Cleansing the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Hi Everyone!

My name is Stephanie Appiah, and I’m proud to be a member of the Mason MBA Class of 2014 … er … 2015, actually. You see, I’m a JD/MBA, so I’m getting a law degree and a business degree at the same time. Why, you ask? Well obviously because I love school, right? Actually, no.  Some of it is because of the amazing people that I have met here, teammates, classmates, colleagues, and professors who want to learn as much as they want to teach.

I am SO afraid of heights, water, canoes, boats, trees, basically all of nature. But our team building exercise asked for each person to stretch themselves, and make a move outside of their comfort zone. So I did. I climbed trees (so high up!), and jumped down. I hung onto teammates on a tight rope, swung across Lake Matoaka on a zipline, and got down and dirty helping team members get down from a tree.

While William and Mary is a great school, I chose this program for practical and idealistic reasons. You see, I’m an entrepreneur. I’m part of a start-up company called SoapBox Soaps, which distributes all natural and organic soap. For every bar we sell, we donate a bar to a child in need, anywhere in the world. It was a venture that I joined by accident, looking to make new friends during the Teach for America program, where I ran into David Simnick, one of the SoapBox Soaps co-founders. He persuaded me to add my writing and editing talents to the first iteration of a blog, and the preliminary language for a website.

For those of you who don’t know, start-ups run in cycles. There is this frantic phase at the beginning where everyone is scared of failure, but really innovating and considering this vision as some kind of prophetic pathway for life. Then a few months later, everyone has kind of stalled on the idea, but can be sparked by competition, exposure to investment, or some kind of turning point. For us, that was entry into Whole Foods Market stores. We went from being an online soap company, to being on the shelves of 42 Whole Foods Market Stores. Then, a few months later, we were featured in PeopleStyle Watch magazine, which affirmed our confidence — we were on to something! For two years, we worked for free, but for ourselves. We took on interns — an amazing group of college students, post grads, and young adults. We launched attack strategies for social media and business to business sales.  Now, we’re looking at the big leagues: nationwide distribution of our all natural stores in selected retailers, helping over 10,000 kids a year, and possibly making a profit. All the while, I’ve been able to side step long term unemployment by enrolling in a joint degree program.

I’m pretty stoked about this program. This year is my second year, and it’s all MBA, all the time. I love LOVE my classes; who would have thought that I would look forward to weekly homework assignments (yes, this is patent sarcasm). But the classes are interesting, and I’m highly anticipating the time when I can fully execute the hard skills required to manipulate Excel and Access. Then there are all of the practical implications of a business program: being able to read a balance sheet, understanding the key principles of data analysis, achieving maximum communication efficiency, and mastering the tenets of ethical thought and feeling. It’s looking like a wild ride, and I’m honored to be a part of such a talented, intelligent, passionate, dedicated group of people.

For quick bits about SoapBox Soaps:

 

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Stephanie Appiah

Stephanie Appiah is a JD/MBA candidate at the College of William and Mary.

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