Join us for this episode of UMBC's Mic'D Up Podcast featuring Elyse Preston, a graduate student in the Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Leadership Graduate Program at UMBC.
We chat about her educational and entrepreneurial journeys and how they have led her to open her small business venture, https://BeMoreConnected.net.
To learn more about UMBC's Graduate Programs in Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Leadership, visit: https://eil.umbc.edu
Dennise Cardona 0:00
Hi, and welcome to UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast. My name is Dennise Cardona from the Office of Professional Programs. I am delighted to have a very special guest on our show, Elyse Preston, who is a current student in UMBC's Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Leadership graduate program. Welcome, Elyse, it's great to have you here.
Elyse Preston 0:20
Yes, thank you so much for that warm welcome and excited to be here.
Dennise Cardona 0:23
It's such a pleasure to have you here. So to get us started, in our conversation, can you share a little bit about yourself and your journey to being a student here at UMBC?
Unknown Speaker 0:34
Absolutely. I studied communications and social advocacy at my undergraduate University, and after that time, came back to Baltimore and started working in the nonprofit and youth development sector. And on the one hand, I feel so grateful for that experience, because I had the opportunity to connect with some amazing community members, and work on different projects that I was really passionate about. But I was also so very challenged in that space, in terms of working indirect service and working within organizations that are often understaffed and under resourced. So I experienced a lot of burnout, stress, overwhelm. And I also felt a bit challenged in the ways that some of the organizations that I worked within, sometimes made decisions that didn't feel like they were connected to be needs, wants priorities of community. And so I started to feel as though I wasn't really working or operating in a way that felt in alignment with the kind of impact that I wanted to be making. And so I spent about five or six years working in the nonprofit sector. But I was feeling like something was missing. And I was also feeling as though I needed to start making some shifts and changes in order to be able to take better care of myself. And so that's when I started to explore different ways to be investing in my own health and wellbeing. So that's that's how I started my yoga teacher training journey, I was able to enroll in a 200 hour yoga teacher training with a an organization here in Baltimore called Baltimore yoga village. And that was a really expansive opportunity for me because it was a 10 month program, where I was able to be connected with really supportive teachers and mentors, but also be surrounded by a community of peers, that were also exploring ways to be able to take better care of themselves, but also explore how they could be learning different tools and practices and resources to be teachers and healers in their communities. And so that experience really created an opening for me in terms of exploring what's next because I, in the past, had always kind of considered my career trajectory that it would say in nonprofit or public service or government in some way, I knew that I wanted to have a career where I could be of service and we connected to creating social change. But that career path felt just very challenging. For me, it felt very hard, it didn't really feel in alignment. For me, I felt like I was able to use some of my gifts, but not really all of them and just had a lot of questions about how to do that sustainably. But when stepping into this role of healing and teaching and facilitating and guiding that just came so easily to me. So naturally, to me, it was something that
Unknown Speaker 4:10
really helped me to bring together a lot of different gifts and traits and qualities and essences that I knew that I had, but hadn't really been able to bring together in powerful ways. And so after that training, and also being able to be connected with different spiritual communities in Baltimore and investing in myself in other ways through my own like personal spiritual development, I started teaching community yoga classes and holding women's circles. And that was really my first foray into really seeing myself as a teacher and a space holder and exploring different ways that I might be able to start translating these smaller offerings that I was creating into something larger into a more sustainable business. So I then wanted to explore, how could I have some more support around building a business, what kind of programs are out there that feel like they would be able to supplement this, this new, this new career path that I was carving out, or that I was seeking to forge, and a lot of the more traditional MBA programs didn't quite fit with what I was looking for, and didn't didn't really excite me. Because of the the nature of the curriculum and the program. And when I discovered that UMBC had an entrepreneurship program, I was so excited, I didn't know that this program existed. And I just stumbled upon online and my own personal research. And I was like, Wow, this feels so aligned. And the fact that it also weaves in innovation and leadership, I was like, oh, okay, these are all things that I think would really support me with being able to build our business in a sustainable way. And so I had the chance to attend a an open house that Gabe was leading. And he really sold me on the program in that one hour session. And we had a chance to connect because he, when I shared a little bit about my business idea. And when I was seeking to build, he was like, Wow, that's amazing. He is someone who started practicing restorative yoga, and mindfulness a few years ago, and it's been so supportive in his life. And I was like, wow, if this is the director of the program, I know that I'll have a place to really fit in here. Because I think one of the other just insecurities or things that I was thinking about was, if I was in a more traditional MBA program, would be faculties that I was connecting with, with the other students in the program. Be in like a similar energy, your headspace that I was in in terms of the type of business that I was seeking to build, and the types of like, resources and supports and connections I might be looking for. Yeah, from there, the rest is really history. I'm two years into the program. And I just have one more semester. That's really how I found my, my way to the entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership program.
