Meet UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class of 2021

Robert Ejupi

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“An avid explorer and traveler who strives to make an impact in society through entrepreneurship.”

Hometown: Pristina, Kosovo

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am an avid sneaker collector and a Nike guru who knows the name of every product the brand produces.

Undergraduate School and Major: Rochester Institute of Technology, Management and Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Sport In, Marketing and Operations Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Launching the first e-commerce platform in the sporting goods industry in a country (Kosovo) has to be the most distinguished achievement in my career to date. I take great pride in this project as I was responsible for the entire process cycle, from ideation to launch and profitability. The path to launching a successful e-commerce platform in Kosovo was never going to be easy, given that most people in the country do not use debit/credit cards and rely on cash for their transactions. Luckily enough, in only a few months, I managed to contract all the right partners; a terrific web development company, an experienced shipping company, a leading commercial bank and a startup digital marketing agency with a point to prove. Further, I had to build the internal team from scratch. After reviewing countless applications and screening dozens of interviews, I put together a team of five young and ambitious individuals, who remain key members of the platform to this day. I am happy to report that during the past year the platform attracted 500,000 visitors and generated 10% of total retail sales for our business.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I have only been in Chapel Hill for a couple of days, yet I have come to know many of my classmates many months ago.  Communication with classmates started on various social chatting platforms and I was a member of more than five social groups before even setting foot in the United States. Thus, I would describe my classmates as some of the most welcoming people I have ever met. I am eagerly looking forward to spending the next two years with them and creating relationships that will last a lifetime.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? When I was looking at which programs to apply to, I was particularly interested in their approach towards entrepreneurship. UNC Kenan-Flagler stood out as a school with a proven track record of cultivating entrepreneurial and leadership skills, with many of its graduates starting successful ventures around the world. Further, the school provides ample opportunities to develop entrepreneurial skills beyond the classroom by offering core case competitions and experiential learning opportunities (both in the US and globally). That is why I have decided to choose entrepreneurship as my MBA concentration and I look forward to growing as an entrepreneur and as a leader during my time at Kenan-Flagler.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am particularly interested in joining the Family Business Club at UNC Kenan-Flagler. As a kid who grew up in an entrepreneurial household, I feel like I have an abundance of insights into operating a family business that I want to share with others. At the same time, I am eager to learn from the unique experiences of other members of the club as no two families and no two businesses are alike.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I don’t remember much from the admissions interview, to be honest. It lasted about 30 minutes, but it felt more like 30 seconds as the admissions representative made me feel at ease and brought a very conversational vibe to the interview. I do remember being asked which of the core UNC Kenan-Flagler principles (Leadership, Integrity, Teamwork, Excellence and Community) I most resonate with. While I do resonate at some level with all the principles, the question specifically asked to choose one, and so it made me think about what I value the most in myself. Ultimately, I chose excellence as my defining principle and I hope it will guide my career development in the future.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have spent most of my career contributing to the growth of my family business, which was started by my parents a year before I was born. During my time at the company, I have contributed to the creation of new departments and new approaches to marketing and operations. However, with the company almost doubling in size every year, I felt it was the right time to gain the skills and knowledge required to sustainably scale the organization and continue to dominate the market for many years to come. That is why I decided to enroll in a top MBA program and learn organizational structure from world-renowned faculty at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? UT Austin McCombs, Columbia Business School, UM Carlson School of Management.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Coming from a country in southeastern Europe, it was physically impossible to visit the schools I was interested in. Subsequently, I resorted to any resource I could find online. I researched the schools’ websites, looked at their rankings in Poets & Quants, U.S. News, and Forbes and joined countless discussion forums. I also interacted with as many current students and alumni with whom I could get in touch.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment in life so far was when I took the decision to pursue my MBA. At the time of the decision, I had been working full-time at the family business for over two years and was growing in stature and responsibility by the day. Taking the decision to leave my home country was the hardest one I have taken to date. However, I do believe the value added by the MBA over the long-term will make up for the two years I’ll be missing from the family business. In many ways, training my employees to take over my duties during this transitional period has already proven to be a valuable experience and has shaped my character as a leader and visionary.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I see myself as a successful entrepreneur. In the short-run, I intend to scale the family business. Eventually, I plan to start my own ventures. I have always been interested to enter the food and restaurant industry and already have plenty of ideas in mind. I am certain that my time at Chapel Hill will help me see that future clearer and guide me towards fulfilling my goals.

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