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Tuck Bridge Stories: Madeline Pierce

Tuck Bridge Stories: Madeline Pierce

Maddie Pierce graduated from Middlebury College with an Economics major and Art History minor in 2016. She attended Tuck Bridge in 2015. She is curently a Senior Analyst at Wayfair. This is her Bridge story:
 

Why did you choose to attend Bridge?
I wanted to supplement my liberal arts education with an intro to business I would not have access to otherwise. I was an economics major, which was the closest I could really get to “business,” which is where I wanted to go.

How did Bridge prepare you for your current position/career trajectory? How did the program help “Bridge Your Future?”
I grew up with parents that worked in marketing and consulting, and I always liked hearing about what they were working on.

How did Bridge help you in your job search?
The alumni network is incredible, particularly the massive network Paul Doscher somehow keeps in his head! In each move I have made for my career I have spoken to at least one Bridge or Tuck alumni. Everyone truly cares about what you are interested in and helping you get there.

Do you have a favorite memory from Tuck Bridge?
One of my favorite memories from Bridge is actually the opportunity I had to come back and speak on a CareerBridge panel. It is really cool to come back and speak to students in your same position just a few years earlier. It was easy to talk to these students because they were curious and well-spoken and I had a sense for what I needed to tell them to best prepare them for the real world.

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Mountain Made

Mountain Made

MOUNTAIN MADE
By Jeff Moag
Photos by Rob Strong Photography 
Jan 30, 2019
http://www.tuck.dartmouth.edu/news/articles/how-tuck-bridge-propelled-skida-ceo-corinne-prevot

 

SNOWBALLED. That’s the term Corinne Prevot uses to describe the business she started as a 17-year- old ski racer at Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy, a school renowned for turning out champion ski racers. Prevot had started as a downhiller and switched to cross-country in her junior year. She loved the sport but found its grey knit cap fashion aesthetic uninspiring. At home that rainy Christmas holiday in 2007, she bought a yard of floral-print Lycra fabric at a local craft store and sewed matching hats for herself and her teammates.

We went to a race in Maine sporting our colorful flower hats,” she recalls. “It was super fun, and after the race a few girls from another team came up and asked, ‘Can you make us some of those hats?’ I said, ‘Sure,’ and it just snowballed.

So started Skida, a ski-inspired hat and accessories brand known for its quirky patterns, sustainable ethics, and deep New England roots. Last season the company sold more than 100,000 Vermont-made hats, headbands, and neck warmers, earning its 27-year-old founder and CEO a spot on Forbes 2018 30-Under-30 list of young entrepreneurs. The magazine has had its eye on Prevot for years; in 2011 when she was a junior at Middlebury, she filmed an interview for the Forbes website, telling a reporter how she’d built the company from scratch without borrowing a dime. “The money comes from the hats,” she explained to the man, who looked to be in his 40s and clearly dazzled. He asked her to describe her style as a CEO, and Prevot smiled. “Whimsical,” she said.

Skida was already doing $100,000 in business annually, and Prevot was balancing her career as an up-and-coming entrepreneur with her classes and rigorous training as a member of Middlebury’s Division I Nordic ski team. She planned to give Skida her full attention after graduation, but recognized she’d need more than whimsy to scale her business. In many ways, Prevot was a perfect candidate for Tuck Bridge, the three-week transition-to-business program for rising juniors, seniors, and new graduates of liberal arts schools.

She learned about Bridge from her father, Roger Prevot T’83, operating partner at Kohlberg & Company, and attended the program in the summer of 2013 with her younger brother Mitch Prevot, an investment analyst who was then an undergraduate at Williams College. The Tuck connection runs deep in Prevot’s family; an aunt and uncle are also graduates of the MBA program. Entrepreneurship, too, is in the blood. When Prevot was a girl, the family lived on a few acres in rural Pennsylvania, and she and her brothers sometimes worked a farm stand after school.

“We had sheep and we would shear them. There was a phase when my mom was really into spinning yarn and I’d go to the wool festival with her over in Lancaster,” she says. Margie Prevot has played a variety of roles at her daughter’s company, from seamstress to supply executive. Roger Prevot, who sits on the boards of several precision manufacturing firms, shares his advice whenever his daughter asks for it. Skida has always been Corinne Prevot’s company, however, and she was eager to develop the business skills to guide its growth.

“Bridge made sense for me because I needed a crash course—a kind of mini-MBA,” she says. “I’d taken a lot from Middlebury but I didn’t have any experience in accounting, or building business models with really sophisticated Excel sheets, or talking about corporate responsibility. Bridge was an amazing crash course in all of those skills.”

