2016 MBAs To Watch: Kenneth Mao, Washington U. (Olin)

Kenneth Mao Washington-Olin-PoetsAndQuants_MBAsToWatch2016

Kenneth Mao


Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis

Age: 32

Hometown: New Canaan, Connecticut

Undergraduate School and Degree: Claremont McKenna College, BA 2006

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? The Princeton Review Hong Kong, BGC Capital Partners Hong Kong, Silverlining Yacht, self-employed (educational consultant)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015?

1) Self-employed – Founder of Mao’s Chow – a healthy meal prep and delivery service to startup centers in St. Louis that has since been re-branded to Ful. Shift in focus toward being a corporate health and wellness partner

2) Strategy Consultant for startup Run With VIM (formerly WattRunner)

Where will you be working after graduation? Founder and CEO of FUL Foods LLC (formerly Mao’s Chow) – subscription based meal delivery service for corporate health and wellness initiatives. Target clientele includes 1) Administrative staff at medical centers such as BJC and SSM and 2) CrossFit and other Fitness Communities

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School

  • Winner (tie) of The Hatchery Course Pitch Competition for Mao’s Chow
  • Team Lead for CELect Projects:
    • Sparo Lab – helped develop the crowdfunding campaign for their first product “Wing”, a pocket sized asthma device that works with mobile devices to keep track of lung function
    • David Stiffler of the Equifax Foundation – helped to initiate the conversation towards building an umbrella entity to bridge the gap between different youth entrepreneurship and education initiatives within St. Louis to better fill gaps within the workforce pipeline
  • Vice President of the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Association
  • Vice President of the Runner’s Mean Business Club
  • Team Lead for Global Management Studies trips
    • Japan – focus on supply chain and operations
    • Cuba – focus on business development and entrepreneurship
  • Beta Gamma Sigma distinction

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The highlight of business school was tying for first place in the final pitch competition for the Hatchery Course. It was a culmination of everything I had learned about entrepreneurship from school, from my relationships with mentors and peers in the St. Louis community, and from my own startup experience. I’m proud of the recognition for all the hard work I put into realizing my own idea and having the support of both my peers and mentors.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my previous career as a private tutor and college counselor (for 8+ years), I succeeded in helping all my students gain entry into the top three colleges of their choice. This achievement along with building lasting relationships and continued active communication with my former students has been the cornerstone of my personal and professional growth. My final private tutoring assignment prior to business school was a family of four sailing the world on their private yacht – a position I would never have dreamed of being selected for without my prior reputation and experience to back up my abilities. And while I only occasionally take on long-term clients today, I have continued my growth as a mentor/coach/educator through being a dedicated CrossFit coach and with my own healthy food startup.

Who is your favorite professor? Clifford Holekamp. I learned a great deal about entrepreneurship from him – not just in a classroom setting, but from open office visits and chats over coffee about the multitude of ideas I had. He pushed me to work hard and realize my potential by never sugar coating our conversations and never letting me limit myself because I was too afraid to try.

His willingness to put himself on the line by making key introductions to the entrepreneurship community and his passion for helping students realize their dreams (or tell them when their idea is just “bad”) made him a great professor and mentor.

Favorite MBA Courses?

Creating and Building Brand Equity – The core of this course was to build an understanding of how consumers perceive and react to different types of brands across industries; and how to influence their decision-making processes through marketing levers. This was important in helping me pivot my company and redefine the brand going forward.

Competitive Industry Analysis – This class offered exposure to a multitude of industries, while applying strategic concepts to different situations, helped open up my mind to the importance of flexible thinking and consideration of differences in competitive approaches.

CELect – This was an opportunity for me to apply business school concepts and my own personal experience to the real world by working on a project for a client in the startup community in St. Louis. It gave me exposure to the difficulties startups face and how to creatively tackle problems not otherwise faced by larger, established companies. I gained a lot of invaluable experience and cultivated important relationships to help me with my own startup upon graduation.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Olin because of its academic reputation and strong ties to the St. Louis startup community. I knew I wanted to start my own company and have always been an experiential learner. In addition to getting a first class education, I knew I would have the opportunity to work side by side with peers and mentors in a city with a vibrant and growing entrepreneurship presence. I also liked the idea of being able to meet and know all my peers (both the graduating and incoming classes), an opportunity that would be otherwise difficult at much larger business schools.

What did you enjoy most about business school? One of the main reasons for selecting Olin was its relatively small entering class size. As such, the highlight of business school was having the actual opportunity to build a strong social and professional relationship with peers. Getting honest, quality feedback about my capabilities and my business ideas from a well-educated, diverse group of peers has been invaluable in my personal development.

Additionally, the tight-knit interaction was the inspiration for my current startup. I began serving meals to classmates simply for fun, but soon realized it was a passion that I could turn into a business and career.

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

“Kenneth Mao is one of the all-time favorites of the Graduate Programs office staff.  And it is not just because he provides delicious and healthy food through his business venture. I think we all agree that Kenneth is an interesting and unique character. We simply enjoy being around him as brings such charm, warmth and enthusiasm to all that he does.

During his time at Olin, Kenneth has held leadership roles in two very active and important clubs. He has been selected to take leadership roles in key Experiential Learning projects. And, of course, he has been front and center on all things related to entrepreneurship. He has left a positive mark on the program and his classmates.”

Joe Fox

Associate Dean

Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis



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