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Profile Evaluation, Application Direction?

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Manager
Manager
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Joined: 17 May 2010
Posts: 122
Location: United States
Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Marketing
Schools: USC (Marshall) - Class of 2013
GMAT 1: 770 Q50 V46
GPA: 3.26
WE: Brand Management (Consumer Products)
Followers: 6

Kudos [?]: 28 [0], given: 5

Profile Evaluation, Application Direction? [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2010, 16:57
I'm currently studying for my GMAT's, and am in the preliminary stages of looking at Business schools. I've already started to separate out my schools by "tier," depending on how I do on my GMAT's, but my studies so far have gone well. I'm conservatively hoping to score at least 700.

However, the other (non-GMAT) side of my application has been kind of bugging me. I don't have a completely "vagabond" profile, but I think it's a little different than most applicants:

Bio: 26 years old, Asian-American male, residing in California.

School: 3.25 GPA at a top-50 university, in Chemistry. Majored in Art History and Economics alongside Chemistry (at separate times) before proceeding with just a Chem degree (partially because I was getting busy with work, see below).

Work: During school, and after graduating, started and helped run a small family business. It's mainly a luxury brand/importer. I'd rather not get into the details on a public forum, but we mostly deal with men's accessories. Because of our small size (4 employees), I've had the opportunity to experience all facets of the business. I've drawn up financial projections, brand strategy/direction, visited factories overseas, visited customers, and traveled to conventions and shows around the US and world. I'm also our marketing department, public relations contact, ad designer, photographer, and bookkeeper and basic graphic designer, among many other jobs (packaging/shipping, quality control, etc.). The only part I'm not too heavily involved with is sales; I'm not a great sales pitcher.
It's been fascinating for me to see how a product can get re-branded and marketed into something quite niche and expensive, all while balancing cash flow and investment costs and advertising and presentation. We started off as a mid-end producer, but now have built up a small name, enough to be able to sell products marketed towards the ultra-rich (think Robb Report). Developing personal connections with luxury retailers, finding the best (or easiest to work with) suppliers, following the process from raw material and components to finished products presented in expensive polished wood boxes, working with international distributors and commission-based sales reps -- it's been a lot of hard work, but I think this experience makes me stand out from others. I've seen behavioral economics at its core and have tried to work with it and exploit it as best as I could.
I believe this is the strongest part of my application; however, I'm not sure how to fully explain my job. I'm really only able to spend a few hours a week doing each of the above. And I'm a little worried about the letters of recommendation -- I could easily get 1 letter from a non-family member (a consultant of ours), but the rest of our employees are family, and most of our suppliers don't speak English well (and I've only met them a couple times). I've read that letters of rec from family don't sit well with admissions.

Extra-Curricular: Up to several months ago, I had been fairly seriously pursuing a career in music. I DJ locally (infrequently as of late), have played piano since 4, and have studied music production for the past several years. I've since scaled back my dreams a bit, after coming to grips with piracy firsthand (as a DJ, and from working with professional producers), and after realizing how lucky you have to be to "break out." But I've learned many intangibles from the craft, and from working and chatting with other musicians. Being able to create and produce a piece of music from thin air requires a lot of time, dedication, and several epiphanies, and there's always the dilemma between making a song poppy (marketing it to a wider audience/selling out) or making it the way I want it (ambient, techy, hypnotic, relaxing), which is a bigger struggle than most people think it can be.
I initially wanted to base part of my application on music, because I was (and still am) fairly engrossed in it. I've built myself a small but respectable studio and I've been studying music and have taken online courses for years. But looking from the outside, with no notable income or success from music, it might seem a little bit childish to put too much weight on my experiences.
I've also taken up photography and graphic design, taking most of our photography and marketing design in-house, complete with DSLR, lighting/lightbox, Photoshop, and everything else.