The Bridge program emphasizes the same case-based collaborative learning method for which Tuck’s MBA program is renowned, with a similar emphasis on general management. Prevot’s group research focused on the sports apparel company Lululemon, a particularly relevant project given her plans for Skida. “They do their own manufacturing, so that was very relatable in the way that they structure their business,” she says. “Bridge gave me a lot of confidence and I left the program just itching to hit the ground running and start working on Skida. I haven’t slowed down since.”

The ability to go back and forth between the creative and the more data-driven aspects of the business is so rewarding. I’m able to inform so many different decisions because I understand both sides of that picture.

She leased an old woodshop in Burlington, VT which became Skida’s business office, design studio, warehouse, and retail space. It’s a fitting headquarters for a company steeped in Vermont’s rich history of cottage industry. That connection is important to Prevot, who wrote her senior thesis at Middlebury on the potential for northeastern Vermont’s landscape and outdoor lifestyle to drive sustainable economic growth.

“The Northeast Kingdom used to have a really strong manufacturing background, with a lot of woodworking and garment manufacturing,” says Prevot, who sees the network of seamstresses she hires to stitch hats and headbands in their homes as a part—perhaps the last part—of that tradition. She believes that outdoor recreation in Vermont, from ski resorts to mountain bike trails and canoe routes, can help reinvigorate the cottage economy.

Every piece in Skida’s Vermont Collection is hand-sewn in the Northeast Kingdom. That commitment to local manufacturing is important to Prevot personally, and essential to the Skida brand. The company’s products command a premium because they’re made in Vermont, and because they’re designed by and for people who live an active outdoor lifestyle.

The locally sourced concept also applies in Nepal, where Skida sources its Cashmere Collection of premium hats, shawls, and ponchos. Prevot fell in love with the Kathmandu Valley when she studied sustainable development there in 2011. She launched the Cashmere Collection in 2015, working with some of the same herders and mills she had visited as a student.

Prevot leased an old woodshop in Burlington, VT that serves as Skida’s headquarters and workshop. | Photography by Rob Strong

“The cashmere industry used to be a really strong part of Nepal’s export economy, but a lot of the manufacturing has gone to India and China. It’s the same cause-and-effect that we’re seeing with the cottage industries in the Northeast Kingdom,” says Prevot, who spends a few weeks each year in Nepal and always brings her mountain bike.

She uses the bicycle “to explore in a wild place that’s just full of discovery,” and also to get around Kathmandu, careening through the city’s crowded streets with blonde locks streaming and a floral-print neck warmer pulled over her nose to filter the smoke of cooking fires and vehicle exhaust. “It always throws people for a loop when I pull over on my bike and ask someone for directions in Nepali,” she says. “Sometimes people don’t even answer; they’re just like, ‘This is too weird.’”

Combining sports and business comes naturally to Prevot, still a formidable ski racer and a regular podium finisher in regional mountain bike races. Skida is an outdoor sports brand, and much of its success stems from Prevot’s genuine embrace of that culture. Another key branding element is the Skida Plus One program, in which the company will donate one hat to a cancer center for each one a customer purchases.

Prevot was inspired to start the program in 2011, when a man ordered a dozen hats to give to patients at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center, where his wife was undergoing treatment. The man thought the brightly patterned hats would bring a bit of warmth and cheer to the patients, and Prevot seized on the idea.

She’d been looking for a meaningful program to give back to the communities that had embraced Skida, and found a seamless way to execute it using a series of online promotional codes corresponding to cancer centers in ski towns from New England to Vail. Each time a customer enters a code at checkout, Skida sends a second hat— the Skida Plus One—to the chosen clinic. Customers don’t pay for the extra hat, but they play an active role in the act of giving. The program creates a feeling of goodwill and community engagement that would be hard to put a price on, though Prevot doesn’t seem to think of the program in that way. She’d rather talk about the smile a simple gift can bring to a person in need than the nuances of brand equity.

The limited runs and fun, sometimes quirky, designs are part of the Skida mystique. | Photography by Rob Strong

Still, there’s no question that feeling good about Skida keeps customers coming back time and again, as does the company’s ever-changing palette of limited-edition prints. “We spend a lot of time curating and developing each year a new collection of bold, colorful, super-unique patterns, and so a lot of our customers become collectors,” Prevot says.

The limited runs and fun, sometimes quirky, designs are part of the Skida mystique. In the early days, when she and her mother were still sewing hats at their kitchen table, Prevot scoured the Internet for bolt-ends and remnants of brightly colored prints. On one memorable occasion, she found a few yards of strawberry print scratch-and-sniff fabric on eBay. The sweet-smelling hats made from it attained instant cult status, and last season Skida commemorated its 10th anniversary with a limited run of colorful (though unscented) hats and accessories called “Strawberry Fields.” The collection pays homage to that serendipitous eBay score and celebrates the sense of spontaneity and (here’s that word again) whimsy that has driven Skida’s success from the very beginning.

