Jacob Gelfand: Featured MBA Advisor

Can you please tell us about your academic and professional background?

I earned a BS, summa cum laude, in Political Communication with a minor in History from Emerson College. In May 2012 I completed concurrent degrees from University of San Francisco – a JD, Business Law Certificate with Honors and an MBA in Entrepreneurship.

My professional experiences have traversed the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. After undergrad I worked as a staffer on a gubernatorial campaign and transitioned into roles in various nonprofits doing a mix of public relations, marketing, operations, research, and recruiting. In grad school I found myself drawn more to entrepreneurship and economic development, and increasingly disillusioned with the prospect of practicing law.

I co-founded and led the USF Microfinance Club, a student association dedicated to promoting social finance, helped develop Glamping Hub, a disruptive travel startup currently in the process of negotiating an angel round, and launched Inclusiva Strategies, a business coaching practice dedicated to empowering creative entrepreneurs and executives.

Why did you decide to join Centro as an MBA Advisor?

During my time in the MBA program at USF I participated in an extracurricular program called Working with Entrepreneurs (WwE). Typically, the WwE program would pair MBA students up with companies in emerging markets for a 12-week consulting engagement. In light of my interest in microfinance and the local community, I was serendipitously referred to Centro and soon interviewed for a spot as an MBA Advisor with Centro’s founder, Arturo Noriega, who would later become a trusted mentor and dear friend.

Which businesses/entrepreneurs did you advise?

I advised Shauna Harper, an experienced operations expert who had been working as an internal consultant for Oakland Unified Public School District. Shauna wanted to break off to form her own private consulting firm which could advise school administrators throughout the East Bay and beyond.

Can you tell us about a challenge that you faced?

Shauna and I worked well together and never really struggled to communicate. Our primary challenge was adapting Centro’s entrepreneurship tools and frameworks to her proposed consulting practice, which was dramatically different than the typical Centro small business in terms of its business model, market and sales strategy. Time management proved to be another central challenge due to the fact that Shauna had to balance her day job with her role as a parent of a young son and the demands of Centro’s classes. Ultimately, Shauna put together an excellent business plan and delivered one of the finest presentations of her cohort.

What did you learn during Centro’s program?

I’ve learned so much from my experiences with Centro that it’s difficult to narrow it down – everything from invaluable lessons about cultural and socioeconomic humility to the process of advising clients, overcoming obstacles and managing expectations. To an even greater extent, Centro taught me a lot about myself – where my core strengths lie, what really matters to me, and what I aim to accomplish as a professional.

How has Centro impacted your career trajectory?

My experiences as part of the Centro family and the relationships I have forged along the way have helped me to crystallize my professional identity and purpose. My time as an MBA Advisor at Centro and the professional development work that I underwent with Arturo enabled me to embrace my passion for entrepreneurship and organizational development and take the plunge to launch my own business coaching practice.

What are you up to now?

Updated April 2013: I work as a holistic business coach under the banner of Inclusiva Strategies. My specialty is working with creative professionals to cultivate the business and leadership skills necessary to launch and grow a successful venture. I also author the Little Big Business Blog, and serve as a partner and strategy advisor for Glamping Hub, the world’s premiere online portal for luxury camping and other unique, eco-friendly accommodations. I’m looking forward to volunteering as a senior advisor at Centro for the Fall 2013 cohort!