Tag: mba

Megan Berry, MBA ’15, is the founder and CEO of by REVEAL, a turnkey pop-up retail platform. More about her company in a bit.

Olin tapped Berry to speak at our Leadership Perspectives event last week, “Start Me Up: Venture Capital and Transforming Traditional Industries.” She and Doug Villhard, professor and Olin’s academic director for entrepreneurship, talked about the entrepreneurship process, the ins and outs of venture capital investing, and digital transformation’s place for many sectors of business.

As a student, Berry came to WashU to earn her master’s degree in architecture. She did that—and more. “I’m the first person in my family to go to college, so it was super exciting,” Berry said.

Often, she would read bios of people she admired, and she realized everyone she aspired to be like had an MBA. “So, in my first semester, I kind of marched up to Olin” from WashU’s Sam Fox School to learn more. She met with Evan Bouffides, director of MBA admissions, and he steered her to the entrepreneurship program. She enrolled the next semester.

What attracted her to architecture? “For me, it was really about creating something that was physical in the real world. How can I create something that’ll last, and how can I create something I can touch and feel?”

What attracted her to business? “I quickly realized that there was a lot more than actual physical, tactile—you know—materials that went into it. If you really wanted to make an impact and actually build something, you really needed to understand the business side of it.”

She also learned she wanted to work in a fast-paced environment. “And I wanted to be in an environment where I had resources at my fingertips.” At Olin, she had resources. She was surrounded by people and a support system that gave her the opportunity to test an idea that would evolve into her business today.

“I could launch and then iterate and fail, and I had that safety net that was able to say: ‘Just go try. Go learn. What’s the worst that could happen?’”

Paid in pizza

Berry and a band of friends (whom she promised to pay in pizza) beta-tested her idea for a business. She had found a small piece of land by a fountain in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood, and she tracked down the owner. He agreed to let her borrow it for her experiment. There, she set up a pop-up shop to sell headbands, purses, belts and other things women in the Midwest made.

“Within an hour, we had paying customers,” she said. “You can’t get lucky if you don’t try.”

Berry’s company, based in Brooklyn, New York, was built to give emerging designers and established brands access to consumers in-person. The company’s trained concierges operate “reveals” in unusual locations for limited times. The aim is to make it easier for consumers to find products they love and easier for designers to be in retail. Overall, by REVEAL provides brands, developers and technology companies a full-service solution to test markets, build awareness, generate sales and capture consumer data with live retail experiences.

Berry has worked for dozens of brands in 15 US cities on custom pop-ups in spaces ranging from 36 square feet to 10,000, including sidewalks, hotel lobbies, corporate lobbies, festivals, universities, malls, parks and public plazas.

Villhard: “So you got this business going. It’s wonderful. Brands are learning a ton. I’m sure you’re having fun, too, hiring people, growing people. The pandemic hits. What happens?”

Berry and Villhard

Berry: “It was brutal. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much my entire life.”

The pandemic threatened to unwind everything she’d built. Customers were canceling contracts. She had to let employees go.

“It was horrible,” Berry said. “But one of the most important things of being an entrepreneur is that you constantly need to balance what you want to do versus what’s best for the livelihood of the company. And it was extremely, extremely difficult.”

Berry has friends who kept on many of their employees for as long as possible thinking the worst would be over in two weeks, or maybe two months. But Berry? She said she was “ruthless.” She buckled down and asked herself what she needed to do if she didn’t have revenue for the next 12 months.

“People thought it was crazy.” They told her to go home and watch some Netflix for a couple of weeks then come back.

“I cut every single line item I could. And now, you know, 18 months later I’m grateful that I did that, but it was not fun. … You need to manage your budget like crazy. Money does not count unless it’s in the bank. When you’re a tiny company, a contract is very wonderful.

But if your client is bigger than you and has more expensive lawyers than you, then it doesn’t mean anything unless the money is in the bank.”

After she had “used up all of the Kleenexes in the entire island of Manhatten,” Berry started her company’s daunting shift to e-commerce. “People didn’t want to do anything that was focused on the physical world.”

