“Adversity is a great catalyst for personal growth,” says Jeff Butler. And Butler knows adversity.
He knows even more about overcoming it.
A member of the U.S. Paralympic Rugby Team since 2015, with plans to compete in the Tokyo Games in August, Butler recently gained admission to the most selective business school in the world: Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Though he comes from a non-traditional business background, Butler hopes to combine his entrepreneurial skills with his expertise in mobility and transportation issues to create a more inclusive market for the disability community.
“There is a ton of opportunity for people who don’t have a traditional background to reap the benefits of an MBA program,” he told Poets&Quants in June.
By the time Jeff Phaneuf considered applying for an MBA, he already had a full plate — and an even fuller CV.
Last fall, the former Marine infantry officer and Iraq veteran was earning his Master of Public Administration at Princeton University while building a tech startup for outdoor recreation, Adventurelist. (Think Airbnb for guided adventure sports.) He workshopped the idea at Princeton’s Keller Center eLab Incubator and assembled a team of undergraduate students to help get it off the ground. In January, Phaneuf won the first-ever Princeton-TechStars Innovation Bootcamp pitch competition, earning essential non-dilutive funding to develop his company. On June 15, he launched the Adventurelist website.
But the startup CEO faced a tough decision: Should he throw his full time and attention to his fledgling company, one that had already attracted attention and money? Or should he pursue an MBA to fill in the gaps of his business acumen?
During Ryan Greene’s winter break at Columbia University, he visited his grandfather in Florida. There, he was presented with a list of iPhone, iPad, and Android issues that needed fixing. “About 85 percent of the time, my grandfather uses his technology seamlessly. But every so often, something goes awry. I hadn’t seen him for a while, so there was a buildup of issues that he needed help with,” he says.
On his last day of vacation, Greene helped his grandfather solve his technology problems. Once returning to Columbia for his final semester of his MBA, his grandfather called him with another issue. During their conversation, Greene recounts having what he calls a ‘lightbulb moment.’ “After our call, I did some research and realized that there are few providers out there that help with tech support across a range of devices. Apple helps with Apple products. Windows helps with Windows products. Many people love Geek Squad, but this service isn’t tailored to seniors,” he says.
Realizing he was sitting on a viable startup idea, he presented a business plan for a company that helped seniors solve technology problems to the professor of his Launch Your Startup class. Flash forward to graduation in May 2021, and Greene has built a team and launched a business called Quincy that does just that. Now, the organization helps people all over the U.S., including those in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, New York, New Jersey, and Florida.