelanieOlivaWhat degree did you received from BSL?

I graduated with a Bachelor in Business Administration with a focus on sustainability. I think we were the first group at BSL to do the switch to Sustainable Business as a subject. 

Which subjects and professors stood out to you most?

BSL was a very unique experience for me. I remember most of the content from my classes and, of course, all of my amazing professors. It was such a personal and hands-on learning experience, something I had never experienced before. I loved that all the professors were actually working in the industry they were teaching. What sticks with me the most is a class I had with Arash, Systems Thinking MIS. I also remember solving big problems with the fishing game simulation which was fun and informative. 

What is the most valuable lesson you learned during your studies and how have they helped you in your career? 

The case study approach left a mark on me as it made me realize that every situation in life is different. Of course, it’s always good to have a plan but it is also important to be adaptable to change. But I think the most important takeaway from my degree was that my education embedded in me a strong sense of sustainability in my lifestyle, actions and business decisions. From all that I learned at BSL, the question I still ask myself to this day is “What is the most sustainable way to operate?”. This keeps propelling me forward in my personal and professional life.  Nabati_Storefront_ByMelanieOliva

What are the biggest challenges you have faced in beginning your business?

What I learned from the outset is that every day brings a new set of challenges. Due to Nabati being based in Miami, USA, I faced a lot of challenges with acquiring the various permits for construction. Everything in this city requires a specific permit and costs a lot of money. Finding good quality workers and making sure they are satisfied is another challenge in itself. This continues to become a challenge, managing everyone’s personal needs and problems. Setting up standards and controlling them is something that is difficult to balance at first, but gets easier with experience. Delegating tasks is always tough when you are a perfectionist, so letting go of certain things and allowing others to handle them has been a point of personal growth for me. Marketing and getting my brand out to the public has also been challenging. The market for organic foods in the USA is already rather saturated, but plant-based ice cream is a unique offering. So getting the public to be able to know and differentiate the product is difficult, but we’re making headway!  

What have been your biggest wins so far and what would you attribute them to?

We have been fortunate enough to have numerous articles and publications favorably reviewing what Nabati is all about. There has been a lot of interest in us being the first 100% plant-based ice cream shop in Miami that is also plastic-free. We have recently been officially recognized by PETA which is amazing.

Nabati_OwnContainer_ByMelanieOliva

What is your vision for the business and your professional career going into the future? 

My dream is to have Nabati franchised in the USA. From there, I would love to open stores across the globe. We are now working on our wholesale capabilities with the aim to supply restaurants and shops in the USA. 

Do you believe that studying at BSL has provided you with a competitive advantage among your peers?

I think studying at BSL gave me a full overview of business administration with a real-world perspective. Gaining experience from industry professionals really helps you understand all the various and complex elements of running a business. It is cool to get the chance to put your theory into action. Like anything rewarding, it is challenging but also so exciting. If you have drive and passion to start your own business, then I would highly recommend BSL to gain valuable real-world experience.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to other budding entrepreneurs and business-focused students? 

I don’t only have one piece of advice, I have many! Have a plan but remember to be creatively adaptable. It’s important to know everything that is going on in your business, even if you are delegating something you should know how it is done to know what to expect. Finally, don’t be scared to make mistakes, that’s how you improve your business! And perhaps my most sage piece of advice: work hard – nothing good in life comes easy. 

Thank you for your time, Ola! It was truly insightful getting to know more about how you started your business and how your studies at BSL helped equip you with the necessary skills and perspective to create something of your own. From all of us at the BSL Careers Office, we wish you and Nabati continued success. Next time we’re in Florida we’ll be sure to try some of your delicious plant-based ice creams!

Swiss Education, Global Connections.

One of a very select group of Mauritian students (currently numbering one!) that has studied at BSL, Ravi Pariah joined the full-time MBA program in 2014. With a background in architecture, he took the decision to add to his practical abilities with business and management skills. Following a relocation to Switzerland, he enrolled at the school keen to build both his career and connections in a new part of the World.