But Berry didn’t know anything about e-commerce. “I’m not a developer. I’m not an engineer.”

Friends told her she had better learn.

The pivot

By REVEAL now partners with a firm in the Bay Area and offers e-commerce services as well as physical retail services. “It was a very, very scary pivot,” Berry said. “Delegating is something I’ve always struggled with, but with e-commerce I was forced to delegate because I do not know how to code.” To get dollars coming in, she had to focus on a digital strategy.

The company now adapts to the same patterns that retailers and brands are going through as the pandemic continues.

“It’s like a lever,” Berry said. “We are physical, or we are digital, or we are in the middle.”

Meanwhile, consumers want products when and where they want them. “From a consumer standpoint, there is no difference between the physical and the digital. It’s about convenience.”

Berry said the shift was “a great reset where brands basically had to drop and become as lean as possible. And now brands are scaling up with a tremendously enhanced skill set that covers both the physical and the digital.”

The physical retail environment, however, never will be fully replaced, she said, “because we’re human beings. We like engaging with people. We like engaging all of our senses. We like to touch things and smell things and be in new environments.”

Watch the event here.




Part of a series about summer internships from Olin MBA ’20 students. Today we hear from Nathan Boerneke, who worked as a business management intern for the National Park Service.

I had an opportunity this summer to spend my time assisting and learning within an organization I have always been passionate about: the National Park Service.

The business plan internship is a consulting internship focused on solving complex problems while navigating the nuances of a mission-driven service. I was teamed with a fellow intern to create a strategic plan for Buffalo National River in Northern Arkansas.

I prepared for the interview through case prep practice and speaking with former interns from various MBA programs. Most importantly, I clearly understood how I aligned with the mission of the park service, which allowed me to communicate my passion for the role.

Olin prepared me with the skills to provide immediate value to the park. I continually fell back on my education to address challenges in a formulaic manner. Additionally, my project with the Center for Experiential Learning was a fantastic precursor to assist in managing executive communication.

The internship was a great opportunity to apply the skills I am learning in the classroom and from my peers. It renewed my excitement to take advantage of every opportunity available at Olin as I enter my final year. 

A day in the life

I started every day by waking up in a national park. My co-consultant and I drove the 5 miles of dirt road out of the park and commuted to headquarters located in the big city of Harrison (population 13,000). The morning typically consisted of data analysis regarding visitor information, financials, and various other park specific data pools.

The afternoon entailed driving around the park to interview staff and see how areas of the 135-mile-long river way are utilized. After leaving the office, I typically spent my time further appreciating the Buffalo River by either canoeing, fishing or hiking around the park into the late evening.

The National Park Service internship left me with two primary takeaways.

First, understanding the mission of an organization is critical to provide value and ensure professional growth.

Second, the knowledge and skills taught at Olin are translatable to nearly any opportunity.




Part of a series of Q&As with Olin alumni. Today we hear from Ellen He. Ellen completed her master of science in supply chain management in 2014 before earning her MBA in 2016.  She now lives in New York where she works at Deloitte & Touche LLP.

What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?

I’m currently working at Deloitte & Touche LLP New York City Office serving financial services industry. I’m a Financial and Risk Advisory Consultant under the regulatory and operations umbrella serving client needs in Finance, Operations, and Compliance area.

Olin education impacted me in numerous ways. I actually learned of the Deloitte opportunity via a 2008 Olin MBA Graduate. Academically, the organizational change and communication lessons were used in day to day work.

What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?

Professor Sergio Chayet has always been my mentor since I joined Olin as an MS supply chain management student. His advice regarding choices with my Practicum Consulting projects at that time, and later advised me to take the opportunity and join Olin MBA Class of 2016, no single word can express how I appreciate Sergio’s class style and his mentorship to me.

Additionally, Dean Kurt Dirks’s Corporate Strategy class also left deep impression on me. Via different angels from peers and also from movies such as “Twelve Angry Men” I started to look into the huge impact corporate strategy has towards firm growth for different industries. Corporate strategy has been an area I really want to invest more time in and hope to continuously pursue at my career.

How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?

