During my MBA, I met hundreds of professionals, both from the corporate sector and those pursing more atypical paths. A few themes stood out to me.
The first was that everyone I met, regardless of age or industry, emphasized the importance of loving your work to achieve career and personal success.
The second was that the entrepreneurs I met were incredibly driven and passionate. The third was that those I met who worked in mission-driven organizations exhibited a deep satisfaction from their work.
Four years after finishing my MBA, I’ve found myself following a path less travelled – as an entrepreneur and working in the non-profit sector, and I couldn’t be happier with this path.
Business school introduces students to a broad set of functional areas of business like accounting, marketing, logistics and human resources. When you start a business, you need to not only understand all of these areas, but you need to execute them all as well.
My entrepreneurial path began in 2007. Noticing a demand from student groups for branded apparel, I launched Flyprint and sought out suppliers and partners to make clothing to service this demand. We launched DeGroote’s first ever line of branded apparel and today work with the DeGroote Commerce Society and DeGroote MBA Association to ensure DeGroote’s students are proud brand ambassadors. We now serve hundreds of clients with custom apparel, promotional products, printed materials, and branding and marketing services.
As an entrepreneur, late nights, doing grunt work, dealing with partners who drop the ball, and many other challenges are the norm. However, the satisfaction of happy clients, making your own hours and choices, and creating an organization from scratch are incomparable.
The idea of working for a non-profit often doesn’t occur to business students. However, non-profits, whether universities, hospitals, or social services, have administrative needs that are a perfect match for business graduates, and offer a chance to work in organizations focused on making a difference in society. In fact, Canada’s non-profit sector is a major economic driver, with over $100 billion in economic activity annually.
As the Director of Commercial Activities at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, I oversee areas like private and corporate event services, retail stores, a film festival, gala events, a young professional collective, and commercial art sales. Being less common in the art museum world, my MBA background has been valued and appreciated for the fresh perspective it brings to the organization.
I’ve written this article to speak to those who are, or are considering, taking a path less travelled. It can be daunting, there are a lot fewer markers along the way, and you may need to blaze your own trail. However, the satisfaction of bringing your own vision to reality or working on society’s most pressing needs can be incredibly rewarding. In the words of Jim Rohn, “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”
Mark Stewart is the President of the McMaster Alumni Association, Director of Commercial Activities at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, and President of Flyprint. He completed his MBA at the DeGroote School of Business from 2007 to 2009.