MBA alumni pic“I was aware of the small class sizes before I enrolled and that was a big plus for me as the interaction between classmates promised to be a great benefit. I was also pleasantly surprised at the level of contact we had with other students across all classes as well. Of course, it was mainly fellow MBA classes that enrolled in the intake before or after mine, but the School as a whole has such a warm family feel that you soon get to know most of your fellow students.”

However, it is not only the camaraderie and connections that occurred during the study but also after graduation contact remains strong between BSL alumni. “It is a wonderful thing really, the global nature of the student body means that you can usually meet up with BSL people wherever you are.” He continues. “A few years ago I was traveling to Thailand, a country I did not know well at all. I reached out to the School to ask if they had the contacts for any former BSL students who were in the country. They were kind enough to send out an email on my behalf and through that, I was able to connect and meet socially with Alumni. In fact, one had graduated back in 2001 but still kept in touch with the school via newsletters and the like. It was great to meet up and compare notes of our experience.”

“I am also part of a WhatsApp group chat that is made up of MBA students from the spring and fall intakes of 2014 and some of the guys who started in 2015 also; there are over 30 people in there so there is always someone who is around. In my last role, I was traveling to LA quite often and decided to reach out on one occasion to see if anyone was going to be in the area. By coincidence a graduate from a later year from Germany was going to be there on Business at the same time, so we met up for dinner.”

In his new role, Ravi will be based solely in Geneva, but is still keen to ensure that he keeps his BSL connections “I understand one of the BSL group members has just opened a hotel and resort in beautiful coastal surfing areas in Costa Rica, so it may be time to connect!”

Empowering the societal transition

Impossible transition?

The daunting scale of societal transition we face in the next decade or two, to avert major disruption or even collapse of our complex civilization, makes most of us feel helpless and discouraged, leading to denial (Trump & Co), action paralysis (many European governments) or over-simplistic “solutions” with marginal impact (please recycle your PET).

How can we positively engage citizens and corporations to act with the required speed and determination?

The recently concluded BSL course “Implementing Sustainability Strategy”, as a mini-trial, offers hope. With nine participants, at least as many nationalities between us, a guest speaker, and myself as a learning facilitator, our management experience ranging from basic materials and finance to software and humanitarian operations – we co-created a 3-day piece of this journey together.

Preparation

To prepare, a few hours of reading and thinking before class helped participants catch up to the latest knowledge and insights. Additionally, answering a few questions helped crystalize one’s thoughts. Finally, in the classroom: rearranging furniture so we are all seated around one big table; then sharing interests and expectations.

Discovery

We quickly moved beyond alarming images showing the climate or biodiversity urgency, air or plastic pollution, and scientific papers explaining the foundations. It was important to put current developments in a proper context – which is the basis of any serious understanding.

We went on a “discovery journey” from the Big Bang (looking into energy, entropy, and life), the evolution of homo sapiens (power of storytelling, oldest remaining human civilizations, agricultural revolution, enlightenment, industrial revolution), economics (concept of GDP, neoclassical, environmental, ecological and other flavors, need for growth, the myth of decoupling, rebound effect), technology (coal, oil, Haber-Bosch, green revolution, absolute and practical limits, technology as master or servant?), finally reaching societal changes (poverty, consumer society, industrial food). Interestingly, most fundamental questions like “What’s the purpose of society” are rarely asked and almost never collectively answered.

