2019 MBAs To Watch: Brook Stroud, University of Texas (McCombs)

Brook Stroud

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

“An insatiably curious person who enjoys visiting new places and returning to old favorites with friends.”

Hometown: Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

Fun fact about yourself: I came dangerously close to drowning in a pool on the morning of my 21st birthday trying to learn how to roll a kayak. Thankfully, my brother dove in and saved me. That was the beginning and end of my interest in white water kayaking.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Richmond – Bachelor of Arts: History, Art History

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Funding Circle in San Francisco, CA – Account Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018?  Somerset – Austin, TX (own venture)

Last spring, I was awarded the 2018 McCombs Entrepreneur Summer Fellowship which provided compensation and a working space at Austin’s Capital Factory to pursue launching my own venture.

Where will you be working after graduation? After graduation, I will continue working as the founder of Somerset. Somerset is a lightly caffeinated sparkling water company I launched this spring in Austin. Think La Croix with a kick. It’s very refreshing. I am looking forward to pursuing this business venture on a full-time basis after school and am planning to raise money this summer and put together a small team.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Category Winner and Finalist of the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition Spring 2018.
  • Category Winner and Finalist of the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition Fall 2018.
  • Awarded the 2018 McCombs Entrepreneur Summer Fellowship
  • Member of TexTalks, McCombs Entrepreneur Society, and the MBA Food & Beverage Innovation Club
  • MBArk – McCombs Invitee to Natural Products Industry Conferences

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the help and enthusiasm I received from my fellow McCombs classmates to push me to launch a company while at business school despite the frequent setbacks and delays common to start-up work. I had the unique opportunity to create my own Independent Study and work with faculty member Britt Freund and a small team of classmates to build and execute a road map for launching Somerset. Entrepreneurship can at times be isolating. Having a team with diverse personal and professional backgrounds led to thoughtful insights, new ways of working through challenges, and a greater sense of accountability. Not to mention, having a team made celebrating the wins and working through the inevitable flops a lot more fun.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In the summer of 2015, my younger brother Alex and I sold our first company, La Matera. Through scrappy resourcefulness, a lot of hard work, and being nimble, we were able to bootstrap an idea we had four years earlier while traveling in South America and turn that idea into a premium Argentine accessories brand, popular throughout the U.S.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This is a really tough question to answer because I’ve had a lot of great professors at McCombs that were favorites for various reasons. They include Greg Hallman, Jan Schneider, Sandy Leeds, Patrick Badolato, Clemens Sialm, and many more. The common theme is they all brought their passion, expertise, and enthusiasm for learning to the classroom every day. They are professors who want to see their students be successful and challenged us in not just how we thought about business, but also our relationship to the world and people that surround us.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Having only taken liberal arts classes during undergrad, the first semester’s Core Finance class was initially tough sledding. While I enjoyed the subject matter, it is safe to say that I was very far from the top of my class on the midterm and final. Despite those shortcomings, my friend Wesley Gottesman helped convince me to embrace the challenge and take Valuations the following the semester. Valuations ended up being one of my favorite MBA courses. That’s because it helped to demystify the work analysts do and, more importantly, it provided a strong foundational understanding and practical toolset for valuing business enterprises and projects. It also helped that I had an awesome professor.

Why did you choose this business school? McCombs is a great program in an awesome city for CPG entrepreneurship, start-ups, warm weather, friendly people, and fun. I am a huge fan of the more intimate MBA program size of McCombs combined with having access to the vast resources of The University of Texas.

