How an Online MBA Allowed Me to Start My Own Business in Business School | TopMBA.com

How an Online MBA Allowed Me to Start My Own Business in Business School

By Linda M

Updated June 3, 2021 Updated June 3, 2021

Here's how the format and flexibility of an online MBA helped this entrepreneur start her own business venture.

An MBA is an ideal degree for aspiring entrepreneurs. Not only does it equip students with the skills necessary to build a successful idea from the ground up, it also provides them with a network of like-minded business professionals who will make potential partners or clients.

Nevertheless, the demanding nature of a full-time MBA might not suit those who are looking to kick-start their business early on in their career.

TopMBA caught up with Wren Loucks, UCL School of Management graduate and Founder and CEO of the interior design agency Be-kin, to find out how the format of an online MBA helped her build her venture during her degree.

Investing in useful knowledge

Before her MBA, Wren studied Fine Art & Art History at Queen’s University in Canada. After that she worked as Head of Design at Motionshop, an accessible design consultancy, and completed a post-graduate diploma in Architectural Interior Design at the Inchbald School of Design in London, UK.

However, she was always determined to start her own business, and knew that going to business school would be a fast-track path to achieving her goal.

She said: “I knew that, at some stage in my life, I wanted to start my own design agency, and enrolling in an MBA programme seemed to be an investment that allowed me to relatively quickly secure the high level of knowledge that would enable me to do so. I had accumulated a lot of experience in the interior design sector working at various different design firms, but wanted education and qualifications in the skills necessary to found and run my own business.”

For this reason, Wren opted for an online MBA, as the course’s digital format and diverse approach to learning suited her personal and professional needs better.

She said: “An online MBA appealed to me as it meant that, on top of my commute to my job at the time, I didn’t have to commute to my school as well. Additionally, it meant I would have a truly international group of peers that I was studying alongside at the same time.

“The flexibility of the programme was also very appealing, as it meant I could take what I was learning and immediately incorporate it into my work, instead of taking an entire year off to do an in-person MBA and putting my work on hold.”

In terms of school, Wren ultimately chose UCL School of Management because its culture reflected her own passion and business ideals.

She said: “I am naturally attracted to things that are disruptive and different, so I was immediately drawn to the innovative nature of the UCL programme, in terms of its flexibility, its focus on data-driven program structures, and its emphasis on building relationship across the virtual classrooms. I particularly liked the fact that the class sizes were capped, so that I had a more intimate relationship with my peers and teachers. I felt that this was important for my individual style of learning.”

Starting her venture

Despite her background in the art and design world, Wren also has experience in mental health advocacy – something she wanted to incorporate in her business.

In fact, Be-kin focuses on “design for well-being", drafting projects that are personalised to each client’s specific needs in a holistic way.

Wren said: “I have a background in mental health advocacy, for which I was awarded an Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers in 2009, so I have been interested in discussions around the importance of well-being for a large part of my life. Be-kin arose as an extension of my passion in this area and the idea that good design can be an investment in your well-being, manifestly as a way of braiding together the art of contemporary interior design with the sciences of accessibility and wellness.”

Wren says the structure of the online MBA, as well as the knowledge she progressively built on the programme, allowed her to start the business confidently and earlier than she had expected.

She said: “I launched the business in January 2021, just one year into my studies at the UCL School of Management. I found the advice and mentorship of my MBA professors immeasurably helpful, as I was able to ask the kinds of questions that many founders don’t ask until much later on in the process.  Although studying for an MBA and launching a business at the same time presented me with its own challenges, having access to the expertise and considerable business experience of the academics at the School of Management has been invaluable.

“I already had ambitions to launch my own design firm for some time before beginning my MBA studies, but the teaching on the course and the advice of the professors encouraged me to fast-track my plans as I felt better able to meet the demands of starting one’s own business. The flexibility of the Online MBA has been instrumental in allowing me the time to work on my business at the same time. I am still studying at UCL as I take on more clients and projects and grow my business, so the part-time approach is definitely helpful.”

And there’s more: thanks to the connections made on the programme, Wren has also been able to develop a valuable business network of new clients.

She said: “I have also inadvertently secured a small base of clients who have recently studied MBAs themselves. They are all highly motivated, ambitious people who are engaged in the idea of creating a space for themselves, in their homes and in their home offices, that sustains them and improves their performance. This ranges from ensuring their office furniture is ergonomic to working with them to unpick their sensory profile, so that their home and work environments can be aligned to their acoustic and light preferences, boosting their well-being metrics.”

more physical future

While her business is currently based online, Wren hopes to eventually be able to shift to in-person practices – a goal she is confident she’ll be able to handle thanks to the learnings acquired through her online MBA.

She said: “When the time is right, I would love to have a larger physical home for be-kin, where designers and clients can come to experiment and play with design. Collaboration is incredibly important to me, and something I really value, so creating a space for creatives to come together and inspire one another is a goal of mine that I would love to one day see realised.

“Although I had experience in delivering design projects beforehand, the MBA helped me to develop the technical business skills that are key for managers such as accounting and finance, data analytics, and management techniques. Being taught these skills not only provided me a deep-dive into business, but also equipped me with the structural models and concepts that help business leaders to work through the problems that arise in day-to-day business.”

This article was originally published in June 2021 .

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Written by

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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