2017 Best MBAs: Markey Culver, Washington University (Olin)

Markey Culver

The Olin Business School at Washington University

Age: 31

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: A high-heel wearing gentle giant who loves bread, etymology, and social enterprise.

Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Fun fact about yourself:  I couldn’t read until the seventh grade.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Furman University, Greenville, SC.

Where did you work before enrolling in business school my Co-Founder, Julie, and a team of rockstars, I started and ran an international social enterprise, The Women’s Bakery.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? The Women’s Bakery (I actually never stopped working …)

Where will you be working after graduation? The Women’s Bakery

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I co-organized Olin’s first (and now annual) Impact Investing Symposium. We invited local and visiting practitioners as speakers and hosted an audience of 150+ St. Louis community members, faculty, and students.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? It was securing at Olin two separate semester-long practicum courses for The Women’s Bakery. For two years, Olin supported a non-traditional strategic consulting course where students could study and enhance The Women’s Bakery business model. I had the opportunity to take 12 MBAs to Rwanda to visit our work and have engaged both students and faculty in our work – it has been tremendous for our growth and motivating for me.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Starting and growing an international social enterprise.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Competitive Industry Analysis with John Horn. I had two key takeaways: 1) the value in corporate strategy and strategic planning, and 2) competitive advantage can be not only formulaic (strategic and intentional), but differentiating. It was fascinating.

Why did you choose this business school? I imagine I was a rather atypical applicant to Olin, coming from 3 years of living and working in East Africa and starting a social enterprise in Rwanda. My background was unconventional at best and while I had business experience, it was in my own business. Still, I chose to apply to Wash U because I seek to fuse the non-profit and for-profit sectors and Olin’s programs merit such fusion by embracing, incubating and launching entrepreneurs of all kinds. Olin’s robust entrepreneurship platform, too, is supported by a city (St. Louis) with an ever-growing, collaborative startup scene. Moreover, Olin puts emphasis on cultivating the business leader through holistic leadership training (i.e.: sharpening “soft” skills to enhance “hard” skills).

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? My class – we have an incredible class.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Keep with it. Everyday. Break your essays down into buckets – what is each question looking for? Breaking the questions down makes them accessible. It’s much easier to start small and build. From my experience, most of the big essays are why and how questions. Not necessarily who you are, but why you are the way you are and how you became that way. The simple stuff, right? But, it’s not simple. It can be taxing because how often do you reveal your innermost whys to total strangers whose job it is to judge you?

Once have your various answer buckets, you may find that some answers apply to other questions, not entirely, but the nexus of ideas is there. I typically wrote my essays at night with a glass of wine, and edited in the mornings when I was fresh.

As for letters of recommendation, choose those people who know you well and can attest to your best qualities. For interviews, look up typical interview questions online and film yourself giving answers on your computer – that way you can critique how you look and act.

Last, find an accountability partner, someone who can walk alongside you through the application process to ensure you’re clearing each hurdle well. I attempted to apply to business schools two years before now, totally unsuccessfully because I didn’t have an accountability partner. I attribute much of my admission success to my accountability partner.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Cut-throat environment.

What was your biggest regret in business school? That I wasn’t more involved with extracurriculars.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Cambrie Nelson. Cambrie embodies success – she is a successful social entrepreneur, deep thinker, engaged student and community member, devoted friend, and kickass human. When Cambrie commits to something, she commits fully and thoroughly. Her work is always excellent and her skillset mind-bogglingly robust. At her core, she is a teacher. She extended lessons outside of the classroom, enhancing and enriching my MBA. I am most excited by her career trajectory because she will do so much good, so well, for so many.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was in Rwanda watching a group of women celebrate their second successful sale of their homemade bread. I knew that business, in some capacity, was the answer to sustained empowerment and I wanted to go to business school.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…potentially still in Rwanda!”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Grow The Women’s Bakery globally. Start a consulting firm as well as an Impact Investing firm.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My team at The Women’s Bakery, because they not only continued to run, but grow our business all while supporting me in my pursuit of my MBA. My family for their endless support, and my classmates and professors to getting me through!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a “get-ish-done” capable, intelligent, kind person.

Favorite book: The Blue Sweater

Favorite movie or television show: Sherlock Holmes (BBC series)

Favorite musical performer: Ray LaMontagne

Favorite vacation spot: Michigan or Zanzibar

Hobbies? Hobbies? Who has time for those?

What made Markey such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“I could write for hours about Markey Culver and not even scratch the surface. The one word that best characterizes her as part of the Olin community is “inspirational”.  Of course the next word to describe her “tough”.  She plays with sharp elbows and gets things done – her way quite often.  She is also a caring person and a great teammate, colleague and friend.  She is an enigma.  I can’t member any former student who worked on an experiential learning project one year and was then the client for a project the next.  All while still being a student.   She is one-of-a-kind – and we are so happy she is ours.”

Joseph P. Fox

Associate Dean and Director of Graduate Programs


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