Tag: CEO

Diana Zeng, BSBA ’14, thought she would explore St. Louis during her four year degree and then head back to Boston. The first didn’t happen. And luckily, neither did the second.

After moving to the United States and growing up near Chicago, New York, and Boston, Diana was looking forward to getting to know St. Louis while studying business and art at Washinton University. Quickly though, she became immersed in campus life and rarely explored the city.

Founding member and CEO of Full Circle - Diana Zeng

Founding member and CEO of Full Circle – Diana Zeng

“The campus bubble is simultaneously lovely and enclosed. There are endless organizations to get involved in, so without a channel to explore St. Louis, it can be easy to forget that an entire bustling city exists outside of WashU’s campus. When I did manage a rare glimpse, I was charmed by the character of the city.  After a summer internship in St. Louis through the Skandalaris Center, I was introduced to the entrepreneurial energy and incredible people making an impact here. I didn’t just want to get to know the city anymore, I now wanted to be a part of it!”

Post-graduation, Diana transitioned from working at a tech startup to leading a nonprofit start-up called Full Circle. The organization’s mission is to connect young talent to St. Louis and build a more economically vibrant and inclusive city in the process. She is the founding Executive Director but gives credit to her team and numerous community leaders for believing in this larger economic development effort to make St. Louis a hub for young talent.

“Our founding team consists of WashU, Saint Louis University and Illinois College alums from four countries – the United States, United Kingdom, Indonesia, and China. In a lot of ways, we represent the potential that can be captured here. There are many missed opportunities when we don’t connect young talent coming from all over the world to this city and its people. Through Full Circle, we can offer young people a channel to explore St. Louis and a community of peers to be energized by. Additionally for students, getting to know people in their mid-twenties shows them what making a life in St. Louis could be like.”

Modeled after successful efforts in Philadelphia and Baltimore (which has increased student retention from 29% to 51% in the past decade), Full Circle aims to uniquely highlight St. Louis. Their programs and events introduce young talent to professional, social, and civic opportunities in the city while putting a fun and funky twist on networking to help form genuine relationships.

beef+and+a+toast+-+with+love+from+stlFor example, CITYTREK focuses on exploring local events and hidden gems in the city while Beef And A Toast, held in partnership with Venture Cafe, focuses on discussing “beef” (issues) within St. Louis and toasting to being part of the solution.

Student interest from Washington University, Saint Louis University, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, and University of Missouri – St. Louis has also encouraged Full Circle to roll out a campus ambassador program for all of the regional colleges and universities.

“Recently, a WashU sophomore emailed me stating, ‘Full Circle is an organization that I have been trying to find to get involved in.’  That meant the world to us!  The economic benefits are substantial but hearing from an individual about how much we matter to them, that moves us to keep going. I love St. Louis and am proud to call it home, so being able to connect people through Full Circle is extremely fulfilling. Investing in people becomes a direct investment in St. Louis as well.”

If you want to get in touch with Diana to learn more, or support Full Circle, you can reach her at diana@fullcirclehq.org.

Written by guest blogger, KC Friedrich, Senior Associate Director for Development, Olin Business School.

The transition from MBA to CEO of his own company was Ken Mao’s plan two years ago when he entered Olin Business School. He just wasn’t sure what that company would be. As a runner and Cross Fit coach, it’s not surprising that Ken, MBA’16, likes to eat healthy food. He also likes to cook and discovered that he could turn his passion for healthy cuisine into a business when he started making meals for fellow b-school students and hungry entrepreneurs working in St. Louis startup incubators and co-working spaces.

Originally called, Mao’s Chow, Ken’s business has evolved over the past two years. With a new business plan and new company name, he graduated in May and began his own evolution from MBA to CEO of his startup, FUL Foods, LLC, a subscription-based meal delivery service for corporate health and wellness initiatives.

Ken’s target clientele in St. Louis includes: Administrative staff at medical centers such as BJC and SSM; and CrossFit and other Fitness Communities. Ken is profiled in Poets & Quants’ “2016 MBAs to Watch” online feature. Here are some excerpts from the Q&A:

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The highlight of business school was tying for first place in the final pitch competition for the Hatchery Course. It was a culmination of everything I had learned about entrepreneurship from school, from my relationships with mentors and peers in the St. Louis community, and from my own startup experience. I’m proud of the recognition for all the hard work I put into realizing my own idea and having the support of both my peers and mentors.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Olin because of its academic reputation and strong ties to the St. Louis startup community. I knew I wanted to start my own company and have always been an experiential learner. In addition to getting a first class education, I knew I would have the opportunity to work side by side with peers and mentors in a city with a vibrant and growing entrepreneurship presence. I also liked the idea of being able to meet and know all my peers (both the graduating and incoming classes), an opportunity that would be otherwise difficult at much larger business schools.

What did you enjoy most about business school? One of the main reasons for selecting Olin was its relatively small entering class size. As such, the highlight of business school was having the actual opportunity to build a strong social and professional relationship with peers. Getting honest, quality feedback about my capabilities and my business ideas from a well-educated, diverse group of peers has been invaluable in my personal development.

Link to complete profile.

This 31-year-old CEO knows the ups and downs of business and has some important startup tips to share from his experience. Jeff Platt, BSBA’06, helped his family business, Sky Zone, pivot and succeed as a chain of indoor trampoline parks. Jeff told Olin Business Magazine in 2012 that one of the important lessons he learned from Olin’s Intro to Entrepreneurship course is it’s important to keep bouncing ideas off your mentors. Here are some startup tips Jeff has learned from running Sky Zone from a recent interview on CNBC.

Trust your team
“I learned over time that if you’re ever really going to truly scale or grow a business, you must delegate to your team, you must empower your team, you must let them make decisions,” Platt said.

Pay now or pay later
“Who you need for the next six months is very different from who you need in two years.” Platt suggests start-ups pay more for talent in the beginning, even though that’s expensive. “The cost of hiring someone right now, training them, and then in six or 12 months later having to get rid of them because they can’t scale, that’s way more costly.”

Know your customer
As Sky Zone has expanded outside the United States, it’s learned to tailor parks to meet cultural norms. In Saudi Arabia, for example, some Sky Zones segregate jumping areas between “men” and “families.” In Australia, they’ve created performance trampolines where customers can run up a wall. “They’re an ‘extreme’ culture,” said Platt of the Aussies. “They’re extremely athletic.” Up next? “We’re actually under construction now in India.”

Link to story on CNBC

Jerry Kent, BSBA’78, MBA’79, has been named CEO of TierPoint, a subsidiary of Cequel Data Centers. TierPoint operates 13 data centers across eight states.  Kent is also CEO of Cequel III, the telecommunications management firm he co-founded in January 2002.

The St. Louis Business Journal reports that Kent will remain chairman and CEO of cable company Suddenlink until the sale of the company for $9.1 billion to European telecom company Altice closes later this year.

July 28, 2015 update: Kent buys Florida Data Centers