MBA Mama Back @ StartingBloc — in New York

StartingBloc New York — Photo Credit: Gina Uppal

Six months ago, I was admitted to StartingBloc’s Social Innovation Institute in Los Angeles. This weekend, I returned to SB as a volunteer at their New York Institute which was hosted at the Centre for Social Innovation, a beautiful co-working space in Chelsea. I arrived on Friday with Nyah in tow. The energy in the room was contagious.

The Social Innovation Fellows were wrapping up lunch and preparing to present their 60 second pitches as part of SB’s famed “Ideas Marketplace.” As I watched 100 brave souls make their pitches, I was taken back to that fateful day 6 months ago when I pitched MBA Mama in the “Ideas Marketplace” at SB’s LA Institute. After being upvoted, the winners of the pitch competition are gifted with the opportunity to have their company be the subject of the Social Innovative Scrimmage. Facilitated by reWork, the Social Innovation Scrimmage is an intense hours-long human-centered design rapid prototyping session powered by their incredibly bold, creative peers.

At the NY Institute, I volunteered as a “user-tester” meaning teams in the scrimmage pitched their rapid prototype results to me and I gave feedback to help them test and iterate on-the-spot. It was partially surreal to do this because I got so many great ideas when MBA Mama was the focus of the scrimmage just six months ago. It felt really awesome to pay it forward to new entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, I could only attend SBNY on Friday and Saturday — and I’ll miss the always epic Sunday night SB Launch Party because I need to get back to Philadelphia and prepare myself for my first final exam scheduled for Monday morning (eeeek!).

Pitching at the LA Institute in February 2015 gave me the boost of confidence I needed to set a launch date for mbamama.com. I also met my co-founder, Nicole Pontón, at the LA Institute.

Nicole organizing all the ideas our team received during the Social Innovation Scrimmage @ SBLA in February ‘15.

Since Nicole and I launched on April 15, 2015, mbamama.com has surpassed 10,000 unique page views. We’ve had nearly 500 people officially subscribe, been featured by Fortune Magazine, and announced partnerships with companies like CommonBond to add value to our customers. Our social media presence is growing as top schools like Tuck @ Dartmouth are using the social media hashtag we created: #MBAMama!

The spirit of shared humanity, love, vulnerability, and openness of the people in StartingBloc’s dynamic community motivated me to make the trip to New York. I connected with two people whose stories are worth sharing. Rosedel Davies-Adewebi works at the UN, attended Michigan Ross for her MBA, and is an alumnae of Management Leadership For Tomorrow. Rosedel was recommended to me last year by my MLT coach, Kendra, based on my background and interests in African affairs and social impact careers. Rosedel and I had a few phone calls during the MBA application process which helped me clarify my story for my essays and motivated me to solidify my career goals. I was surprised to see Rosedel at SBNY! It was our first time to actually meet each other though we had some great phone calls last year and have kept in touch via Twitter. We had dinner in Harlem after SBNY broke for the day and had an amazing 2-hour catch-up session.

Another connection I made at SBNY that absolutely blew me away was re-meeting Chantal Kamya. I first met Chantal when I was 18 years old when we participated in a college tour. We were in Atlanta touring Emory University where we had both been admitted. We hit it off in ATL years ago but lost touch after deciding to go to different colleges. On Saturday — day 3 of SBNY — Chantal approached me based on our chemistry and shared interests. After I told her my name and where I’m from, she had the revelation that we met 11 years ago. She proceeded to tell me I was the oldest of 5, was President of my HS student government and worked retail part-time all during HS (nailed it). Long story short, she remembered me and then I remembered her. The moral of this story is that the universe always has a way of making things right. Chantal and I spent several hours sharing our hopes and dreams. We committed to staying in touch and supporting each other moving forward. I left my meeting with Chantal armed with her contact information and feeling thankful for divine intervention, sisterhood and love.

This is a testament to how God works and how dynamic StartingBloc is as a community.

Rejection is one step closer to perfection.
- overheard at SBNY15 after the rapid prototyping session

I’m surrounded by brilliance.
-overheard at SBNY15 during the rapid prototyping session

Nyah joining me at SBNY while I presented MBA Mama to new Social Innovation fellows.

One thing I absolutely love about StartingBloc is their support for me as an MBA Mama. SB’s CEO Cesar Gonzalez and his team welcomed Nyah with open arms six months ago at the LA Institute and they kept it consistent when I asked to bring her to the NY Institute. My StartingBloc colleagues show Nyah more love, patience, and kindness than any professional space I’ve ever been in. This has empowered me and enabled me to participate fully and bring my whole self to the StartingBloc community. For that, I am extremely thankful.

If you have ideas for social impact but do not know where to start or if you just need to be around some amazing people who have big dreams to change the world for the better, I encourage you to apply to StartingBloc. Institutes are held throughout the year in major cities like DC, Los Angeles or New York. Personally, I have done a lot in my career from the US to Africa, but I have never experienced anything like StartingBloc. I feel incredibly blessed and privileged to be part of this community. Learn more @ startingbloc.org.

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