Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Melody Jones, Co-Founder of Vantage Point MBA Admissions Consulting, located in Westport, CT, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

My company is in the business of coaching young professionals through the application process to the top MBA programs. Admission to these programs, such as Stanford GSB and Harvard Business School, is extremely selective (<10% in some cases), and it takes more than a high GPA and high standardized test score to get in. I describe it as a game of musical chairs. A strong academic and professional track record will put you in the game, but even among those applicants, there are not enough spots to go around. That means applicants need to stand out in other ways, and their essays are the primary way to do that.

Enter our team of admissions coaches or consultants, as we may be called. We are a team of top MBA graduates and former MBA admissions directors who work 1:1 with applicants to help them navigate the application process, pitch themselves effectively, write amazing essays, and ultimately increase their chances of admission. To do this, we wear many hats, including serving as editors-in-chief, communications gurus, personal cheerleaders, and thought partners.

So, who are our clients? Most broadly, our clients are applicants to the top MBA programs in the US and Europe. They are diverse, high-achieving, college-educated young professionals from around the world, typically between 24 and 30 years old. We have worked with an impressive roster of applicants, including management consultants, bankers, entrepreneurs, veterans, oil field engineers, a world champion equestrian, an architect, and a professional model. Our clients come to us because they are committed to making their MBA dreams come true and know that the support of a best-in-class team will make all the difference!

Tell us about yourself

I am an extroverted perfectionist who is most energized when both my analytical and creative muscles are being flexed. As the daughter of two scientists, I always thought of myself as left-brained, but when I took my first marketing class as an undergrad at the University of Virginia, I fell in love with this subject that combines the art of story-telling with the rigor of data to drive real business results. So, after starting my career in investment banking (and admittedly following the pack in the heyday of banking back in 2005), I went back to business school to facilitate a pivot into brand management. I dreamed of marketing the products millions of Americans buy every day. After graduating from business school, I was fortunate enough to pursue that ambition at L’Oreal. But in the background, I was also working with my best friend, Meredith, on another passion project: Vantage Point MBA Admissions Consulting.

Let’s rewind a little bit. Several years earlier, when Meredith and I started working on our MBA applications, we quickly realized that we had no idea what we were doing. At the advice of a colleague, I hired a fantastic admissions consultant who helped me transform my applications and ultimately gain admission to my top choice program, Columbia Business School. So, when I graduated, I couldn’t ignore the drawback of the MBA application process. At the time, Meredith was already doing part-time admissions consulting work for the firm we both had hired as applicants, so I signed on to do the same. Juggling admissions consulting and my burgeoning marketing career wasn’t easy, but I loved it. As I gained more experience, I found myself creating my own MBA application playbook and templates, which got overwhelmingly positive results for my clients. I began asking myself what it would take to launch my consulting practice.

While we are both relatively risk-averse, Meredith and I were excited about the idea of going into business together. Our desire to help others navigate a process that was so daunting for us was stronger than our fear of failure. That’s when Vantage Point was born. To my surprise, my entrepreneurial spirit was also born that year. By the end of our first application season, I had left L’Oreal and focused on running Vantage Point full-time. I haven’t looked back since. The same things that motivated me back then still motivate me today: my desire to help applicants achieve their educational dreams and my love of building purpose-driven teams. I have a feeling I’m just getting started!

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Without a doubt, my biggest accomplishment is building and developing my team. Vantage Point wouldn’t be what it is today without them. When launching the business, a mentor wisely told me to focus first and foremost on recruiting talent. She told me it’s the only way for me to stay sane as I grow the business. Thankfully, I followed her advice. What she didn’t tell me, though, is how important it is to surround myself with people who uplift and inspire me every day. I am incredibly proud of the caliber of our team and humbled that they trust me to lead them through the ever-changing MBA admissions landscape.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I would imagine this is a pretty common answer, but letting go of control has been one of the hardest things to do as the business has grown. As a perfectionist, I gravitate towards doing it all myself, but that just becomes impossible at a certain point. So I’m learning to let go, open my mind to different methods (and sometimes outcomes), and put my trust in others. Of course, I’m still a work in progress, but I have to admit that the benefits are clear. Delegating not only frees up my time and mental capacity for future planning and innovation but also empowers and motivates my team. For example, two years ago, we promoted one of our consultants, Katie, to become our Director of Marketing, and it has been one of the best decisions we have made. As much as I loved coming up with new marketing ideas and strategies, doing so was time-consuming, and I often found myself being reactive instead of proactive. With a dedicated role, our marketing has become far more sophisticated and consistent, AND I have seen Katie thrive on the challenge.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

I love this question! Sharing my experience and lessons learned brings me so much joy.

  1. Just do it! If I had waited for everything to be just right, for all my questions to be answered, to know exactly what challenges I would face and how I would tackle them BEFORE I started my business, I’m pretty sure I’d still be waiting. While I never encourage carelessness, don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. Sometimes, you just have to take a leap of faith and trust yourself that you’ll figure it out along the way. If you surround yourself with trusted mentors (and/or an incredible business partner), you’ll always have someone to lean on when inevitable challenges arise.
  2. Focus on people! Those people can be your clients, your suppliers, and most importantly, your team. Put them first in all that you do, and success will follow. This may seem idealistic, but I’ve seen it make sound business sense too.
  3. Invest in automation! It’s very easy to implement and maintain manual processes when the business is small and getting off the ground. Initially, it might make sense to try different methods before you figure out what makes sense for your business. However, once you’re ready to hit the gas on growth, automating your processes and systems will enable you to do so seamlessly without needing to work around the clock. For example, investing in a robust CRM system has been a game-changer for my business. It’s worth every penny.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I’m sometimes asked why I care so much about MBA admissions. I know that the value of an MBA continues to be fiercely debated, but for me, getting an MBA changed the trajectory of my life and career. Beyond providing access to job opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise been competitive for, an MBA built my confidence and made me more empathetic and open-minded. The relationships I built during business school have been invaluable as I sought advice in starting my business. I even met my husband in business school. So yes, it was 100% worth it for me, and I love enabling life-changing experiences for others.

Where can people find you and your business?


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