Tips to Help You Make the Most of the B-School Experience

Stacy Blackman and Chandler Arnold Share Their Lasting Lessons

Is an MBA in your immediate future, or still on the horizon? Either way, you won’t want to miss the sage advice shared by Stacy Blackman and SBC consultant Chandler Arnold. Both are serial entrepreneurs who continually tap into lessons learned during business school with each new venture they launch. Whether you have entrepreneurial ambitions or just want to make the most of your time in business school, don’t sleep on these nuggets of wisdom from their recent conversation on our B-Schooled podcast.

But first, here’s a thumbnail sketch of these successful innovators.

Stacy started her eponymous MBA consulting firm in 2001 and has since built SBC into an industry leader in the admissions consultancy space. A few years ago, she wanted to scratch a new entrepreneurial itch—a passion project in consumer-packaged goods. Along with two partners, one of whom is a board-certified pediatric dermatologist, Stacy launched Stryke Club, a skincare line for teen boys. Stryke Club exploded onto the market and is now sold in Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, and beyond.

Chandler co-hosts B-Schooled and has focused his purpose-driven career on scaling international social enterprises in both the private and public sectors. For over a decade, Chandler served as the COO of First Book, an international nonprofit that has distributed 185 million new books (valued at $1.5B) to needy children. A marketing innovator, Chandler has also developed multimillion-dollar public-private marketing campaigns with Disney, Pizza Hut, Penguin Random House, Target, and other Fortune 500 companies. He holds an MBA from Stanford GSB.

And now, onto the good stuff!

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What specific lesson did you learn in B-school and have held onto in your entrepreneurial work?

Stacy: A lot of times, entrepreneurs can get paralyzed by perfection. Something I picked up early on from a professor was the idea of “test and learn.” He said, “throw it out there, see what sticks. Do it quickly, do it imperfectly, and iterate.”

You can hypothesize and plan all you want. But you only know if you have a good idea, if it will resonate, once you throw it out there. I’m a big fan of challenging myself to push something out and get honest feedback to see what works and pivot if needed. That would be my first entrepreneurial lesson: to test and learn. 

Chandler: I remember a professor talking to us about “unexploited domain”… what’s the thing that no one is paying attention to? What’s the gap in the market? Maybe that’s funeral homes, sewer systems, or clean water—anything that might seem unsexy or that people have ignored. 

When my friends and I launched Go There Wines, we looked at the market and saw gazillions of wine companies and clubs. But I’m a member of the queer community. My colleague Rose is big on women entrepreneurs. We were very interested in wines from people of color. But it’s super hard to find wines made by this new era of winemakers: women, people of color, refugees, members of the queer community. It wasn’t that those wines didn’t exist—it was just hard to find them in the United States. For us, that was our unexploited domain.

I always encourage entrepreneurs to think about not running to the thing that everyone else is doing. Instead, listen to your heart, your head, and look at the market to see where the need is.


What are your thoughts on networking for entrepreneurs? 

Stacy: I tend to be more introverted. I’m a fan of hunkering down, doing the work, and pushing things forward. I didn’t “waste time” networking with people I didn’t know or have a conversation with people I would never see again. But my early business partners and later my husband are the opposite of that. They pushed me to have those conversations with intelligent people who’ve had interesting experiences and have broad networks themselves.

I’ve found over the years that, whether in the moment or later, all these contacts become the fabric of your broader business and personal life. Everyone has something to bring to the table. You never know where people might be helpful or where you can help them.

Also, many people will advise you to hold back your ideas when starting a new company. Keep it a secret. You don’t want to share, or someone might steal your idea. And I have come to not believe in that. 

I say, tell people your ideas! They’re going to build on it, introduce you to someone, or tell you about some website that’s important for you to know. Networking is so valuable, even when it’s not obvious why you’re connecting with persons A, B, and C. All those contacts come to have interesting outcomes over time.

The other lesson from school that I think is relevant to any founder is about trusting yourself—especially when other people doubt you.

When you reflect on your time in business school or your ventures, are there things you wish you’d done differently? 

Stacy: Business school truly was a life-changing experience for me professionally and personally, which is why I’m such a fan and have devoted my career to helping others interested in that path. 

One thing I wish I had been more aware of relates to networking. Every time I go back to a reunion, I have great conversations with people I didn’t know well in business school. (There were about 600 people in my class.) Sure, I made amazing friends and have had incredible relationships with friends from business school to today.