Barefoot economics

A useful tool on this journey is Manfred Max-Neef’s “Barefoot economics”, which the author himself condenses in 5 brief yet deeply insightful statements:

  1. The economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy. 
  2. Development is about people and not about objects. 
  3. Growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth. 
  4. No economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services. 
  5. The economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.
BSL post

Process of Personal Transition, John Fisher, 2012

Application to business

Back to the classroom, back to the companies we work for: it was time to apply this broader understanding. After the usual impact, materiality and lifecycle analysis, we tried a novel approach, asking the questions “Why does this product exist at all?” and “Which human needs does it satisfy”, based on Max-Neef’s Fundamental Human Needs model. A lower-impact solution is then sought that satisfies the same needs. This iterative process works best if part of a broader employee and management engagement process, which we also practiced.

Additionally, our guest speaker Mark Posey shared his extensive experience of how this all came together in real life at Schindler. The discussion lasted three hours including lunch, time very well spent.

Throughout this intense course, to keep everyone engaged, we tried to maintain a good rhythm, alternating videos, reports, class discussion, scientific articles, teamwork and presentations, short explanations, and individual reflection.

Ecosystem services experienced first hand

Ecosystem services are benefits humans derive from biodiversity, such as provisioning (food, medicine), regulating (flood protection, climate), cultural (meaning, heritage, relaxation) and supporting (soil formation, nutrient cycling). Every class day, just before sunset, feeling totally exhausted, we went for a 40-min restorative nature walk. As a result, the long evening group assignment went until 21:45, yet we were fully motivated. What better way to experience the value of cultural ecosystem services?

Feeling empowered

If we could somehow combine a deep understanding of the current situation and how we got there, a humanist vision of society based on human thriving over generations, a determination to experiment in different local contexts, a shared success metric based of high human development and minimal environmental impact, and finally inspiration of past cases of mobilization to face big challenges (example: a short BBC video) – we might actually feel empowered to start the transformation.

This is precisely what we did on a tiny scale at BSL.

Sascha_NICK Author: Sascha Nick, BSL Professor

Michel Jordi ignites that spark in the students of BSL on the occasion of their Business Innovation Week!

It was a pleasure to share some exciting times and “aha” moments with the students of BSL on the occasion of their Business Innovation Week this February. Thanks to the invitation of BSL’s Acting Dean, Dr. David Claivaz, and the newly appointed Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Doctoral school, Dr. Dominique Bourqui, I had the opportunity to exchange with the students on their entrepreneurial projects, which they pitched on the last day. As a serial entrepreneur, I was impressed by the creativity, the innovation and the scope of the projects the students presented. During our time together, we worked through the Lucky Clover and the Rainbow Target, the two first stages of my risk filter, to help them determine if their projects are fit for the Rollercoaster of Entrepreneurship. I could definitely see some promising ones!

Each group used these tools constructively to establish their business plan and this process encouraged them to develop their entrepreneurial mindset. It was interesting to challenge them, and see what ideas and revelations came out of putting them virtually in the driver’s seat of this exciting journey, as well as have them implement these tools to their specific needs. Some differences arose depending on whether they had a more personal or professional approach or a more individual one versus a team one. This illustrated the tools’ range in application and how they can be used to respond to the unpredictable nature of entrepreneurship. The students were curious, eager to learn and very interactive, which are key characteristics for success. As my mentor, K. Ueno used to say: “Everyone is my teacher, except myself.”

20190306_195457

In my new entrepreneurial book, “Ignite That Spark – 10 Commandments of Entrepreneurship”, I provide an insight into the world of business in which I share my own “real life experiences” and give a complete 360° view of entrepreneurship in a nutshell. Recognizing that time is precious and we think in images, I deliberately adopted a straight-to-the-point approach. My goal was to keep this book short and simple with memorable illustrations, the size of a notebook. It reads like a fine dining menu at a gourmet temple. You can read it à la carte or go for the full discovery menu with all its delicacies and calories.

But “Ignite that Spark” is not just another entrepreneurial book or a song, it is a message, a philosophy of life to break free and live your passion. The “Lucky Clover” is the kick-off highlighting the first 4 commandments. This is the entry test to have a first personal assessment to find out whether or not you are fit for the Rollercoaster of Entrepreneurship. The “Rainbow Target” is a roadmap to fine-tune your Business Plan. The “10 commandments” are recommendations, essential tips and “Red Flags” of do’s and don’ts. This book is a condensed guide packed with take-home value, which should be on every entrepreneur’s desk to refer to at any time.