Dennise Cardona 7:33
Oh, that's such an amazing story. Wow. First of all, yoga, yeah, I got into yoga, I follow someb ody on YouTube at Boho Be autiful, and I sometimes do her yoga instruction. And I feel like the clumsiest fool. And I'm so glad to see in my living room while I'm doing that, but at the same time, there's something that's so healing and natural and grounding about yoga. I totally get what you mean about, you know, you want that you were striving, seeking that connectedness to community because that's one of your value points in life. It's a beautiful value point. And the fact that you weren't you were trying to find that your place in there, and you were feeling like the depths of burnout, which is completely natural, when you're in an environment that doesn't blend well with the value system that you hold. And so the fact that you're seeking something new out, brought you to this new landscape, if you will introduce you to give which he's an amazing person. And now you you've come on with full, it sounds like you've come full circle, and you're connected to that community vibe, that that's something that's so integral and part of who you are. And so now I love the phrase that you said, now I'm exploring what's next. And you seem to be finding your way there. Now, let's talk about the fact that you're almost done with the program. When you were first entering the program, what were your expectations of it? What did you want out of it?
Unknown Speaker 9:07
I think that my, the two expectations that I really had, in my mind were to be able to have tools, resources, real life applications that could support me in going my business, where I was in that moment. So when I started the program, I was still working full time in the nonprofit sector and was growing my business on the side. So that's one big piece. And then another piece was that I was really hoping to be able to connect to a network of other leaders and entrepreneurs that would be able to be people that I could bounce ideas off of learn from this be able to share in that experience of doing something Grand and unique, innovative and being able to grow together, that
Dennise Cardona 10:04
makes perfect sense. Your love for community and connectedness actually speaks to that whole desire to collaborate with other people and be able to form something together as a as a team, because it's such an empowering thing to be able to work together with like minded individuals, and even those who aren't like minded, because it's also helpful to see life through the lens of somebody with differing perspectives. And us because we learn that way. Can you tell us a little bit about peer engagement? What kind of spirit of collaboration is there amongst you all?
Unknown Speaker 10:36
Yes. So what's been really unique about this program is that in each of our classes, there is so much space for collaboration and for being able to learn from each other and, and work with each other. So in one of the very earliest classes that we take within the EI l program, we are asked to really start developing our own action learning project, which gets to be the foundation continuing to like build and iterate on throughout the program. And so what's I think it's been really special as everyone that I was in that class with the developing an entrepreneurial mindset class with, when we started building up our initial action learning projects, we've been able to take a variety of different classes together, and see how each of us are continuing to build on expand, iterate on prototype, test things out, try things out, and continue to expand upon that initial like seed or nugget of an idea that we started with at the beginning of the program. And so now that I'm towards the end of the program, I'm taking one of our capstone classes. And it feels really inspiring to see just the growth that we all have had together throughout the process of this program, because it is very interdisciplinary and provides a lot of different angles and perspectives to how to approach this very unique experience of being an entrepreneur. So we have some classes that are connected to more of the hard skills, like being able to take a class around finances. And then we have classes that are getting us more in touch with some of the soft skills, like our communications and leadership class, that helps us to really hone in and identify what are our unique ways that we communicate, collaborate, hold space, what are the ways that we are designed to be able to really show up in our business and offer our skills. So it's been great to be able to have that opportunity, because it is a pretty tight knit program. I think everyone that I've had a class with, I've had at least two classes with maybe even three. So we do have that chance to see each other through these, these different lenses and see and support each other and how we are growing towards our kind of ultimate project that we are seeking to be able to like deliver and share out into the world.
Dennise Cardona 13:40
You know, it's interesting, at least I feel like I have seen you before and I just connected with me, probably before the pandemic. So this was fall of 2019, maybe even spring of 2020, the early beginning classes in person. I was there. Because I you know, I'm a film producer at UMBC as well. And I believe that you were doing the presentation. You were presenting... Oh, all of you were presenting some ideas for an initial project that you were going to do. And I see you I remember you have caught some B roll of you and I've used it in video. So you're famous nice.
Unknown Speaker 14:20
I do. I think I do remember that was that in one of these classes?
Dennise Cardona 14:24
Yes. What I loved you talked about was the the learning project. I love that you talked about that. Can you talk about what you've learned in the classroom and have actually applied to this yoga business? I'd love to hear about how you've applied some kind of principles to the listeners an idea of what kind of value there is in this applied type of education.
