2017 MBAs To Watch: Sarah Spoto, University of Rochester (Simon)

Sarah Spoto

University of Rochester, Simon Business School

“Social entrepreneur and former apparel buyer ready for a new career in automotive marketing.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Fun fact about yourself: I have an identical twin sister who lives in Scotland.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BA, Business and Studio Art from Lake Forest College

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Accessories and Loungewear Buyer at aerie.com for American Eagle Outfitters

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Auburn Hills, MI.

Where will you be working after graduation? TRACK Marketing Program at General Motors in Detroit, MI

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Leadership:

  • President, Simon Net Impact
  • VP Communications & Marketing, Simon School Venture Fund
  • Marketing Student Career Advisor, Simon Career Management Center
  • Coach to 1st year MBAs, Simon Coach Program

Awards:

  • Dean’s List
  • Dean’s Leadership Award
  • 1st Place in Social Entrepreneurship Category in NY Business Plan Competition, Oasis Foods, LLC
  • Semi-Finalist in UR Market Ain Business Plan Competition, Oasis Foods, LLC
  • 3rd Place in UR Tibetan Innovation Challenge, Mya Barley Water
  • 2nd Place in UR Hult Prize Competition, Artemis
  • Regional Finalist in Hult Price Competition, Artemis
  • Net Impact Healthy Foods Fellow
  • Social Capital Markets Scholarship Winner
  • Women’s Car Care Scholarship Winner
  • Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Scholarship Winner
  • Simon Leadership Fellow
  • Forte Fellow

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? For my Urban Entrepreneurship class, my team and I were tasked with creating a social enterprise to help alleviate poverty in Rochester, NY. Not only did we develop and vet an idea and analyze, research, and present our final project, we took it a step further and submitted our business plan in a number of business plan competitions. We took first place in the Social Entrepreneurship category of the New York Business Plan Competition, winning $10,000 that we used to launch the company. I’m proud that my team and I took an idea from the classroom and went out and made it a reality. 

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I entered business school with professional experience in fashion and apparel buying. That’s (seemingly) a long cry away from the automotive industry. But I’m passionate about cars, in particular the products and brands that make the experience of buying and owning a car so significant. I was determined to enter the automotive industry. I was focused on automotive through my internship search, choosing to build meaningful relationships. My hard work and focus paid off with an offer from Fiat Chrysler for the Corporate Leadership Development Program Internship. That summer, I threw myself into understanding the automotive industry and products with the Motor City of Detroit as my inspiring backdrop. After I graduate, I will be returning to Detroit as part of General Motors TRACK Marketing Program.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Mike Wohl encourages his students to just get out there and do it. Analysis is good and necessary, but so is having conversations with community members and cold-calling your potential vendors. Without his support, my social enterprise startup, Oasis Foods, would not be possible. He encouraged my team to think big and go for it.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite course was Urban Entrepreneurship, a class that tasked students to develop business solutions to urban poverty in Rochester, NY. I learned that everything I learned in business school and at Simon gave me the confidence and tools to tackle the chaos that is entrepreneurship.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Simon because while I felt confident in my qualitative skills, I was less confident in my quantitative skills, including data analysis and business modeling. I knew that the business world valued quantitative thinkers, and I also knew that being a well-rounded professional meant I could manage teams with more confidence.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Absolutely the people. The co-founders of my social enterprise start up, Oasis Foods, are my peers at Simon. My other classmates are encouraging and collaborative. Honestly, I don’t think I would have survived the academic rigor of the first year’s fall quarter without my roommate, another Simon classmate. The staff and administration helped me feel supported and that my voice was heard. I’m going to miss all the opportunities I had in business school to explore and push my limits and the teams that helped me do so.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? I was surprised how collaborative my teammates were. Collaborative isn’t really the first word that comes to mind when you think of business school students, but it’s so true at Simon. I also appreciate how many women my cohort has (42%). Having so many inspiring, supportive women professionals has shaped my MBA experience for the better.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be clear about your goals and passions. These might change and that’s okay! But I think Simon wants to see people who have real passion for their work and real focus on achieving their goals

What is the biggest myth about your school? Simon is known for finance, and we definitely have a strong finance program. But I absolutely loved my two operations courses with Professor Greg Dobson. I also felt like the Marketing program was exceptional, especially courses such as Professor Mitch Lovett’s Marketing Research class. That said, I believe Simon offers a really well-rounded MBA experience.

What was your biggest regret in business school? There are some of my peers that I wish I could have gotten to know better.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Lavin Godhwani because I’ve never met someone so intelligent and focused who is also so patient and helpful.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I knew I wanted to go to business school when I felt like I needed more of a challenge.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…if I hadn’t gone to business school, I would probably be working on transitioning my buying career into a marketing career.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience?  Provide more support and resources to Simon students interested in entrepreneurship. This could be as simple as better communication between Simon and the UR’s Ain Center for Entrepreneurship. That and adding a mandatory full-blown business ethics course to the program.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’ve started two companies: a non-profit over six years ago, and most recently a healthy food social enterprise. I want to work at a company and in a position where I can be an “intrepreneur.” As an apparel buyer and merchant, I owned million-dollar product lines. I was responsible for driving margin and volume by providing products my consumers saw value in. As a founder of start-up social enterprise, I’m striving to create social impact by developing a business model and product that serves a consumer need. I take a lot of satisfaction out of creating value for my consumers and owning my business. I want to be in a position where I’m making key, impactful decisions that directly impact the consumer and how they engage with the company.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My roommate and fellow classmate, Megan West, who helped me through countless study sessions, encouraged me to stay focused on my goals, and was always down for ordering pizza after a long day.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A reliable teammate and an entrepreneur with a passion for social impact, the automotive industry, and giving back when she can…and maybe a future CEO!

Favorite book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho 

Favorite movie or television show: Grand Tour

Favorite musical performer: Josh Ritter

Favorite vacation spot: Florence, Italy

Hobbies? Triathlons, marathons, trying new coffee shops, traveling

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

“Sarah is a born social entrepreneur who walks the walk and talks the talk. You can see how truly passionate she is about social impact and leaving her mark on the world, and she has used her Simon experience and career to leverage this passion and more.

Sarah has been involved in the Simon Community as a student leader, club leader, recruiting weekends, career consultation, and much more, and she’s excelled at everything. In the Winter Quarter 2016, she took a brand-new elective, Urban Entrepreneurship, and was part of a project focused on the Rochester, New York poverty crisis. Through the class and project, she and her team created Oasis Foods, LLC, focused on selling affordable pre-prepared frozen meals through vending machines in low-income and poverty stricken communities. The project has since become an actual start-up, and has received regional awards and recognition. Sarah has traveled across the US to meet with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to pitch the company throughout her second year as well. In addition to Oasis Foods, Sarah will be leading a team of Simon second-year MBAs and representing Simon at the Hult Prize regional competition in London this March. Staying true to who she is and following her passions, her team has created a sustainable business plan focused on impacting and helping refugees across the globe.

Sarah has definitely left her legacy and a lasting impact on the Simon Community, and it will be fun and exciting to see where her passions take her throughout her professional career. I am confident that we will be reading about Sarah’s impact on the world much sooner than later.”

Nathan Kadar
Simon Business School, University of Rochester
Director of Student Life

 

DON’T MISS: MBAS TO WATCH: THE STORIES OF 100 EXTRAORDINARY GRADUATES FROM THE CLASS OF 2017