EMBA Alumni Profile: Monica Muriel – Entrepreneur and working mother
Monica, originally from Spain and now living in China, graduated from the Global Executive MBA in 2016. She is a working mother. Whilst completing the final year of her EMBA she became pregnant with her second child and also set up Zurita, a sustainable fashion brand with a former EMBA classmates, Marta Azagra and Hamid Hamidia. Its philosophy: fair matters – their focus is on sustainable and durable materials and an ethical approach to staff and customers.
Why did you decide to do an Executive MBA?
I’d been an entrepreneur most of my professional career. I decided to do my EMBA as a way for me to develop my professional skills and get some formal training. I also wanted to be challenged by and learn from other experienced professionals.
When did you set up your sustainable fashion business, Zurita?
Deep down I’d always wanted to do something that was creating value. During the EMBA I was interviewing for a corporate job in luxury fashion, but I wasn’t happy about their approach. I love fashion to be democratic, for everybody without the price that fast fashion puts on the environment. My classmates were the ones who encouraged me to go for it and, in September 2015, Marta, Hamid and we launched the business while we were in the middle of the EMBA.
How has your Executive MBA helped you as an entrepreneur?
Mainly, the EMBA gives you an overall insight into what a business is, so you can see how all of business functions are connected. It’s given me the ‘formal training’ I was missing. For example, the course on corporate social responsibility, made us reflect and think in new ways about what businesses can stand for – it’s where our idea came to fruition. Accounting and finance gave me practical tools I use daily. The leadership courses, gave me skills such as how to effectively lead a team, to keep staff motivated and give clear direction. My classmates were role models in leadership too and I learnt a lot from them. Plus, a few of my best customers are my classmates!
How is the business going?
95% of fashion start-ups fail, but I’m very happy to say, we just opened our second shop in November 2016 in Shanghai and we hope to open a third one this year, as well as extend our e-commerce offering. We’re also exploring how we can extend our brand by tapping into experience economies e.g. workshops on health lifestyle, art exhibitions, and DIY workshops. We’re looking for fellow entrepreneurs worldwide to join us and be part of Zurita.
What has been the most challenging part of starting your own business?
It’s a lot of coordination being a business owner — all the parts have to work together effectively. Fashion is a particularly tough industry – stock, real estate and seasonal products to manage – you do it because you love it!
Would you recommend an EMBA to other entrepreneurs, and why?
It’s virtually a must, unless you have a strong corporate background. As an entrepreneur, you need the skills to be very flexible, and to be a master of changing hats and doing various roles. For example, finance in the morning, sales in the afternoon. Entrepreneurs often lack structure and the right tools, and the EMBA can clearly help you compensate for that.
Would you recommend the EMBA to a working (entrepreneurial, pregnant) mother?
It’s definitely tough juggling being a mum – a pregnant one at that! – and doing the EMBA. I didn’t realize that I would have to start quitting and re-prioritizing other things in my life and create new routines. For example – having less of a social life. Key for me, was that my family and friends were incredibly supportive. It’s totally possible – it’s just about getting into good habits. The positive is that, after finishing the course, you truly realize how much free time you have!
Also, our cohort had such a great vibe, it felt very easy and supportive. At Hult, it’s a great environment to learn in and you come out of every class feeling truly energized. I miss that – the people, and being out of the day-to-day with the opportunity to think and reflect on yourself as a professional.
What advice would you give to someone about to start the EMBA?
I recommend that you be as engaged as you can. You are not on the program for a long time. Yes, it’s challenging that you have other demands from your life, but it’s only 2 years, and it passes extremely quickly. The more engaged you are, the more you will get out of it.
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