The Business of Family
I am the eldest of five children. With my youngest sister as my business partner and one of our brothers serving on our advisory board, I have found that partnering with family members adds another dynamic to pursuing an entrepreneurial venture. We grew up together and we have known each other our entire lives. Yet here we are, working to resurrect the old family business as a brand new one.
There are both positive and challenging aspects that come as a result of our family ties. Even though it was not always the case, my siblings and I are very close. As we have grown older, we have grown closer and rely on one another for love and support. Notwithstanding, we also know how to push each other’s buttons.
Regardless, we all share the same history and heritage thus our success in this venture means more to us than it would for someone outside the family. Being the fourth generation after our great-great grandfather, we are moving further and further from that history. While it will not be lost, it will continue to be diluted and we do not want to see that happen.
Because of this, we took the time to talk to my father and a number of his siblings before diving into this project. Not necessarily to ask permission, but to let them know in a very courteous way that this was something we felt compelled to pursue.
Predestined to Become an Entrepreneur
I received a B.S. in biology from Boston College with the original intention to pursue veterinary medicine. Thankfully, I was able to see the end of this road before it started, and made a course correction which led me to Washington, D.C. There, I used an entirely different skill set as an event and conference manager for a variety of clients.
While working in D.C., I always knew I wanted to start a business at some point in my lifetime. As Robert Portner was not the only family entrepreneur (my parents, aunt, grandfather and great-uncle have all been excellent entrepreneurs and role models) one could say entrepreneurship is in my blood.
The Babson Experience
Knowing that I wanted to sit at the helm of our family business, I sought to increase my likelihood of success through additional education, so I pursued an MBA. I am very thankful I came back to get my graduate degree and that I decided to get it at Babson.
I came in with a very narrow view of what I wanted to accomplish; I knew that I wanted to add traditional quantitative skills to my personal toolkit. However, once I got here, my eyes were widened to some unknown unknowns (things that I did not know, I did not know).
Since coming to Babson, I have gained nothing except positive experiences. When you are around so many extraordinary people, it spurs you to become extraordinary yourself.
The one thing that stands out to me most is that you truly cannot say Babson without saying entrepreneurship. In my experiences at the school, I have found this to be one hundred percent true; it is not just baseless marketing. Entrepreneurship is integrated in so many different things and in so many different ways that I feel surrounded by entrepreneurs of all kinds.
In the program, I have a graduate assistant fellowship where I have been fortunate enough to have Dr. Candida Brush as my advisor. Professor Brush is the head of the entrepreneurship division and as my advisor she has been absolutely tremendous. Anytime I have given thought to anything so far as my entrepreneurial venture is concerned, or looked for a contact in a particular area, she has always had five answers and multiple contacts for me.
In this same manner, I have also found Babson students to be incredibly tenacious and the entire Babson community very supportive of my efforts to re-launch my family business.
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
My first piece of advice for other entrepreneurs is that I think it is very important to trust your gut. If something does not pass the smell test, there is probably a very good reason for it. Therefore, do not waste your time pursuing something that is not on the up and up. Along these same lines, it is important for aspiring entrepreneurs to remember that nothing is guaranteed in life.