20190306_194256

Exclusively for this special occasion, we presented for the first time our brand new “Ride to Success” illustration, which will enhance our upcoming e-book, and the new version of our Ignite That Spark song with its empowering lyrics, available on our YouTube channel. The event came to a close with the students and the professors all up and dancing, which we hope was a clear sign of a sparkling collaboration!

Today, my mission is to dedicate my time to pass on my good and bad experiences to the next generations. Entrepreneurship is indeed like riding a rollercoaster. You have to hang on through the lows to enjoy the highs. And my hope is that through the anecdotes and stories of my personal journey, I helped to show to the students that anything is possible and that I inspired them to break free and live their passion!

www.ignitethatspark.com

Book signing 1Author: Michel Jordi

Innovation course addressing the learning appetite of students, the imperatives for companies and the challenges for megatrends

As I am correcting the post-assignments of the “Internal and External innovation” course, I am reflecting on the nature of innovation that will have to be addressed by us but more importantly by our students over the next decade.

Obviously, the Digital revolution will continue and it is estimated that half of the jobs in this area in 2030 don’t exist today.

Sustainability: the increase of population from 7.5B today to 10B in 2050, with natural resources that will actually reduce in absolute value, will have to be tackled.

Inequality, with a middle class that used to be the cement of democracy, will get poorer and with an aging population that may not afford the cost of medical care.

There are a dozen more critical topics that will equally require a constant curiosity, critical eye, pertinent innovation, and successful execution.

Along with all the courses of BSL, we hope that the innovation best practices and experiments that our students have played with will better equip them to face these challenges. We hope that the creative teamwork they have engaged in the internal and external innovation class will give them the fortitude to discover, to ideate, to try, to iterate and deliver value for the world.

In the meanwhile, our students will certainly deliver value to customers, helping their company to develop and prosper, but also ensuring that this prosperity will bring true value that will not be used to buy and deplete other companies.

To achieve this ambitious vision, we sincerely believe that we have given the participants an appetite for continuous learning, confidence in the creativity they showed during their childhood and the trust in working in teams, as they did in our class, working for instance on a real venture. They helped indeed a young entrepreneur in collecting customer insights, making sense of them and brainstorming on various scenarios. True Design Thinking process applied in real life!

Yves KarcherAuthor: Yves Karcher, BSL Associate Professor

BSL Alumni Mentoring Program – a year after the launch

careers guidance counsellorThe BSL Alumni Mentoring Program has been up and running for a full year, with 20 Alumni and 20 students involved in this pilot project launched by BSL Careers in January 2018. It is time to share with our community some observations and feedback about the program.

To mentor? Or not to mentor? This is the question that many BSL Alumni may have asked themselves after reading the email about my mentoring idea in summer 2017. It’s been nearly one and a half years since and I have spoken to numerous people both in person and over calls on the phone and Skype for interviews, the launch and the feedback gathering. As the designer of the program, it has been a great experience for me to get to know the Alumni, and to connect students with mentors from around the world.

I started gathering feedback from the mentors and the mentees throughout 2018. This data was collected through emails and face-to-face interactions and has enabled me to identify encouraging patterns as well as some areas for improvement. The results varied with many connections working well, with few barely taking off at all. Let’s look at some of the key takeaways from the program.

Positive patterns

The majority of students selected for the program reported that they found the experience to be a great success and enjoyed their first taste of a high-level networking. These students stated that the program offered them a safe space, free from grading and judgement, offering them opportunities to understand more about how professionals think in the different phases of their careers. The discussions concerning careers and professional development were also found to be extremely valuable.

