This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Dorie Golkin and Emelyn Northway, Wharton graduates and co-founders of Of Mercer (which you’ll read more about below).
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What’s your favorite non-school book?
Dorie: I (proudly) grew up in New York City. At Princeton, I majored in Civil Engineering and minored in visual arts, with a focus on darkroom photography. My favorite non-school book is Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Emelyn: I’m originally from East Grand Rapids, Michigan. I attended Cornell University and majored in Economics and Psychology. My favorite non-school book is Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. I also love Tina Fey’s Bossypants for a laugh out loud read.
Accepted: Where did you go to b-school and when did you receive your MBA? What have you been doing since?
D&E: Both of us went to Wharton Business School, where we were members of the class of 2013. Since graduating a year ago, we have been working full-time on our startup, Of Mercer, a new women’s workwear brand of fashionable, office-appropriate apparel that we launched last November. It is a concept that we conceived and worked on while at school, after discovering that we weren’t the only women who struggled to find budget-friendly, desk-to-dinner clothes.
Accepted: When you started Wharton, did you know that you wanted to start your own fashion line/online store? How did your company evolve? Can you point to specific classes, clubs, or other resources that directly helped you launch your company?
D&E: We both came to Wharton planning to pursue entrepreneurship, but not necessarily in the e-commerce space. We’ve both always been interested in fashion, but Of Mercer was really about solving a personal problem, one that we discovered after we wore the same work dress to an event and realized it was the only one in our closet that we actually wanted to wear to work. While at Wharton, we conducted numerous surveys and focus groups to test and refine our idea. It was through this feedback that we decided go with a direct-to-consumer model and develop a “beta” line of five dresses that we tested and sold at Wharton before building out our launch collection.
During the process, we were accepted into the Venture Initiation Program, Wharton’s incubator program. Having a team of advisors, a network of fellow entrepreneurs, and a wealth of start-up specific programming and resources to draw on was incredibly useful in helping us go from idea to launch.
We also tailored our course selection to what would be most helpful (both in the near and long term) for Of Mercer, including Legal Aspects of Entrepreneurship, Customer Analytics, Digital Marketing and E-Commerce, and many more.
Accepted: What was your favorite thing about Wharton? If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?
Dorie: It was definitely the Wharton community. Everyone from our professors to our peers was incredibly supportive of us and our venture, and was willing to help in any way possible, whether that meant taking an hour of time to participate in a focus group or sitting down with us for a one-on-one conversation about inventory management. In addition, the community of student entrepreneurs at Wharton is strong and growing. In fact, our class had a record number of students who went on to pursue their own startups after graduation.
Emelyn: Wharton’s curriculum has really evolved and covers the gamut of topics you’ll need to know well to be a successful entrepreneur. However, I would love to see a few more opportunities to learn the more gritty, practical skills and tasks that are actually part of the day-to-day operations of an early-stage startup – things like basic coding, graphic design, or even how to set up bookkeeping and payroll.
Accepted: How would you rate Wharton as a program for entrepreneurs? Which other b-schools do you think are best for entrepreneurs?
D&E: Wharton is a great place for aspiring entrepreneurs. We were incredibly happy with the program and can’t imagine going anywhere else. We felt support from all levels – from our peers to the administration – support that still continues today, a year after graduating.
We didn’t go to any other business schools, so we don’t think we can accurately comment on their programs, but great entrepreneurs come out of all the top schools. It’s all about having an entrepreneurial mindset going into business school and using your resources effectively while you’re there.
Accepted: Can you share your top three admissions tips with our readers? (These can be specific to Wharton or general, or ideally, a combination of both.)
Dorie: Be authentic and realistic. You don’t have to claim that you’re going to cure cancer to stand out, but you should have a track record of what it is you want to pursue. Even if you’re making a career change, there should be something on your resume – an extracurricular pursuit, a specific project, etc. – that shows you’ve already dipped your toes in the water and are bringing valuable experiences to the school and your future peers.
Emelyn: Be honest in your application about how business school will take you to the next step in your career. It’s quite possible that the next step may change once you get there, but you need to apply with a clear vision of what you think that step is now – not only to get in, but also to get the most out of going to business school and hit the ground running once you’re there.
Focus on your essays and make sure they shed light on qualities about you or experiences you’ve had that may not come across on your resume. They’re one of the few places in your application in which you have the ability to differentiate yourself. And don’t wait to get feedback on your essays – get it as early as possibly from as many people as you can (preferably people who have gone to that school) to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
For one-on-one guidance on your b-school applications, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Wharton see:
- Wharton 2015 MBA Questions, Deadlines, Tips.
- What’s Right with Wharton (and How to Get In), a free webinar.
Thank you Emelyn and Dorie for sharing your stories with us!