2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Amira Khatib, University of Chicago (Booth)

Amira Khatib

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

“Iowan by way of LA; believes VC is a powerful tool to improve the world.”

Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa

Fun fact about yourself:
I have a side hustle with my husband, we co-own an Etsy shop where we sell art prints.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Iowa State University, Bachelor of Science, Public Relations; Minor, Sociology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Whole Foods Market, Marketing Manager, Los Angeles

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021?  Harlem Capital, Summer VC Intern, New York City (remote)

Where will you be working after graduation? To be determined, but I am seeking an investing role at an early-stage venture capital firm.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Honors

  • Dean’s List every quarter
  • 1898 Scholarship recipient

Clubs

  • Leadership:
    • Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club VC Programming Co-Chair
      • Overseeing the Venture Capital Investment Competition
      • Overseeing the VC Programming for the year, including club socials, the VC Bootcamp Series, “Future of” Speaker Series, and the VC Career Treks to San Francisco and Los Angeles where we visit 20+ leading venture capital firms
    • Membership:
      • Food, Environment, Agribusiness, and Development Club member
      • Chicago Women in Business Club member
      • Chicago Booth Veg Club
    • Admissions Ambassador

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As VC Programming Co-Chair, I am most proud of the growth and reach of the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Group this year. We became one of the most active clubs on campus and created a fun, collaborative community for students to explore their curiosity about entrepreneurship, startups, and venture capital. By extension, our aim was also to elevate Booth’s recognition as a school for students pursuing these alternative paths. We more than doubled our membership to 360+ students, hosted a Fall Social sponsored by 8 VC-backed consumer brands, rebranded and revamped our social channels, piloted a new “Future of” Series where we explored different industries, and hosted career treks to iconic firms such as Coatue, Sapphire Ventures, Bullish, Insight Partners and Upfront Ventures.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Starting the Iowa Vegfest with a mission to elevate local small businesses and support climate and animal rights non-profits was one of memorable achievements of my career thus far. As the nation’s pork capital, Iowa isn’t exactly known for being a vegan destination. That’s why it was my goal in founding the Iowa Vegfest, the first large-scale vegan festival in my native state. We elevated the burgeoning plant-based community through a fun and family-friendly day that not only featured delicious food, but also environmental nonprofits, vegan beauty brands, and more. I oversaw the event from creation to execution, including negotiating permits, securing vendors, fundraising, and managing a committee while working full time in New York. On the day of the event, 1,200 people turned out and most vendors sold out before day’s end. Most gratifying was that in the ensuing weeks, products from Vegfest vendors flew off shelves and attendees reported adopting more sustainable habits. This momentum has since continued — several vendors have established brick-and-mortar stores and others have tripled in size. Furthermore, vegan festivals have since cropped up around Iowa, founded by those involved in the Vegfest.

