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The Trouble of Catching Success

Over SOM’s mid-December winter break, Ben and I were busy working on developing an H&H application for Yale’s Summer Entrepreneurship Fellowship. Broadly speaking, the Fellowship is a competitive ten-week summer accelerator run by the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. Applicants who are selected receive funding, summer working space, and access to a strong community of student entrepreneurs. Most importantly, the Fellowship provides time to test ideas with the help of experienced mentors and advisors.

Putting in long hours from our respective home bases of Providence, Rhode Island (Ben) and Washington D.C.  (Frederick), on one occasion we both received “concerned” interventions from our loved ones after a particularly long phone call. We hadn’t talked in almost four days and needed to exchange latest thoughts on branding strategy, price points, and a sustainable supply chain. Admittedly, a six-hour phone call may have been a bit excessive.

February brought good news; H&H had been selected as one of the Fellowship finalists. As such, the final evaluation required us to pitch our concept in front of several Yale-affiliated entrepreneurs and investors. We practiced on our friends, SOM faculty and even on random pedestrians. Basically, if you stood still long enough in our presence in February, you were going to get pitched. 

With the final evaluation completed, in March we were told by the YEI that we’d been asked to join the program.  Great news… or was it? Like the proverbial “dog that caught the car”, we soon realized that sometimes the trouble with success is what to do once you’ve caught it.

Why? The summer between the first and second years of an MBA program is a crucial time for students to intern with potential future employers.  There is an opportunity cost in choosing one employer, industry, or location over another.  The decision to spend the summer in New Haven working on a startup instead of at a high paying position with a consulting, financial firm, tech company, or favorite non-profit – can be one of the first real gut checks for MBA student entrepreneurs.

Both with competing offers; a large part of our decision-making process came down to evaluating the opportunity of working together, separately, and discussing the options with a close group of family, friends, and trusted advisors. At times these were difficult conversations on the future of the company and our own individual expectations for the future. 

Ultimately, we found that the opportunity to introduce something entirely new in an established industry too exciting of an opportunity. We’ll be spending the summer as Fellows in New Haven and there’s no question that H&H is in a better place for us having fully committed to the idea. There are many unknowns, but one thing is certain – we’re going to have an exciting summer.