I have attended Olin MBA Admission activity with Associate Director in the Graduate Admission office Ashley Lautzenheiser in New York City 2016. I have also met with Molly Mulligan from Wash U Alumni and Development a couple times when she travelled to New York City. The most recent face to face lunch meeting with Molly I also got to meet the Associate Dean and Director for Western Career Center Jen Whitten and was glad to learn of some changes that Western Career Center is embracing now.

Why is an MBA important?

To me it is not so much about different Business areas that I got to know via the MBA program, because I triple majored in Accounting, Finance and Supply Chain when I attended Kelley School of Business, Indiana University Bloomington for undergrad. However, the most important value the Olin MBA program brought to me was via different practicum projects, CEL projects, the amazing professors, and all the wonderful classmates that you can form a relationship. I got to touch real life consulting projects for both Fortune 500 companies and local non profit organizations; I got to be impacted by rich experienced professors’ thinking process; I formed relationships that can last lifelong.

Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?

I would say definitely try new things, including new areas that you were not familiar with prior to MBA, new friends with diverse backgrounds and/or ethnicity, and organize new events. Besides the academics, I personally involved in many things that Olin had to offer: President of Olin Women in Business, 2015-2016; Co-president of Supply Chain and Operations Association, term 2015-2016; MC for Chinese New Year Gala; XMBA Case Competition 2015 (Olin Team got 2nd Place). I was also Chair for the Olin Follies in April 2014 which demonstrated a fun and conclusive event for the year to Olin faculty and students with 300 attendees. Those events and roles completed me more as a person and set me ready for professional growth in the future.




Maxine Clark, founder of St. Louis-based Build-A-Bear Workshop, kicked off the semester’s first Women & Leadership class with a story of her childhood. This is a selection of my three takeaways from her talk.

It’s OK to make mistakes

Clark explained that her first-grade teacher, Mrs. Grace, was responsible for imparting a lesson Maxine has carried with her throughout her life: “Learn from your mistakes.” Every Friday, Mrs. Grace would hand out a red pencil to the student that made the most mistakes that week. Maxine Clark noted the uniqueness that for once it wasn’t the brightest or quickest student that was rewarded, but one that had made mistakes.

Taking this lesson forward, Clark was pleased to see that the retail industry also embraced mistakes. At her very first job in the executive training program at the May Company, she had the responsibility of marking down prices with a very similar red pencil. She thought, “Wow, I’m made for this job!”

As a student, whose value is measured often by test scores and grades, it’s refreshing to remember that making mistakes leads to growth. Looking around the classroom, I saw many young women also relieved by the idea that mistakes can lead to success. Clark’s words came at an important time as many of us are soon graduating and starting a new life chapter.

Know what you don’t know

Clark proudly admits, “One of my strengths is I know what I don’t know.” This acknowledgment helped her snag one an incredible promotion. As a new employee for the May Company, she was tasked with the job of traveling to Asia to pick out products for all of the May Company stores. Maxine knew immediately that she didn’t know what the other stores would need.

Without the support of her supervisor, she had to take it upon herself to travel to the Pittsburgh store to see their assortment. There, she ran into David Farrell, who would soon become the CEO. Impressed with her initiative, he continued a professional relationship, eventually promoting Clark to chief of staff. Knowing what she didn’t know both allowed her to prove self-initiative and feel comfortable asking for help.

Enjoy the journey

Clark emanates passion. With exuberance, she described every project she was involved in. She ascribes much of her success to her passion and her ability to “enjoy the journey.” Starting with Build-A-Bear, she felt that she could pour all of her energy into the company’s success and growth because she felt so passionate. Today, she invests her energy in projects surround education, women in business, and the St. Louis community.

Pictured above: Maxine Clark, founder of the Build-A-Bear Workshop, speaking in 2013 during Olin Business School’s Defining Moments lecture series. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.




Zoe Hillenmeyer at Women

Olin Women in Business was thrilled to join the admissions team in hosting a Women’s Weekend in January. The two-day program invited prospective MBA women to visit Olin and learn about the MBA program, student life, and St. Louis opportunities.  (more…)