But I go back to my reunions, talk to these classmates, and think, “Wow, I wish I’d gotten to know you as well.” I wish I had made more of an effort to break out of my obvious circles because it was such an incredibly diverse group of amazing people. And for me, it really is the people that are the lasting benefit of business school.

Chandler: I couldn’t agree more. I wish I had stepped out of my comfort zone more and done it earlier in my MBA experience. As I mentioned, I came from a nonprofit background. It was 2002, and I had just come out of the closet. So, I quickly made many friends from the education and nonprofit worlds and the queer community. And those were all great because they gave me a safe group of friends I trusted quickly and felt very comfortable with. 

But in the second year, I wish I’d pushed myself and made more friends from the corporate finance world or more friends doing completely different things socially, personally, or professionally.

Knowing that, what would you advise an incoming MBA student?

Chandler: Business school is this magic time when you can go up to anyone in your class and say, “Hey, do you want to grab a cup of coffee? I loved what you said in class, and I’d like to talk more.” And everyone is in this great head space so that 99 times out of a hundred, they will say, “Yes, let’s do it.” 

It’s just not that way in the real world, as much as we would like it to be. There’s a very low bar to reach out and meet new people. And it’s easier than any other time in your professional life. So, take the opportunity to push yourself outside your comfort zone because you can easily develop new networks in different categories, sectors, and industries there in school.


Also, I’ll say I honestly don’t remember what grades I got in most classes. But I do remember the way I spent my time with friends. 

I remember my second year, I was deciding between spending a lot of extra time in this regression class or doing the business school show at Stanford. I ended up in a super silly play with a bunch of people I’d never met before, and I’m in touch with all those people now. Could I run a regression? Yeah, I could do it. But which has been more helpful? For the course of my life over the last 20 years, it was doing the show and meeting this new group of people. 

Is there something that you have a new perspective about now as you look back? 

Stacy: None of us, on some level, really know what we’re doing, especially in an entrepreneurial environment. People haven’t done this before, so you’re operating in uncertainty. That’s what it means to be an entrepreneur. You’re building something that doesn’t exist, and it’s okay not to know what you’re doing.

When I was younger, I had so many insecurities and fear about not impressing the VC, not saying the right thing, or appearing inexperienced in the presentation. And that just made my journey unnecessarily stressful. I wish I could have just owned it and been okay with not knowing what I was doing and proceeded anyway without fear.

Feel the fear and do it anyway. Own that inexperience and run with it. 

That’s what I’ve done now with Stryke Club. I had no idea what I was doing initially, but by that point, I was like, that’s okay. I’m intelligent. I can learn about manufacturing potions and putting them in bottles. That comfort with uncertainty and the lack of knowledge made the ride smoother for me. So yeah, I wish I had had that peace with uncertainty and lack of knowledge earlier.

Chandler: I had a lot of regrets in business school about what I wasn’t doing when I was studying. I was worried that I wasn’t out meeting classmates. And when I was out meeting classmates, I was worried that I wasn’t prepping for my summer interviews. While preparing for summer interviews, I worried that I wasn’t getting to know San Francisco or whatever it might have been.

And the truth is, business school is drinking from a fire hose. There are too many things to be able to do everything by a long shot. I wish I’d come to peace about that earlier on and hadn’t struggled to do everything. What’s most important is finding a balance that includes time to rest, sleep, and occasionally recharge.

Do you have any parting advice for readers?

Stacy: When you’re building a new business, it’s a long haul. It can be years from the time you start to the time you launch to the time you see success. There will be many ups and downs and wrong turns along the way. So instead of focusing so much on that endpoint, focus on taking little steps every day. Everything counts. Keep pushing forward. If you can wake up in the morning and take two or three steps, whatever it is, you’re making progress. 

Even if that progress is a wrong turn and you realize it’s wrong and correct it, that’s progress! You’re learning from your mistakes. On this journey, the only wrong action is becoming frozen because you’re trying to do it all right. Or getting intimidated by how much there is to do. So, keep your head down and make a goal to take a couple of steps every day.

My favorite quote is from my hero, Yoda. He says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” I really take that to heart in my life. When you ask someone, “Can you come over Thursday night?” And they say, “Yeah, I’ll try to stop by.” You pretty much know that that’s a no. 

If you want to do something, you’re going to do it. So, do or do not. There is no try. Those are my words of wisdom.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these excerpts from Stacy and Chandler’s conversation about business school and the entrepreneurial journey. To hear their complete conversation, listen to B-Schooled #150 here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership to test prep to hourly help with targeted tasks. Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant. Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.


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