Anyway, I just wanted to get some basic advice as to how I should be thinking about myself on my application. My GPA is okay, but I wanted to gauge how good/unique the rest of my resume looks so far.

Some of the questions I've come across so far look a little threatening -- I've honestly rarely worked with or led "teams" or dealt with "superiors" or managed employees -- it's really just me and a relative that take care of most of the operations, and we try to split up our jobs as much as possible to conserve time. Could you give me a few thoughts on how I should present myself to my desired schools?

Depending on how well I do on the GMAT, my desired schools are:
Top Tier: UCLA, MIT (stretch, I know), Cal.
Middle Tier: USC
Lower Tier: ??? (haven't done much research here)
I wouldn't be disappointed if USC was the best school I got into, and I'll also apply to a couple backup schools just in case.

I'm looking to study either the theoretical/philosophical aspects of business (a la Decision Sciences), to possibly pursue a PhD later on, or to go into the digital music business, or something related (digital/tech industries or music/entertainment industries). If you couldn't tell above, I have a hard time settling on just one study. I'm hoping to take my business studies towards something academic (Decision Sciences) or passionate (music) to focus myself on a direction.

I'd like to stay in California, to be closer to home and closer to these industries. I've looked at NYU and Boston College, and have considered Columbia and Harvard, but I'm not sure what my chances are, or if they're the right schools for me. Any advice here would be appreciated as well.

Thanks in advance~

Tony
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Re: Profile Evaluation, Application Direction? [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2010, 08:46
If you want to work in the music industry, you don't need an MBA. Frankly, if you're interested in the business side of the entertainment industry, you really don't need an MBA.

In any case, focus on the GMAT. That is what will dictate where you'll be competitive for. I could go on and on, conjecturing about if you got this score or that score whether you'll get into which schools, but then that tends to psyche people out when they're trying to prepare. Again, rather than overthinking school selections, why you want an MBA, goals, etc. -- they are distractions that will get in the way of your GMAT prep.
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Alex Chu
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Manager
Manager
avatar
Joined: 17 May 2010
Posts: 122
Location: United States
Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Marketing
Schools: USC (Marshall) - Class of 2013
GMAT 1: 770 Q50 V46
GPA: 3.26
WE: Brand Management (Consumer Products)
Followers: 6

Kudos [?]: 28 [0], given: 5

Re: Profile Evaluation, Application Direction? [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2010, 22:30
Thanks for the reply. I am focusing on my GMATs heavily now, which will direct where I end up applying to. The part about sending scores out got me thinking about what schools to look into, but I'll update back once I've taken it in a few weeks.

I didn't want my post to seem like I wanted to be a musician or some sort of creative professional—I'm more gunning towards my first stated goal: decision sciences/theory side of business, behavioral economics, game theory, etc.

I'd hope business school provides opportunities for those looking to expand their horizons without getting strictly into the financial industry. I tried to frame my post to show my preference to *not* work for a company like Goldman Sachs. The music/entertainment slant was sort of a secondary thought—I've entertained the thought of working for a company like the Anschultz Entertainment Group or getting into the online music industry. Not as a musician or performer, but rather as an analyst.

Anyway, thanks again. Hopefully my GMATs go well~
_________________

Discipline + Hard Work = Success! 770 (Q50, V46)

Manager
Manager
avatar
Joined: 17 May 2010
Posts: 122
Location: United States
Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Marketing
Schools: USC (Marshall) - Class of 2013
GMAT 1: 770 Q50 V46
GPA: 3.26
WE: Brand Management (Consumer Products)
Followers: 6

Kudos [?]: 28 [0], given: 5

Re: Profile Evaluation, Application Direction? [#permalink] New post 18 Oct 2010, 00:04
AlexMBAApply wrote:
If you want to work in the music industry, you don't need an MBA. Frankly, if you're interested in the business side of the entertainment industry, you really don't need an MBA.

