A Career In Consulting Helped Prepare Young Entrepreneur To Start Her Own Business

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Diana Goodwin says that times are changing: Student underemployment has been on the rise for years, alongside an increasingly competitive job market. It is no surprise that new graduates today are exploring less conventional career options.

With a commerce degree from the University of Toronto, Diana was able to successfully secure prestigious consultant position at Bain & Company, a global management consulting firm, after graduating in 2007.

As an ex-swim instructor, however, Diana also spent a lot of time thinking about the fact that most children weren’t getting the attention they needed in large community swimming classes and that, with today’s hectic lifestyle, parents were looking for a more convenient option to teach their kids who to swim.

Her business – AquaMobile Swim School – was born. She was determined to create a swim school that provided high-quality individualized swimming lessons to students in the comfort and convenience of their own homes.

At first, it was something she was doing casually while working full-time at Bain. “I was doing it on the side,” she says. “I only had time to put in a couple hours a week to grow the business.”

Those few hours proved to be enough to convince Diana – she decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship based on what she enjoyed most. Diana says she has no regrets about the time she spent at Bain, though. “If I were to do it over again, I would do exactly the same path of working in consulting before I’d do my own thing. 100%.”

She asserts, “There are still a lot of skills you can learn in a traditional corporate job, a lot of connections you can make, and it brings in the money. If you’re starting [a business] right away, you’re not going to have that money.”

From there, she entered the MBA program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Illinois, where she made the final push to make her dreams become a reality.

“While I was at business school, I worked hard on developing a robust business plan so that I could take AquaMobile to the next level once I graduated,” she says. She received her MBA in 2011.

For most new graduates, however, A-list business schools may be out of reach.  Regardless of educational background, Diana’s biggest piece of advice for new graduates who want to pursue a career in entrepreneurship is: focus.

“Once you have an idea that you are passionate about, it’s important to focus on it and go for it,” Diana says.

“If you are being pulled in many different directions and working on developing multiple ventures, you will never be able to make one idea succeed because your attention is being split too many ways.”

Diana also emphasizes the importance of starting early, specifically, when it comes to networking.

“Go out there and start building your network. It’s really important and it’s something that people don’t necessarily do a good job of doing until they need something,” she says. “Just start getting involved in things. I’ve learned so much by getting involved in my community. You never know who can help you several years down the road.”

While Diana is a strong advocate for pursuing her passions, she is also an ardent believer in being practical and proactive. She encourages taking action whether it’s starting a business part-time or joining organizations with people who share the same vision.

“Depending on what type of venture it is, it may be something that can be done part-time while working full-time,” she says.

“I hear a lot of new grads who want to do something entrepreneurial, but they don’t have an idea. Maybe it’s getting together once a week with a group of like-minded friends where you can bounce ideas off each other. Brainstorming gets that creativity going and that’s what spurs ideas. If you sit around and wait, chances are it’s not going to come to you. Plan some time, start thinking about that idea, and work with the right people,” Diana affirms.

“Go for it.”

Diana’s advice:

  • Focus. Choose one idea and go for it. Don’t get distracted along the way.
  • Start young. Build your network.
  • Start now. Start something part-time and surround yourself with like-minded people.

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