If you haven’t visited UT’s campus, you should check it out.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? There’s a frequently quoted line from Hamlet: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” MBA program offices read through a lot of applications and I believe authenticity resonates and should be your friend when telling your story. If there’s something you’re passionate about, really interested in, or think you could be interested in pursuing at McCombs, talk about it. Enthusiasm is often contagious.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I was expecting some more cowboy boots, but there are way more people wearing Allbirds.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wouldn’t change a thing, but I will say that having even the most modest understanding of statistics would have been helpful for the first semester.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? I have found that often when something makes me feel uncomfortable it’s a signal of personal growth and discovery to follow. The experience of arriving at an MBA program in a new city with people you’ve never met and taking classes in subjects you’ve never seen before is both exhilarating and at times uncomfortable. When Sam Hinkie was coach of the Sixers, his team mantra was “Trust the process.” I think the same is true of business school. It takes time for all the work and cross-pollination of different subject matters and ideas to come together, expand, and foster new insights.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I have great admiration for our class of 2019 president David Hahn. From the first day of orientation, it was apparent that David is a positive can-do person, who leads by example and brings a genuine kindness and thoughtfulness to each conversation. David’s passion for McCombs and his fellow classmates’ success is a wonderful quality and his lack of self-interest and ego is inspiring.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? This may sound silly, but for me it was Warren Buffett. In 2012, I started watching some of his interviews on YouTube, which then led me to read his biography The Snowball, followed by Buffett’s recommendation of The Intelligent Investor and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Reading Buffett’s writing, learning about his life, and listening to his insights were catalysts for a growing desire to develop a much stronger understanding of business mechanics and the economic markets and forces that shape our surroundings.

What is your favorite movie about business? In the spirit of Texas wildcatters, There Will Be Blood is a great movie for the acting, photography, and plotline. The movie presents the tremendous success that perseverance, ambition, passion, entrepreneurial capitalism, and some luck can create, while simultaneously serving as a dark allegory of the misery that a myopic and insatiable obsession with wealth and one’s self can create.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? I have a professor who has used the phrase “To cut through the guano.” I’ve heard plenty of MBA jargon, but this one is ridiculous. As for the meaning, I suppose it’s a more creative way to say to “cut to the chase”.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…regretting that decision and hoping that if not an MBA, I pursued something else outside my comfort zone to stretch myself.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less?

My fiancée’s 91-year-old grandmother, affectionally knows as Granny, told me, “Put your money between your ears. That way no one can take it from you.” That sums it up pretty well: The MBA tuition costs are a long-term investment in one’s self. McCombs has definitely already proven its value and I believe that value will only grow further with time.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. I would love to learn how to build one of those safari yurts on a platform with a potbelly stove and construct one as a weekend escape from urban life and our technology addictions.
  2. In 2007, I had the amazing opportunity to backpack around Europe with four friends for a month. I would love to get the five of us back together when we’re sixty years old and do the same trip together and write about it.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? My grandfather Dick Stroud was a great guy and a friend to many. It would be an honor to be remembered by peers in a similar light: “A strong and gentle man, whose unassuming manner, quiet generosity and genuine interest in the lives of all he met, left a remarkable impact.”

Hobbies? Reading, hiking, snowboarding, adding to an eclectic collection of music from many genres, tennis, procrastinating on work assignments by reading the WSJ and listening to podcasts, spending time with family and friends.

What made Brook such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Brook Stroud came to McCombs with a focus on entrepreneurship and the goal to incubate his next business while in school. He and his brother had already founded and sold a premium Argentine men’s accessory and lifestyle brand, La Matera, prior to school. He knew that Texas McCombs had the entrepreneurial ecosystem he was looking for to continue to grow as a founder and work on his next venture.

Brook took advantage of every resource, opportunity and class to launch his next business: Somerset, a lightly caffeinated sparkling water. He has provided collaboration opportunities for his classmates to work on the project and learn about taking an idea to market and launching a business. He was both a category winner and finalist in the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition and he was awarded the McCombs Entrepreneurship Summer Fellowship. With the fellowship, he spent the summer incubating his business at Austin’s Capital Factory, our local tech start-up hub. Through this process, Brook and Somerset have become defining features of the 2019 class. As the class president David Hahn said, “Brook embodies the ‘human-centered, future-focused spirit’ of McCombs”.

Brook has become a fixture at any event that connects students to the local start-up environment. He was involved with the TexTalks entrepreneur speaker series, Entrepreneur Society and MBA Food and Beverage Innovation Club. Somerset is available in our new Moontower Café in Rowling Hall. Having a refreshing, lightly caffeinated beverage option has been a hit with our MBA students, as any alum will surely understand.

Marshaling all the resources that McCombs, UT and Austin have to offer a budding entrepreneur, Brook has established a great roadmap for future students to emulate.”

Tina Mabley
Assistant Dean of the Full-Time MBA Program

Are you a friend of Brook? Leave a note to congratulate him.