Deanna Siller (EMBA’16) has known for a long time that she has the right personality for starting a business. “I’ve always been interested in going out on my own,” she said.
This August, Siller became part of a trend of Georgetown McDonough’s Executive MBA program’s graduates who use their degree to go into entrepreneurship. She and her business partner, Brian Cummings, launched the Strategy + Design Shop, a boutique agency specializing in innovative design, change management, and brand strategy.
According to Elie Farhat, associate dean and chief admissions officer, about a third of the program’s graduates will go on to start their own businesses. The curriculum includes a 12-hour preparatory course that provides a complete overview of the entrepreneurial process, followed by a week-long residency. Students during the residency choose to work on adding functionality to an existing product or developing their own idea, then pitch their ideas to investors at the end.
Farhat noted that that the majority of startups fail because they do not engage with customers to gauge the market for their product. The Georgetown EMBA program’s courses encourage students to be “customer-needs driven” in response to this.
Siller’s EMBA degree has helped her see the larger picture behind business strategies. “I don’t see it as how it prepared me. I see it as how it shaped me as a thinker and as a doer,” she said. She added that the degree helps “elevate conversations with C-level officers,” allowing her to tailor her proposals by giving her a sense of upper managers’ perspective on business decisions.
The personal connections formed at Georgetown also are important for entrepreneurship. Siller said that having strong relationships with classmates and professors who you can turn to for partners and clients can give a startup a strong foundation.
“Everything in life is about people,” she said. “Georgetown plays a critical role in that as well.”
Other notable EMBA graduates and students in entrepreneurship include Margarita Womack (EMBA’19), owner of Al Sur Latin Kitchen; Tracy Pilone (EMBA’20), president and co-founder of Element 84; Sarah Gordon (EMBA’20), CEO of Gordy’s Pickle Jar; Cady North (EMBA’15), founder and CEO of North Financial Advisors; and Teresa Goody (EMBA’15), founder and CEO of The Goody Group.
Entrepreneurship is not the most common career path after the EMBA program, but according to Farhat, everything taught in the curriculum can be put to use in founding a new venture. For Siller, the degree was an important foundation for her career after Georgetown. “The MBA is just the start of the conversation. [Going forward] Georgetown is going to play a role in my life and in my business.”