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  • Coming Full Circle

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    Coming Full Circle
    Melissa Chua ‘14 MBA
    During my final week in Cambridge, I had the opportunity to meet two incredible entrepreneurs: Theo Koutroukides and Jennifer Hersch. In this episode, I highlight the work they've done in creating the first hot yoga sports studio in Cambridge. Through this, I hope to inspire young entrepreneurs at ILLINOIS and feature some of our own young business owners in Fall 2013.
    This video represents more than the fact that Bikram yoga was a welcome change in my life, or that, as a student entrepreneur, I want to show what a vibrant young business is like in Cambridge. What I really intend to do is unearth ambitious individuals in my travels who have overcome life’s tremendous challenges and find peace and connectedness in their practice.
    There’s Theo, who finds his passion for entrepreneurship sometime in-between pursuing a classical guitar degree, shark research in South Africa, PhD in neuroscience, and competitive cycling. There’s Jennifer, who graces the new venture after a career in dance and a b-school deanship. Crystal, who will brave management consulting; Richard, sports management; and Lorna, art education.
    These are the kinds of people who inspire me to keep going despite the difficult situations I’ve weathered this summer, and who remind me that there are still ones in Cambridge who strive to reach new heights, innovate freely, and transcend cultural boundaries.
    Some of you may be wondering why, at the conclusion of my Student Life Video Blog in Cambridge, I have still not touched upon my actual internship.
    Perhaps I’ve been avoiding it.
    Maybe I can’t make sense of it.
    Today, as I sit down to write, I thumb through the depths of my diary. I find only scraps of it scrawled on page corners, old pub receipts, and gum wrappers.
    Really, it’s wrapped among the enclaves of the brain that have the twisted fortune of storing “loss of innocence” moments.
    You know all of those classes you take in the first-year MBA, the ones all the twenty-somethings laugh at because they think role-playing is dumb, the dilemmas are trite, the case scenarios are poorly written, or three hours per week of ethics or LPO is too much? It turns out that when those scenarios are played out in real life, it’s no laughing matter. Gunsalus and Northcraft have something meaningful to say if you listen, people.
    Sometimes it isn’t worth the effort to change an organization from within, especially during an internship. Too much is at risk to speak up. But I wish I could have had the wisdom to maintain my integrity tactfully, learn how draw the line, and say enough was enough.
    I started off with an excellent supervisor and mentor – a self-proclaimed Silicon Valley man who built his life from the ground up and dealt gracefully with class discrimination in the UK. He shielded me from circular logic games carrying on behind the scenes and encouraged me to press on with my international project development. When he left abruptly “to pursue new opportunities,” I learned that an internship is a rocky road without a mentor that will listen, help you grow, explain the inexplicable, and guide you through your new jaded self.
    My experience taught me it is vital to believe in your work and surround yourself with positive people who believe in change. Run from the status quo. Don’t settle for mediocrity because everyone else is doing it. Realize that the “professional” organizations you will join at Uni are certainly valuable; but don’t trick yourself into thinking you have all the answers before diving into real-life work experiences. Nothing replaces “Aha” moment when your coursework turns into reality and when that reality has consequences.
    When organizations find a comfortable rhythm, they become threatened by ambition and change. It’s up to the entrepreneurially-minded to shake things up and move things forward. Eventually they find there is no other choice than to start anew and survive, and it’s this mentality that gives birth to extraordinary young businesses like ETHOS. Now, more than ever, I recognize the importance of building values-based businesses from the ground up.
    This summer, I’ve traveled from zeal to shock, guilt, growth, and becoming whole again. A constant throughout this journey was my love for entrepreneurship and learning about the highs and lows of its existence. In talking to young companies such as ETHOS and being re-energized again, I’ve witnessed that the highs outweigh the lows, and that young organizations have the absolute power to transform. This is where I need to be, and it took me a trip halfway across the world to figure that out.