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Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Lucas Turner-Owens, Georgetown University (McDonough)

Lucas Turner-Owens

Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business

“Passionate about racial justice and systems change – channeling impact investments to support BIPOC social entrepreneurs and workers.”

Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was a worker-owner in a catering co-op while working full time as a fund manager for an impact investing fund (The Ujima Fund). We were a dynamic group of activists of color who would cater 200-person weddings on the side of our day jobs. In addition to cranking out food prep with the other worker-owners, I helped to do a financial analysis on our various events to share with the other worker-owners how we could improve efficiency, job costing, and food ordering.

Undergraduate School and Major: Wesleyan University, African American Studies with a concentration in Sociology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Trail Mix Ventures, Intern (August-December 2020)

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? As someone who was interested in pursuing a career in venture capital and impact investing, Georgetown offered a unique on-ramp to venture capital and a certificate in sustainable business that attracted me to the program. The Venture Fellows Program at Georgetown partners with local VC funds like Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Fund to place Georgetown MBA students at firms (full-time during the summer, and 10 hours a week during the spring and fall semesters) during their first and second year and offered an in-road to a career that very few MBAs can enter directly following graduation. I also was attracted to the Certificate in Sustainable Business offered through the Georgetown MBA program with qualifying courses taught by professors like Melissa Bradley, who have direct experience in impact investing.

What excites you most about studying in Washington, DC? I love Washington D.C. Having lived here from 2012-2016, what I love most about DC is the arts and culture. In 2012, I would go to a warehouse in Northeast DC for a weekly cypher and open mic put on by a group called The Mousai House, and small businesses would do pop-ups in the space while musicians played and vocalists performed. Sadly, the Mousai House was displaced by an incoming hotel, in the all-too-common story of development and displacement. I look forward to seeking out this same type of community in my return to D.C.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? The incoming Class of 2022 has already banded together and shown such support for each other. Even though COVID-19 has moved our interactions online, students are showing warm support for each other over WhatsApp as they receive internship offers and navigate their transition to the start of the semester. I think the reputation of Georgetown as a place where the students and staff really care about each other and see the whole person is true.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am excited about the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club as well as Net Impact.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment in my career to date has been launching The Ujima Fund, the first democratically-managed impact investment fund in the country. My job was to launch the fund, thinking through its design and underwriting policy, and to help raise the capital that would be democratically deployed to local black-owned businesses. I also led the underwriting process working with Ujima’s leadership, our Investment Committee, and our 300+ voting members to review investment opportunities for our community fund. Our focus was to invest in BIPOC-led small businesses in Boston’s working-class communities of color. Before I left, we made our first investment in CERO.COOP, a hauling company delivering food waste from restaurants and anchor institutions to local farms throughout New England where it could be composted and re-earthed.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I embarked on a career in the social sector to affect systems-level change and ended up focusing in on finance as a lever for change. As a sociology major, I felt I had hit the limit of what I could learn on Khan Academy and through elective MOOCs, and I wanted to pursue an MBA to sharpen the financial skills I had developed on the job.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? NYU Stern, and Yale School of Management.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “Why come to Georgetown when you are already working in your desired field?”

With so many students pursuing an MBA to switch jobs, I had to explain why I was looking to attain an MBA to go further in my field. Although you can learn a great deal on the job, to place that learning inside of a framework, hone core skills, and see the landscape more clearly, I knew that I needed to pursue an MBA.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I looked for programs that could help me break into competitive fields like Impact VC, and I closely evaluated programs for their student culture. Georgetown immediately struck me as a community that was kind, humble, and where students wanted to support one another.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? I have taken on two internships this summer and fall, one with a financial consulting firm (Surfside Capital Advisors) and another with a venture capital firm (Trail Mix Ventures). I am so thankful to the teams at Surfside and Trail Mix for the opportunity to support their work and to learn more about how to support small businesses and startups.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? A defining moment for me was in writing the Offering Memorandum for The Ujima Fund. Our team had received a number of different ideas for how to structure our capital stack and I was wading through the details of different options for a subordination agreement for our fund. It was in this moment that I thought I was in over my head, faced with several options, and no clear evidence of which one was the best to choose. We were charting new ground in the impact investing space, so it was impossible to look for a precedent that would fully resemble our model. In this moment, I felt I might not be suited to the task but I persisted and persevered. Working with a team of lawyers at Morgan Lewis who were supporting The Boston Ujima Project pro-bono we finally did launch the fund in late 2018 and raised over $2.5M in the time I was there.

This moment prepared me for business school by teaching that it’s always darkest before dawn. The best path forward was illuminated through each step we took to build out the concept, and only through building it did its form begin to take shape. Although research and expert guidance are always the best places to start, sometimes iteration and determination are the requisite traits for leading through uncharted territory.

DON’T MISS: Meet The MBA Class Of 2022: The COVID Cohorts