Most of the Alumni mentors enjoyed opportunities to connect and engage in thoughtful conversations with younger, ‘switched on’ students and gained valuable insight on the next generation’s trends and incentives.

A discussion with a particular mentor made me realize that the program could also develop in directions that were not necessarily foreseen during the design phase. A very experienced entrepreneur, who was paired with a Master student, shared his highlight of the program, mentioning that “…at some point, the student and I swapped the mentor-mentee role as we reached such a great level of empathy between us. Something I truly enjoyed!”. I found this statement to be highly encouraging, as both the mentor and mentee indicated that they have continued the mentoring beyond the 10 hours and will meet this coming April in person!

Some experienced Alumni have also expressed their appreciation for the program, being of the opinion that it came at the right time in their careers when they felt a need to give back and help others.

On top of these positive patterns, we managed to bring some of our Alumni back to BSL and enrich our MBA seminars while tightening the connection between current students and Alumni, something which is particularly important when nurturing our community.

Where and how can the program improve?

I have taken into account that many of the Alumni who have a wealth of managerial and work experience have never officially mentored anyone before. Taking this feedback into consideration, I will be preparing future mentors with some practical examples to help guide and inspire them. In doing this I hope to improve the overall experience for both mentors and mentees.

Additionally, I received feedback regarding the impact of imposing mentoring time frames. Some felt that by assigning 10 hours to this process, the program ran the risk of limiting an experience that should develop naturally, without boundaries. This feedback will be implemented into future programs when new mentors will only receive a finite amount of hours to decide whether they will continue mentoring their mentees.

Lastly, many mentors expressed concerns that their mentees seemed to be more interested in accessing their networks than engaging in holistic discussions about their future. As the aim of the mentorship program is to create a space in which mentors can share personal and professional decisions, challenges, dreams and fears, we will be adapting the application process, requiring new applicants to submit a thorough motivation statement.

Alumni Mentoring Program in 2019

If you are a BSL Alumna/Alumnus with 5-7 years of management experience and would like to know more about the BSL Alumni Mentoring Program, please contact me directly at daniele.ticli@bsl-lausanne.ch. I will be happy to walk you through the objectives of the program and share some inspiring stories with you!

Dani-Linkedin-300x300Author: Daniele Ticli, BSL Head of Careers and External Affairs

FIER by Andrea

Fashion, quality and something Italian.

 

In a new interview series by the BSL careers office, we’ve decided to look at what life looks like for our business and entrepreneurial students after studying at Business School Lausanne.

Andrea Sacco is a name you will want to follow closely as this business management student at BSL pushes to reinvent the online fashion experience. We were privileged enough to spend some time talking to him about his latest business venture and what he finds so important about the BSL experience.

andrea sacco fier           source: FIER by Andrea

A little bit about you…

My name is Andrea Sacco, I’m a student at Business School Lausanne and I am the founder of FIER by Andrea an online clothing company specializing in luxury street wear.

How did you get the idea for your business?

The company started with the idea that the [online] fashion world was missing something – quality. I looked at many well-known brands who were offering products which were extremely overpriced when compared with their quality. I realized that I wanted to make a difference within the industry and decided to draw on my own experiences as a child in Italy, where I was always exposed to quality clothing. I loved the idea that you could fall in love with being proud of what you wear and that’s how FIER – French for proud – was born.

What is the key point of difference that your business has?

I believe the fundamental difference between FIER and other online streetwear brands is quality. Quality in every aspect of the fashion experience. Our materials are well researched and carefully sourced and our designs are original with iconic elements remaining throughout the way with Fier.

What has been your greatest triumph and hardest challenge?

I don’t believe I have had a ‘greatest triumph’ yet. I don’t believe that will happen until I am [by my standards] 100% successful. However, what I am proud of is the fact that from the outside, everything looks the way we wanted it to look. We have been able to defend our decisions with suppliers and make them create things in line with our points of view. So I am really proud of where we are with FIER. The organization’s existence, itself, is a triumph for me.

pic andrea sacco 2                       source: FIER by Andrea

How did your studies help prepare you for running your own business?

