MBA Grads Pursuing the Entrepreneurial Path

Ignoring the legendary success of dropouts like Richard Branson, local entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground with the help of an MBA.

Jordan Cash, founder of Cartems Donuterie, credits his MBA from UBC with helping his business get off the ground.

Ignoring the legendary success of dropouts like Richard Branson, local entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground with the help of an MBA.

The story of an MBA graduate who lands a great gig in the corporate world is fine and well, but rarely makes for a great yarn. We read in magazines about the grads that take entrepreneurial paths and make it really big, but the admirable tale of the pioneering MBA who launches one of the unique small companies that make up 98 per cent of B.C.’s business scene is one not told often enough.

Jordan Cash, a 2010 graduate of UBC’s Sauder School of Business MBA program, credits the education with his decision to launch Cartems Donuterie, a gourmet doughnut shop with Commercial Drive and Gastown locations in Vancouver. Cash says he was “mulling over a real job” when he recalled a dream he had one night, years before completing his MBA, in which he owned a doughnut shop. Thanks to his MBA, that dream became a reality. “The chance of me doing this without an MBA is about five per cent,” says the Ontario native.

Cash’s business plan centres on cornering the doughnut-eating market that’s fed up with previously frozen ones being served by his larger competitors. He uses only fresh ingredients – organic and local, whenever possible – to craft both classic and unique flavours. (Think: Earl Grey, carrot cake and matcha green tea varieties.)

As Cash explains, it was his decision to attend a B.C. school for his MBA that cemented his confidence in going out on his own. He thought about attending the University of Toronto, “but schools out here really know how to support small business,” says Cash, adding that he finds the atmosphere in Ontario’s business schools to be more finance-driven and incredibly competitive.

Cash’s belief that B.C.’s business schools provide the best tools for self-starters is seconded by Jenny Chavarri. Also a graduate of UBC’s MBA program, Chavarri is founder of Boské Kids, a high-quality and all-natural baby and children’s clothing collection. For her, access to an established network has been an invaluable result of choosing a B.C. school. “You only have limited cash flow, so you need to know where to get information that you don’t have,” says Chavarri. “At UBC that meant not just exposure to case studies, but to a network of people who can teach you how to make your money work harder.”

Chavarri, who completed her MBA in 2008, had focused on strategic management and marketing. Her background was in medium-sized B.C. firms in business development and corporate sales, and she planned to use the MBA to return to the corporate world of management consulting. But her priorities changed when she got pregnant. Fashion had always been at the back of her mind, so during a trip to Peru, her husband’s home country, Chavarri began to source materials to build a nature-based children’s clothing collection. She’s now creating her third season of the line, which sells in high-end boutiques in B.C. and Ontario, as well as online.

“As an entrepreneur, you need to roll up your sleeves and get into every area of your business,” says Chavarri, explaining that the MBA gave her insight into her business as a whole, and as a result she expects that her fledgling company will become profitable this year.

For Cash, the MBA began paying off the moment he made the commitment to launch Cartems: “I just don’t think I’d have pushed this far if I’d gone to a school back east.”