There’s a certain magic in that playful mindset, especially when harnessed to cottage industry, sports culture, and local pride. The catalyst in that powerful mix has been Prevot’s steady management, and for that a measure of credit goes to the Tuck Business Bridge Program. “The ability to go back and forth between the creative and the more data-driven aspects of the business is so rewarding,” she says. “I’m able to inform so many different decisions because I understand both sides of that picture.”

*This article originally appeared in print in the winter 2018 issue of Tuck Today magazine.

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Tuck Bridge Stories: Jamie McLaughlin

Tuck Bridge Stories: Jamie McLaughlin

Jamie McLaughlin graduated from Dartmouth College in 2012 with an Earth Science major and Ecology minor. She attended Tuck Bridge in 2012. Jamie is VP of Marketing Projects, Planning, and Engagement at Synchrony Financial. This is her Bridge story:


What are your primary responsibilities in your current position?
In my current position I support our Chief Marketing Officer and other Marketing leadership in driving operational vision and alignment across the marketing team. I work across our eight marketing teams to execute our annual planning process, support the resulting strategic initiatives, run leadership meetings and insure consistent communication across the organization. My favorite part of my current position is translating leadership direction and decisions into an interesting and motivational format for the rest of the organization through town halls, newsletters and team meetings.


Why did you choose to attend Bridge?
I chose to attend Bridge because I discovered my interest in business late in my college experience. With degrees in geology and ecology, I was sure I wanted to pursue sustainability and conservation work. After many exploratory interviews, I found myself interested in roles positioned at the nexus of sustainability and business – finding solutions with both environmental and capital returns. I quickly realized I was going to be constrained by my lack of business and economic knowledge. When Paul Doscher shared an overview of Tuck Bridge in a class I was taking, I knew immediately Bridge would give me the foundational learning and resources I needed to build out a new network of opportunities in the business world.


How did Bridge prepare you for your current position/career trajectory? How did the program help “Bridge Your Future?”
I vividly remember sitting in Professor Taylor’s Marketing class debating breakfast sausages. Prof. Taylor asked us each to choose the best from a list of potential taglines for an imaginary breakfast sausage company and prepare to defend our choice. As students argued emphatically for tag lines such as ‘quick and easy breakfast’ or ‘bring your family together’, I realized something about the whole exercise: at the core of it, and all the varied business courses we were taking, was the same need to connect with people. Whether customers, clients or shareholders, we were learning how to understand, motivate and influence people toward an outcome, whether it be buying stock or sausages. Understanding that basic concept has empowered me to take on a career path that has hopped from sales to business development to marketing. Each new position has brought a giant new learning curve, but the core of each position has been the same – connecting and influencing people. The Bridge classroom is where I first learned this foundational concept.   

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Tuck Bridge Stories: Jodi Ann Wang

Tuck Bridge Stories: Jodi Ann Wang

Jodi Ann Wang is an International Relations major at Kenyon College. She attended Bridge in summer of 2018.


For a month of my summer this year, I participated in a four-week intensive mini-MBA program at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Here are some reflections on one of the most academically rigorous and intellectually challenging months of my academic career:

As an international studies major, I’ve always underestimated the intersectionality between the world of business and international development. My original goal with coming to Bridge was to be financially literate so I can help those in low-income countries become self-sufficient through entrepreneurship. Yet, Bridge offered me so much more. It opened me up to new possibilities and opportunities to network with like-minded professionals who can provide me with a platform to turn my goals into a reality.

Like most of the home institutions of Bridge participants, Kenyon, as a liberal arts college, is absent from a business program. Just like its name, the Tuck Bridge program helped “bridge” the gap and pave the road between a liberal arts degree and the skills needed to thrive in the business world. Whether it is taking what we learned in classes such as Accounting, Corporate Finance, Marketing Strategy and applying it to our corporate valuation project, or editing and re-editing our resumes so we can better market ourselves to recruiters, Bridge provided us an opportunity to challenge ourselves and discover our inner potential that we may have never realized before.

Each day begins at 8:30 AM and is generally composed of four 80-minute lectures and intersected with 20-minute breaks in between each. Core classes such as Accounting, Spreadsheet Modeling, and Corporate Finance can have up to nine lectures while additional sessions such as Negotiations, Organizational Behavior, and Entrepreneurship occupy one to two classes. In the evening, our schedule is booked for study group sessions. My study group met every night for at least one hour to work through homework assignments, catch up on our day, and plan for the next. While some days are long, the weeks flew by quickly.