In any case, focus on the GMAT. That is what will dictate where you'll be competitive for. I could go on and on, conjecturing about if you got this score or that score whether you'll get into which schools, but then that tends to psyche people out when they're trying to prepare. Again, rather than overthinking school selections, why you want an MBA, goals, etc. -- they are distractions that will get in the way of your GMAT prep.


Hi Alex, I took the GMAT's last Thursday and scored a 770.

I've since put in some thought as to my reasons for going to business school, and I still feel my interests lie in the more research/economics side of business. I would still like to keep the possibility of getting a PhD open (I'm pretty interested in behavioral economics, decision/motivation sciences, Freakonomics-like views, etc.), but I'd like to first get into a good B-school program before I make that decision. I wouldn't mind going into the consulting/analyst field after my MBA, either.

I believe my business experience is fairly good. However, I've found that most of the essays and recommendations seem more catered towards a corporation/leadership atmosphere. My company is fairly small, and we have a sort of independent vibe amongst us. My colleagues and I generally start and see through projects by ourselves—"convincing others" isn't really that necessary. I'm never doing any PowerPoint presentations. It's pretty obvious what we should or shouldn't be doing, and if we ever had any pertinent decisions to make, we basically go out to lunch, discuss a few ideas, and come to a yes/no conclusion and proceed. I do "lead teams" of commission-based sales reps, but again, our business is small and fairly casual, and not too similar to a corporate vibe.

As far as extra curriculars, would I be able to push through my music background as a solid extracurricular? While I've DJ'ed locally, written some music, and worked with some local school bands, I wouldn't necessarily call myself anywhere near a "successful" artist. I don't have press (good or bad) written up on me.

A lot of the B-school sessions and interviews I've read up on focus on "evidence-based" applications. I went to a local MIT clinic, and the people there said their admissions bases their view of a candidate by what they've done, not what they've learned or how they viewed the situation. This concept bugs me a little, as I've always thought of admissions essays as something to separate out the high scorers w/ no intuition from the above-average scorers who are deep thinkers (or display potential, good EQ, etc.). I'm kind of worried about either overselling my experience or underselling my experience in my essays.

If you look at it one way, I've led highly successful, integrated projects, seeing a product from planning to design to supply to marketing to retailers to consumer, by first presenting a strategy (we need to expand in $x price range), planning the budget (which I'm largely in charge of), laying out the design (I don't make the final decision, but I send some rough drafts up), marketing (I do our photography, copywriting, etc.), and push the product to our sales reps and retailers (all of us in the company help pitch the product), who in turn sell it to the end user.

But if you look at it another way, this all kind of worked as clockwork, and really wasn't too difficult. We saw an opening in the market, had some extra cash for a high-end product, I contacted our supplier, showed them some drawings, took photos and named the product over 2-3 days, and then pushed the product to our retailers, whom we've known for years. Not too difficult. I don't want to make this process seem as if I were the only person in the world capable of doing this.

I guess that's basically it—I'm unsure about how to present the small business vs. corporate view, and also how to sell myself.

Looking forward to some advice, thanks!

Tony

P.S. Oh and as far as schools, my score has kind of bumped up my target range. I'd like to get into more research-oriented schools (like Cal), but am also focusing on the higher tier of schools. I know my GPA isn't stellar, but I'm hoping my GMAT and experience will cover that. I sent my scores to Cal, Harvard, MIT, UCLA, and USC, and I'm looking at USC as a sort of "back up" school—I'd prefer to stay local to SoCal if I can't get into my first choices.
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Discipline + Hard Work = Success! 770 (Q50, V46)

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Re: Profile Evaluation, Application Direction? [#permalink] New post 21 Oct 2010, 07:41
While I appreciate your time in writing the very long post, I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for me to say.

Spend your time convincing the adcom, not me.
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Alex Chu
alex@mbaapply.com
http://www.mbaapply.com
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Re: Profile Evaluation, Application Direction?   [#permalink] 21 Oct 2010, 07:41
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