Studying at BSL was really great for me. The school, the environment, and the professors really helped me to grow and develop as a person. I met amazing people from many different places, which really opened up the world to me. In terms of what I studied preparing me to run a business, there were a few essential courses which really helped me, notably: marketing with Kelly Krentz who is an acclaimed international marketer with a solid track record in portfolio brand strategy, communication development,  Her experience spans regulated (OTC, Beverage), non-regulated (FMCG) and not-for-profit (Community building) industries where she has held both global and regional roles which helped us understand marketing concepts from various avenues. Other classes that truly helped me expand my understanding of business were my accounting and statistics classes.  Finally, the class I felt really broaden my horizons was sustainable business with Dr. Erdal Atukeren, who has an overwhelming amount of experience in all things economics related, including playing a role as a Senior Researcher in Macroeconometric Modelling & Forecasting at the ETH Zürich, Swiss Economic Institute.

Would you recommend BSL to other entrepreneurs and why?

I would most definitely recommend BSL to other aspiring entrepreneurs. Even though I believe the ability to be an entrepreneur extends beyond your schooling, the support I received from my professors and the people I was exposed to here has really helped me.

Tell me a little bit about your lines, especially the one recently released.andrea sacco feir

The latest collection takes a step towards Japanese culture. After a trip to Kyoto, I was inspired by the Bushido and Oni masks. I have created a conglomerated, hybrid version of these two concepts which have been designed and stitched onto 100% Italian, 100% cotton hoodies using over 150000 stitching points. We’re keeping with Eastern-inspired cultural influences in the upcoming masks and will be releasing some exciting lines in the not-too-distant future.

                                                                                                               source: FIER by Andrea

You can find out more about Andrea’s incredible business venture by visiting his online store https://fierbyandrea.com/en/, as we follow the young entrepreneur on his journey to the top.

BSL journal: My amazing experience in China

To top off an already exceptionally rewarding studying experience pursuing my Master’s degree in International Business at BSL, I decided to head to China for one semester as an exchange student at the Renmin University of China in Beijing. I would soon realize that this would be one of the greatest decisions I ever made.

Changing my environment, leaving my comfort zone in Switzerland and moving halfway across the world for 5 months to study in a University of 25,000 students proved to be a unique experience which also turned out to be a very profitable adventure for me. As for my courses themselves, I took 3 classes per week during my 4 months which were similar to the ones in Lausanne. The biggest difference was the environment: Beijing is an impressive sprawling metropolis with 21 million people living together in the heart of the world’s soon-to-be primary economic powerhouse. I understand that everybody will have different experiences in this remarkable country, but I made mine a successful one by getting involved. I gave myself the goal to leave China with more than with what I arrived with.

bsl student china experiencesource: David Adrien Vanni via Techstars Global Startup Weekend Beijing

Thanks to my thesis topic about startups which I completed during my exchange, I have been fortunate enough to find myself involved in the startup world in China. Beijing is one of the most active startup centers in the world. I participated in a 54-hour creative weekend workshop where strangers meet and work together on an innovative idea and pitch it to a panel of professionals by the end of the weekend. My team was awarded 2nd place out of 12. From there, together with two members of my team, we decided to push our idea further and I integrated their startup 3 months later – an educational platform providing consulting and tutoring services to Chinese high-school students willing to enroll in top US and UK universities. I am now the Director of Business Development and a shareholder of a fast-growing startup with revenues in a $2 billion market.bsl student china

source: David Adrien Vanni via Techstars Global Startup Weekend Beijing

Life has so much to offer when you are genuine and committed, so don’t miss out and go the extra mile, it’s beautiful out there.

Author: David Adrien Vanni, BSL MIB Alumnus