I distinctly remember sitting with my fellow group members in our study room during our first study group session, having the same mixed emotions of confusion, excitement, and nervousness as I did during freshman orientation in college. Accounting vocabulary seemed like a foreign language to me, and spreadsheet modeling felt like the struggle to untangle a pair of wired headphones. But as we moved forward with the program, the challenging curriculum became a norm, and most amazingly, I was standing in front of panels of industry professionals before I could even process how I mysteriously understood MarkStrat, the process to do a DCF analysis, or marketing analysis.

The study group format allowed me to actively engage in my learning in the environment of five like-minded individuals, and that maximized the efficiency and results. Each night I returned back to my room feeling accomplished, ready for the next day. This style of absorbing class material is something I can bring back to Kenyon and further incorporate into my studies in the near future.

Bridge was not only a process to absorb knowledge but a multi-channel "bridge" that actively encouraged me to apply such knowledge into the greater space of different areas of business whether through homework of real-life case studies or the final corporate valuation project. Bridge was a challenge and a reward. It is something that has opened my eyes to further possibilities that will assist me in making my academic goals at Kenyon a reality.

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Tuck Bridge Stories: An Interview with Maggie Hansen

Tuck Bridge Stories: An Interview with Maggie Hansen

Margaret (Maggie) Hansen is a current senior at Georgetown University, where she studies math and chemistry. In May of 2015, Maggie started her Bridge journey as a part of the first ever Smith-Tuck Business Bridge Program class. We spoke with Maggie about why she chose the Smith-Tuck Business Bridge Program:

Why did you choose to attend the Smith-Tuck program?

I chose to attend Smith-Tuck primarily because I wanted to attend the Tuck Bridge program to learn valuable business skills and what it would be like to work in various business fields, but I also wanted to be able to hold an internship over the summer, and Smith-Tuck's timing fit perfectly with that. I also liked how the Smith-Tuck program was smaller, which I knew would allow me to get to know professors and other students much more easily and to a greater extent.


Did you feel like you were welcomed into the Smith community?

Most definitely. Everyone at Smith - from the students to the staff - went out of their way to make sure I felt included and a part of the Smith-Tuck community. I was the only person in my study group not from Smith, but by the end of the first week I'd already forgotten about that because the others were so welcoming. The Smith career center's staff were incredibly helpful and inclusive as well, 


What was it like spending the summer at another university?

I really enjoyed it because it gave me a chance to experience learning in a college environment that wasn't Georgetown and was different in many ways. While it definitely took me a bit of time to adjust, it was definitely worth it in the end because studying at a different university gave me a different perspective than simply attending Georgetown would have.


Describe the experience of learning in an all-women environment (what surprised you, what were some take-aways, what did it offer in the intense learning structure).

I honestly thought I'd notice it much more than I actually did. Looking back on it, I think I felt more comfortable in such an environment - I have two sisters and no brothers so I think it was almost normal for me - and this comfort definitely helped with the intense work load.


What’s your next move? What will you take with you from Smith-Tuck, how has it prepared you?

Smith-Tuck gave me the ability to see myself taking a job in a variety of fields that I had never considered before because I thought they wouldn't want a math major or that I didn't have relevant experience for those jobs. However, the program allowed me to re-orient my career path to this new world of possibilities and enabled me to actually see myself in some of these positions. Immediately after I graduate, I will be working for Berkeley Research Group here in DC, which is not something I would have considered applying to before Smith-Tuck.

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Tuck Bridge Stories: Erin Breen

Tuck Bridge Stories: Erin Breen

Erin Breen is a junior at Colby College, majoring in Psychology and Economics. This past May, Erin was one of a cohort of 38 undergraduate women who participated in the first ever Smith-Tuck Business Bridge Program held at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. This is her story:

I applied to the Smith-Tuck Bridge Program as opposed to the Tuck Bridge Program because of the program's focus on women’s leadership in business. Coming from a liberal arts background, I wanted a program that would allow me to gain exposure to the field of business while also having the ability to participate in an internship that summer. I knew that the program was going to be highly intensive and a lot of work, but I did not realize how rewarding the project would be at the end of the three weeks. Although in the moment it felt like there was no possible way I could be retaining all the information we were exposed to, the final project was just one indication that we really knew what we were talking about. I think the all-women environment added value to my experience because I was able to build strong bonds with women that I will hopefully be working alongside after graduation. Through team building exercises and leadership talks, I was able to understand how to be an effective woman team member and leader. Next, I plan on interning at Forge Worldwide a marketing agency in Boston over my January term, and hopefully this summer gain as valuable of an experience as Smith-Tuck Bridge was by interning for another marketing company. For me the Smith-Tuck Bridge Program was the most valuable experience I’ve had thus far and has helped me more clearly identify my career aspirations.

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