MBA Startups: A Darden MBA Returned To School To Start A Company
On his Twitter account, Adam Healey identifies himself as a dive master, student pilot, web junkie, world citizen, zen apprentice, optimist and dream catcher. He should add that he’s a dyed-in-the-wool serial entrepreneur and a veteran among the current generation of MBA entrepreneurs.
The 2005 graduate from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business started his career on the trading floor of Wall Street working for Salomon Smith Barney—a post that he kept for just one year before moving to Prague to start his first company in 2000. The name of his venture was Samba Digital Media. It was an e-services company that built websites.
During the four years that Adam ran Samba, he was able to raise venture capital money and experience steady growth. Then, the dot-com bust came along and toppled most of what he had built. After deciding to regroup, Adam took a year off and lived in Thailand on the small tropical island of Koh-Tao. By the time his sabbatical ended, he had gained admission into the Darden School of Business.
Adam, 38, who also attended UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce for his bachelor’s degree, founded Borrowed & Blue with his wife, Christin. The company is a destination wedding concierge that helps couples imagine and plan exotic weddings around the world. It then introduces the couple to vendors who can make their dream become a reality. The inspiration for the business came out of the planning for the pair’s September of 2011 wedding in Keswick, Va., a stone’s throw from Charlottesville and Monticello.
After graduating from Darden, I spent a year working in management consulting at Monitor Group before leaving to start a company named Hotelicoper, a global hotel search engine. In 2006, I returned to Darden after graduating the year prior. I came back so that I could leverage Darden’s resources and network to incubate my business.
Hotelicopter eventually grew to more than 15 employees before being sold in 2011 to RoomKey, the travel & leisure conglomerate. RoomKey is also a joint venture between the six largest hotel chains in the world. Between 2006 and 2011 we raised about $5 million in investment capital for Hotelicopter and turned a nice profit for both us and our investors in the eventual sale. While RoomKey is Dallas, TX-based, we negotiated for all of our employees in Charlottesville to keep their jobs (locally) after the buyout.
My wife, Christin, and I were introduced through mutual friends here in Charlottesville, but before even meeting her I saw her walking on the Downtown Mall in town with her two-year-old nephew in her arms and I knew that I wanted her to be the mother of my children. After being introduced, I invited Christin to a 4th of July party at my house, and we hit it off, and started dating. That was in July of 2010. I proposed to her that Christmas on a trip to Belize.
During the middle of 2011, Christin and I were planning our wedding when we made a discovery. The online resources for wedding planning were fairly scant and of poor quality. We found plenty of inspiring pictures, but few to no resources that could make those pictures a live reality.
There was no information directing us on how to hire the florist, the photographer and so forth. Christin and I wanted to build a company that bridged the gap between the inspiration for a wedding and the actual execution. At the time, I was completing a six-month obligation to work at Hotelicopter during the transition after the sale. This new opportunity could not have come at a better time.
Thanks to the sale of my previous business, my wife and I were able to become our own angel investors for Borrowed & Blue. This is my third major business. My first was successful, but did not have a successful exit. My second did have a successful exit. Now, we are bootstrapping everything ourselves. I’ve experienced a gamut of financing strategies through my ventures and feel comfortable with taking any of a number of routes to securing financing for a new project.
One of the things that I love most about starting a new company is the idea of creating a living entity out of nothing. There is something very satisfying and exciting about that. That’s the upside; or at least a part of it.