Why did you choose this business school? As I was considering other business schools, when I spoke to faculty about my plan to pursue venture capital despite not having a finance or consulting background, I was urged to reconsider and follow a traditional recruiting path instead. Chicago Booth, on the other hand, embraced my individual story and encouraged me to pursue my bold vision for my career. Chicago Booth also had the breadth of resources and an active community for students seeking a role in venture capital post-MBA. Venture capital is an opaque industry. Fortunately at Booth, there is immense support not only to demystify venture capital, but also to land an internship and full-time role. This ranges from the coursework — such as Commercializing Innovation, New Venture Strategy, Entrepreneurial Finance and Private Equity, and Venture Capital lab — to the depth of the resources provided by our Career Services and the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Group, including career treks and a VC bootcamp led by top VCs in Chicago. I am so grateful I chose Chicago Booth and could not have imagined such a transformative experience anywhere else.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It would Assistant Adjunct Professor Karl Muth, who taught New Venture Strategy in Fall 2021. New Venture Strategy focuses on developing models of success and failure in the world of entrepreneurial business. As someone pursuing venture capital, I enjoyed being able to immediately apply the concepts I learned in class to my current internship in venture capital. Professor Muth was highly engaging, always sharing his relevant professional anecdotes and tying the coursework back to what was happening in the industry. I looked forward to my Monday afternoon class with him every week and was genuinely sad when the class ended! It was by far the best course I have taken at Booth and Professor Muth played a big part in that. Beyond coursework, Professor Muth is deeply invested in his students’ success and always makes time for answering questions or providing thoughtful career advice. Professor Muth is also a rare combination I have yet to find in an MBA professor: academic experience plus recent relevant industry expertise. Karl was a Thiel fellow, appointed CEO of a startup, has patents under his name, and has been an active investor and advisor to many well-known companies. One of the youngest professors, he is highly educated, having earned M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees at the London School of Economics as well as his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and his J.D. from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would have engaged more with my professors earlier! It was a little challenging the first year to get to know professors over Zoom, but this second year I have sought out more opportunities to connect one on one and have enjoyed hearing their perspectives and professional experiences. Once I did start engaging more this year (going to office hours, sending them relevant articles after class, participating in their lunch and breakfasts with students), I realized they are all genuinely excited to learn more about the students in their classrooms and more than willing to take time to share their invaluable advice.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Chicago Booth is known as a finance and economics school. As someone with a “non-traditional” background, I was a bit apprehensive about attending a program full of quants. While many of my classmates majored in economics or previously worked in finance, the idea of professional homogeneity could not be further from the truth. Every day, I meet someone new and am astounded by the individual path that led them to Booth, the diverse thoughts they bring to the classroom and their unique career aspirations. My peers have  founded and sold their own companies, earned Fulbright Scholarships, worked in fashion, served in the U.S. Army, and so much more. I feel so fortunate to learn alongside and from my amazing peers; their aspirations are infectious and inspire me to unlock my own potential.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me most about business school is how much freedom and flexibility is granted to students. While I know that Chicago Booth touts its “flexible curriculum”, these past two years have revealed how much value the school places on freedom, enabling students to bring their unique ideas to fruition. One example I am proud of this year: the EVC Group Co-Chairs enacted our new vision for the club without requiring much oversight from the administration — we rebranded, adjusted our programming, and tailored our career treks to our club members’ needs, ultimately rising in the ranks to become one of the most active, popular clubs on campus.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Prior to starting my application process, I spent several months reflecting on why exactly an MBA was the best next step in my career journey. That reflection gave me clarity on my post-MBA goals (early-stage venture capital), which ultimately informed my school selection criteria. As such, I took a highly targeted approach in my outreach efforts to current MBA students, speaking to those who had similar non-traditional career backgrounds and were interested in venture capital post-MBA. One first-year student I reached out to cold via Booth’s “Connect with a Student” digital tool was so helpful during the application process and her path into Booth and at Booth served as a blueprint for mine. Gaining that first-hand knowledge of someone who had pivoted from a consumer background into venture capital using Booth’s resources helped me to better illustrate what my path would look like at Booth, which enabled me to envision how I would fit into the class. Ultimately, this also helped me to stand out as a candidate. Funny enough, the internship she held when I first reached out to her as a prospective student became the same internship I worked my first year at Booth a year later — a true testament to Booth’s pay-it-forward culture.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Alexandra Chung. Alex is the other VC Programming Co-Chair for Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Group and she and I work closely together. I am so fortunate to have met her during this experience and together we’re an unstoppable duo. Alex embodies Booth’s pay-it-forward mentality. She is the most thoughtful friend and is unbelievably generous with her time, always willing to meet with current students seeking her advice about venture capital or give up a Saturday afternoon to judge the University of Chicago’s undergraduate Venture Capital Investment Competition. Alex is also whip-smart and unafraid to think outside the box — she was critical to elevating the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Group this year, organizing events with industry-leading speakers and rebranding the organization.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father influenced me most to attend business school. Almost every person in my family attended Iowa State University for their undergraduate studies, but I am the first one to attend graduate school. My father was the one who started the Iowa State legacy, graduating after escaping the Lebanese Civil War and coming to America on his own in the 1980s. He and my mother met in Iowa and co-founded a company in their 20s, bootstrapped it, and ultimately scaled it to acquisition. When I was growing up, my parents inspired my interest in business, whether it was teaching me about investing in the stock market, encouraging me to take business classes in undergrad, or encouraging me to negotiate and get the best deal. Their experience as founders also inspired me to make my own mark on the business world, and ultimately, I am pursuing a career in venture capital so I can support founders like them one day.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? My long-term dream is launching my own early-stage venture fund that invests in revolutionary, purpose-driven consumer brands. Another item on my professional bucket list is joining the board of a non-profit organization whose mission I care deeply about, whether that is All Raise, whose mission is to elevate female and non-binary founders and investors, or a local organization working to improve healthy food access.

 What made Amira such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Ms. Khatib was the top student in New Venture Strategy this fall quarter at Chicago Booth, not only in course score (though that was true), but in mixture of contribution to class discussion, posing of difficult but fair questions to fellow students and to me, and being a standout team player.

I want to particularly emphasize this last piece; several of her teammates commented to me before and after the pitch about her ability to contribute, delegate, and lead. In the months since class ended, I’ve spoken to her classmates who want to discuss new ventures with her, want her on their NVC team(s), or want to stay in touch with her. Prior to coming to Chicago Booth, I created the Innovation Management curriculum at the “other” purple school and taught those students for a decade; I’ve seen a lot of students who are passionate about starting companies, learning about early-stage financing, or getting into the VC/PE game. However, in over ten years of teaching these courses, I’ve given only a few A+ marks and Ms. Khatib received the first one I’ve given in years. It is rare that you see a student who is driven but has not developed a “me first” mentality; it’s a rare and admirable kind of maturity to be both a gracious winner and a team player, and not something I possessed as a Booth MBA student years ago. Following the quarter, I was delighted when Ms. Khatib accepted my invitation to be my research assistant on a project during the Winter Quarter, a Jill-of-many-trades high-communication, high-collaboration research role she acclimated to quickly and executed against flawlessly, despite carrying a full course load. Students are fortunate to have Ms. Khatib as a classmate, colleague, and teammate–and I feel very lucky to have had her as my student and research assistant.”

Karl T. Muth
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship

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