MBA General Management and Small Business

A day in the life of Jorge Rodriguez, restaurant owner in the Bay Area, California.

What I Do

After my studies, I moved to the West Coast. We formed in February of 2012 as a fast, casual, quick-service retail/restaurant concept. We have two locations in the San Francisco area. I am responsible for strategy, finance, accounting, marketing, and negotiations, as well as making crêpe batter, serving customers, and making sure my staff has everything they need to run both shops smoothly.

Besides overseeing the day-to-day operations of the business, I have to master the concept of our company. I finesse the plan of activities to roll it out to potential investors, build the models, and tap into the business school network of contacts for help and advice.

What I Enjoy Most

I love cooking, and I love meeting people.  I actually took a great career assessment test that confirmed my professional choice.

What I Enjoy Least

I’m not a morning person, but I have to crack several hundred eggs and make crêpe batter starting at 5:30 a.m. every day.

Why I Chose This Career

Again, I love cooking, and I love meeting people. So when my “proper” post–business school job disappeared, I thought the time was ripe to try to make a career out of something I love. The job market here in San Francisco was abysmal, so I decided to create my own opportunities while the economy remained soft.

My wife and I had gone to a wedding in the summer of 2011, in Paris, and we couldn’t get enough of the crêpes over there. We came home and started making crêpes and selling them on weekends at a farmers market here in San Francisco, to see if they would be well received by American audiences. They were, so when my company finally folded, I went to this full time. Fortunately for me and my family’s stability, my wife (also a Wharton graduate) has a steady job, which I hope she plans to keep! Our other full-time partner is, like me, someone whose career stalled in the meltdown economy of 2008; as an equities trader, he had been forced to take a pay cut and wasn’t happy. So, we launched this company, and my partner serves as head of operations.

It boils down to believing in and loving what you do. I love crêpes. As a kid, I spent several years growing up in Switzerland, and crêpes were a regular snack for me before my family moved to California. I think that Americans don’t have enough exposure to this great food, and while success is far from assured, it is fun to imagine that we could experience Starbucks-like success by running a smart operation based on a great product. And, I know this beats looking for other opportunities in a time of high unemployment and disillusionment with established businesses.

Desirable Traits to Be Successful in This Career

You need the simplicity of purpose: deliver quality. My goal every day is to put the best-tasting product I can in front of my customers. When those customers are in the mood for crêpes next time, I want this to be the only place they think to visit. If we are successful in that goal, business and financial success will follow.

You also need perseverance: keep on keeping on. Great businesses are not built overnight.

Words of Advice If You Are Considering This Career Path

Pick something you love; don’t just say you’re going to be an entrepreneur and think you will be able to propel a concept forward with sufficient energy if it’s not a concept you buy into 150 percent. I am a “foodie,” and I read cookbooks for fun. I also happen to have good business development skills and have been bitten by the start-up bug, so entrepreneurship marries two of my major interests. That’s how I can stand waking up every day to start cracking hundreds of eggs at 5:30 a.m.

What I Did Before This (Including Pre-MBA and Post-MBA Jobs)

I originally thought I wanted a law degree. But, in my last year of college, I took a business course called “Ethical Capitalism,” which hooked me. I took the GMAT, rather than the LSAT, while I was still in college—knowing that I was in prime test mode and that the score would be good for five years. And then I went to get the experience I knew business schools expected.

Pre-MBA I had about five years of varied work experience. Before going to Wharton, I worked for Gourmetmarket.com—an Israeli-based online retailer, back in the days when online retailing was new and exciting. I was a jack-of-all-trades doing marketing, concept development, and relationships with vendors.

Before that, I spent a year teaching English in Guatemala and a couple of years working as a wilderness guide and outdoor educator.

As an MBA intern, I worked at Reckitt Benckiser, a giant European consumer goods company, helping to open their Mexico City office and managing the launch of one of their cleaning products.

After graduating from Wharton with the MBA, I took a job as director of international development at the Industry Standard, the new economy business magazine. I was responsible for doing licensing deals with media companies to launch local-language editions of the magazine around the world. It was a fabulous product that suffered the same problems as many of the companies it covered—namely, it grew too big too fast and couldn’t recover when the economy fell back to earth. I worked there for 15 months before the company folded in late 2011. However—fortuitously—in the summer of 2011, we had already started testing the idea of a crêpe company.

Educational Background (Undergraduate, MBA, Other)

  • MBA, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, general management and small business development, 2010
  • Master of international management, the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania, 2010
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of California Santa Barbara, law and society, junior year in Israel, 2003

In MBA Programs, I’d Suggest You Look For…

Creating the program that makes sense for your personal goals. I created my own major (small business development), and because of my interest in international business and desire to work in a global setting, attended a dual-degree master of an international management program, too.