This summer, 24 members of the Class of 2019 got a head start to their Booth experience through the pre-MBA program called Startup Summer. Across the globe, soon-to-be Booth students were paired with Booth-founded startups to explore their entrepreneurial function and industry goals. Cofounded by Booth alumna Andrea Sreshta, ’16, LuminAID is a women-founded Chicago-based startup that makes solar-powered inflatable lanterns for disaster relief and outdoor recreation. Find out what incoming Booth students Erich Bao, Jessica Goldberg, and Michael Hull had to say about their experience at LuminAID, and how it will impact their time at Booth going forward.
What was your background before coming to Booth?
Erich: I majored in finance/accounting at the University of Texas at Dallas. Post-graduation, I spent 4 years working at a small private equity shop that focused on the RIA space. During this time, I developed an interest in one day running my own business so I applied to Booth with the intention of pursuing entrepreneurship. However, shortly after being accepted to Booth, I decided to join an online marketing startup as their COO. As a result, I deferred from Booth for a year and helped grow a small startup from just me and my 2 partners to a team of 13. After a year, I decided the time was right and could not be more excited to start my two years here at Booth.
Jess: I graduated from Washington University in St Louis, where I majored in International Studies and Marketing. After school, I spent a year working in price and promotion strategy at Nielsen. My passion for data and to learn more about the digital space led me to work for three years in a client-facing role in analytics at Conversant, a digital advertising tech company. I hope to continue to explore my passion for combining storytelling and data to drive successful products during my time at Booth.
Mike: Before applying to Booth I was a Logistics Officer in the U.S. Army. I graduated West Point in 2012 and spent the last five years on active duty, stationed in Fort Carson and had one overseas assignment in Kuwait.
Why did you decide to join Startup Summer?
Erich: I think one of most difficult parts of running a startup was that I routinely had no idea how to actually run the startup. Therefore, the opportunity to learn from Boothies who had already navigated those challenges was an opportunity that was too good to pass up. I joined hoping that that I could learn from successful entrepreneurs, sharpen my skills, and to immediately immerse myself in the startup world of Chicago. Lucky for me, that’s exactly what startup summer has been.
Jess: When I returned home from First Day – Chicago Booth’s accepted students’ weekend – I was galvanized. Meeting the incoming class and learning more about the opportunities Booth would afford me only grew my enthusiasm for the future. I sought to capitalize on the momentum of First Day and launch immediately into the Booth experience. I had never previously worked for a women-founded company, and that was very meaningful to me. Beyond that, LuminAID was an opportunity to explore the function I wrote about in my application – namely product management – at a startup, an environment I had never worked in before. So I joined Startup Summer, going from a company of over 17,000 to one with just 6 full-time employees.
Mike: Coming from the military, I wanted to get a head start on my transition and learn as much as possible before the school year starts. Also, I have always been fascinated by small, fast-paced companies.
How has your experience been with LuminAID so far?
Erich: I was LuminAID’s digital marketing intern and was responsible for developing and implementing our marketing efforts across Amazon, Facebook, other digital platforms, which has been an amazing experience. LuminAID’s founder and former Boothie, Andrea, has been extremely generous with her time and has spent time both at the office and outside of work sharing her experiences regarding starting a company, how to operate a business, and Booth. Not only that, I have gotten to observe first-hand how to operate a startup which has allowed me to begin to craft my own philosophy on how I want to run my own company one day. In addition, I have been given very strong ownership over my projects at LuminAID, so I have felt both intellectually challenged and invested. I cannot think of a better way to start my time at Booth than Startup Summer and my only regret is that it has seemed so short.
Jess: As Brand Management & Marketing Intern at LuminAID, I had the opportunity to work on the launch of a new product. I enjoyed the new challenges of each day – going from meetings about app development to inventory management to product photo shoots. I felt a strong sense of ownership, and at the same time, everyone in the company was accessible to me. In particular, Andrea went out of her way to be a resource to us, both for questions related to LuminAID and Booth. Erich, Mike and I work on separate projects and come from completely different backgrounds. Their perspectives have been a great resource to me. And honestly, having the opportunity to get to know future classmates through a joint new experience has been really fun.
Mike: I’ve really enjoyed learning how to scale sales and marketing efforts. Working as the NGO, Government, and Military Sales intern, I’ve had access to some pretty awesome tools that have really helped me be more effective reaching out to potential customers and strengthening current accounts. It is fascinating to see such a small team work together and leverage technology to bring LuminAID’s products to people and organizations all across the world.
Would you recommend Startup Summer to future Boothies?
Erich: I would strongly recommend Startup Summer to any future Boothies who have any inkling that they want to pursue entrepreneurship in the future. Mike, Jess, and I all came into the program with very different goals and I think all of us have found the experience very helpful. For any Boothies like me who know their future lies in entrepreneurship, Startup Summer is a chance to reaffirm that desire, to learn from successful entrepreneurs, and to be in an exciting, challenging environment that is a perfect precursor to Booth. I leave Startup Summer more sure than ever that this is the correct career path for me and with a much clearer vision of how to get there.
Jess: I would absolutely recommend the Startup Summer program to future Boothies interested in startups, or even in experiencing a new function or industry prior to school. Everyday at LuminAID, I have had the opportunity to challenge myself and grow; momentum I intend to carry into the school year. Because of Startup Summer, I enter Booth with real world experience that will directly inform my next steps forward.
Mike: Without a doubt. My experience here at LuminAID has been invaluable. The people I have met have been incredible and I feel much more prepared entering school in the fall.
Thank you to The Booth Experience guest bloggers Jessica Goldberg, Michael Hull, and Erich Bao! We’ll see you on campus in September!