2016 MBAs To Watch: Elise Maxwell, Minnesota (Carlson)

Elise Maxwell Minnesota

Elise Maxwell

Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

Age: 29

Hometown: Missoula, Montana

Undergrad: Lewis & Clark College; B.A. Biology

Past employer: Minneapolis Public Schools, Coordinator of Human Capital

Summer 2015 Internship: I received a fellowship to work on my start-up: Ova Woman, Minneapolis, MN

Post-graduation Employer: Ova Woman, Founder and CEO. I will continue working on the growth and development of Ova Woman.

Community Work:

  • Start-up Mentor, WomenVenture
  • Volunteer Consultant, Common Grounds

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of winning the Minnesota Cup student division. The MN Cup is the largest statewide start-up competition in the country. This competition gave me the opportunity to discuss the importance of normalizing women’s health with a large audience of both men and women. This experience showed me that the business community is ready to embrace innovation that supports women with menstruation, yeast infections, incontinence, menopause and more. I grew tremendously during this competition, and through that growth, brought more attention to women’s health.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? After graduation, I worked with my alma mater, Lewis & Clark College, to design and implement a program to actively encourage underrepresented populations to pursue math and science. I worked with faculty members to provide high school students paid summer research opportunities in science and math labs. For two years, I watched as this program dramatically changed the trajectory of many students’ lives. We raised expectations, and the students met the challenge. After seven years, the program is active and inspiring hundreds of scientists and mathematicians.

Who is your favorite professor? Carlson Ventures Enterprise Director Toby Nord instilled in me a dedication to ethnographic research. From day one, Toby was enthusiastic about getting into the field and talking to customers. Toby also made it clear to students that loving your life is more important than climbing a ladder.

Favorite MBA Courses? I would have to pick two courses: The Medical Industry Leadership Institute (MILI) Valuation Lab and STARTUP: Customer Development and Testing. Both courses were incredibly hands-on and provided tools for understanding the concept of product-market fit. One of the most valuable skills I developed at the Carlson School is the ability to conduct interviews and identify pain points. My accounting courses were also incredibly valuable—understanding cash flow and contribution margin are critical for any start-up.

Why did you choose this business school? I love Minneapolis and I knew I wanted a hands-on business school experience. I also thrive in intimate learning environments. With small class sizes and a well-established enterprise program, the Carlson School was the perfect choice.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Business school provided me endless opportunities to be vulnerable and to grow. What business did I have starting a company? I had absolutely no business experience, but when I entered the Carlson School, anything felt possible.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? The more vulnerable I am, the more I grow. Progress happens when I strip myself of ego and go into a class, a meeting, or a presentation with a genuine desire to learn.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I entered business school wondering if I would need to turn off my creative, feminist, boundary-pushing side and turn on a corporate persona. I tried that for a day and quickly realized it was impossible. You can thrive in business school by being your whole self. In fact, authenticity is valued.

What was the hardest part of business school? I often struggled to balance my desire to build relationships with my classmates with my desire to build relationships with the broader entrepreneurial community in the Twin Cities.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Self-reflection is critical. Build habits of reflection. After you leave your current position, take time to think about what worked well, what you would do differently moving forward, where you need to develop, and where you excel. Taking this time can feel indulgent, but your teammates, managers, and family members will feel the benefits.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized all I wanted to do professionally was bring ideas to life.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… working to close the achievement gap in public schools.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I most admire Tristan Walker. He grew up without a father in a tough neighborhood in Queens, graduated valedictorian, attended Stanford Business School, and is now creating the Johnson & Johnson for people of color. Walker & Company is a true manifestation of human-centered design.

What are your long-term professional goals? I want to bring human-centered design to women’s health products and services. Tampons and breast pumps are antiquated. We have very few options to help with incontinence, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, menstrual cramps, and more. The limited options that exist have very little visibility in the market. This is a truly underserved market and I am on a mission to move the needle.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My mom, Julie Maxwell, owned and managed a motel when I was growing up. She wasn’t a manager, she was a leader. She cared for every housekeeper, desk clerk, and facilities worker. She graciously moved between cleaning toilets in the morning to generating financial forecasts in the evening. My compassion and work ethic are thanks to my mom.

Fun fact about yourself: I was once the world’s leading expert on the spider genus Sicarius.

Favorite book: Any collection of short stories by Alice Munro

Favorite movie: V for Vendetta. I also love almost all of Wynonna Ryder’s movies.

Favorite Musical Performer: I would be lying if I didn’t say Beyoncé. Her recent music is incredibly empowering. I actually listen to podcasts more than music. My favorite podcast is Another Round. Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu, the hosts of this podcast, artfully discuss race, identity, wellness, pop culture, and politics. I am constantly in awe of their ability to induce laughter and honor the seriousness of a topic.

Favorite TV Show: “Bob’s Burgers”—this is a recent guilty pleasure of mine. The characters are lovable.

Favorite Vacation Spot: Tarkio, Montana

Hobbies: Yoga, Triathlons, Hiking, Baking

What made Elise such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

Elise is such a driven and motivated learner, for all of the right reasons. She applies course concepts and experience to her life, business, and future. Our entrepreneurial curriculum often requires a leap of faith into “the gray,” that is to make assumptions, say them out loud, and to risk being wrong. In that regard, and because of her faith in who she is and what she is doing, Elise is both willing and fearless.

She has demonstrated her skill and passion in the classroom; at Carlson as a leader, teammate and mentor; and as a force to reckoned with in our local entrepreneurial community. She represents the best of Carlson School and there is no doubt that she will continue this demonstration of drive, ability and excellence after she graduates.”

Toby Nord, Director

Ventures Enterprise Program

Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota




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