My professional education did not come to a close following the pomp and circumstance of our springtime graduation. Some people have photographic memories; others can absorb knowledge from listening alone. For me, learning has always been action-based. As an MBA student, courses like managerial accounting, marketing strategy, corporate finance, private equity, and business ethics gave me an awareness of the business topics I would encounter along my entrepreneurial path. However, it was not until I put the knowledge I had acquired to practice that I understood the depth and finer detail of each area of study. Applying the practices I learned in the lecture halls and discussion groups to my daily life in the business world has allowed me to begin to fully comprehend and appreciate the depth and detail of each area of study.
My company, Materialmix.com, is developing a disruptive technology that commoditizes the trade of industrial byproducts within the current waste collection industry to help waste and recycling professionals reduce operating expenses, recover investment on inventory, and monetize the trade of their recyclables with a web-based, customer-regulated exchange platform.
After careful consideration, I went “all-in” about 3 months following graduation. This meant moving the home office to downtown, saying goodbye to any mirage of a social life, and welcoming a new chapter filled with 5-am conference calls, 80-hour work weeks, and a very frugal budget.
In starting a business; workdays are long, stressful, fast-paced, and always seem to end too soon. There are no safety nets, guarantees, or sure bets. However, it is extremely encouraging to know that a key group of mentors and advisors I have met along my path will always be willing to give advice, share their experience, or just lend a word of encouragement. During my time as a graduate student, the Saint Louis University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Washington University’s Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurship allowed me the opportunity to test and refine my business hypothesis. Post-graduation, mentorship from incubators like Capital Innovators, Arch Grants, and Clean Tech Open have helped me expand my professional network and learn from other experienced business people in my field. In St. Louis, we are also incredibly fortunate to have dedicated business mentorship groups like Innovate Venture Mentoring Service (Innovate VMS) and the Information Technology Entrepreneurship Network (ITEN) for early stage start-up mentorship.
At the end of even the longest work-day, I still go to bed excited to meet and overcome the challenges that are waiting for me in the morning. My favorite part of being an entrepreneur is continuing to learn and grow by constantly challenging my knowledge and limits. I feel incredibly fortunate to work at a job I love, and for a cause I believe in.