Unknown Speaker 14:49
Yes. So in my growth and trajectory through this program at UMBC I have have also been investing in business coaching. And so I've kind of have these two parallel tracks that have been supporting me and growing my business. And so what I've found to be really helpful is that they both really complement and support each other. And I've been able to, yeah, just have the ability to tap into some really powerful resources, and stepping into what can be a very, yeah, just vulnerable and risky and uncertain space of entrepreneurship. So I feel like on the one hand, in the EAL program, I've been able to, like through our sales and marketing class, be able to create a deeper understanding of what it really looks like to create a sales funnel, to be thinking strategically about how to target and message and reach my ideal client and ideal customer. Through the creation of my action learning project in developing an entrepreneur, entrepreneur mindset class. That was actually my initial action learning project was actually to create a virtual Summit, which was bringing together a number of different leaders and healers in the wellness space to be able to share resources on a digital platform. And that was a really powerful list building experience. For me, I was able to grow my email list from, I think I had like 100 people on my email list before that event to 1200 people on my email list. So really expanding my audience, expanding the range of customers that could be like connected into my offerings. And I was speaking a little bit about the communications and leadership class. And I feel like that was also a really powerful tool and providing me with some different frameworks to think about the ways that I can be tapping into my own unique gifts, as it relates to how I'm shaping my offerings, and speaking about my business. So I think, really, you know, the, the courses that have been, you know, integrated into this program are all so unnecessary and so supportive, and the staff as well, like each of the professors for the program, I think the vast majority of them are, like traditional professors, or folks that have PhDs, they're people with a lot of lived experience in the realm of business and entrepreneurship, so it's just great to be able to have their, their take their story, their, their own lived experience, through their own business successes, and also, challenges and failures, they have been very open in terms of sharing that, that process. And so I feel really grateful to be able to all of those resources that I've been able to apply into my business. And then also on the business coaching side of things have been able to receive a lot of support around some of the personal development that comes into sharing more vulnerably, allowing yourself to be more visible, taking up space, taking a stand for what it is that you want to create, shift and change around and be surrounded by a coach, but also a community of other women who are doing the same. And that piece too has been so valuable, because there is just a lot of fear, insecurity, vulnerability that comes with the process of entrepreneurship, especially if it's connected to some of those like deeper aspects that you're really passionate about. And so I feel like I've been able to be really well served by having those, those two parallel tracks of stuff supports along the way over the past two years.
Dennise Cardona 19:35
Amazing. Sounds like an amazing coupling of resources to be able to help grow. You know, it's so powerful for people to understand that they have the power to do the same thing you're doing right now. And education is the pathway to being able to gain that knowledge, gain that experience, gain the insights of your fellow peers, faculty members. It's just this amazing collaboration and community of learners and doers. And so, again, credibly empowering and it sounds like you are really just soaring when it comes to this some really, I'm so inspired by your story right now, if you want to run out and do some amazing in the world.
Unknown Speaker 20:13
Thank you so much.
Dennise Cardona 20:17
Let me ask you something, what was, if you could name it? What has been so far your biggest takeaway from your education at UMBC?
Unknown Speaker 20:27
Hmm, what are the most valuable takeaways that I've been able to gain from the entrepreneurship innovation and leadership program is finally, feeling as though the experience of failure is something that is necessary and something that is really valuable, because I'm someone who definitely has, you know, in the past, and even still in, in this current season of my life, someone that experiences perfectionism and people pleasing. And I struggle with the idea of putting things out there, if it's not going to go according to plan or doing things that are a little bit riskier. And so the fact that we really Center Innovation in this program, and talk about the fact that in order to be an entrepreneur, in order to be a creative, innovative person, you have to be willing to fail fast, and learn and try again. And that failure is just feedback, that gives you an opportunity to be able to get valuable information about how to improve things, and how to be able to move forward in a, in a wiser, more sustainable way. And I think I've heard that before. Like, that's something that wasn't like a completely new concept to me. But it was something that I didn't really understand or take in in such a deep way, until I was able to be a part of this program, and hear from the lived experiences of my classmates and hear from the lived experiences of my professors, and be able to be exposed to just the different books that we read, and articles and resources that made it really clear to me and like helped it click into my mind that like, Oh, of course, this is part of our creative, innovative process. And if we don't allow ourselves to feel fast, and try new things, and experiment, it actually limits and prohibits us from being able to create the powerful change that we want to create on the planet. So I think that's definitely one of the biggest mindset shifts and pieces that I'm going to be taking away.
Dennise Cardona 22:56
That's an amazing mindset, mindset. And takeaway, because I think a lot of us, we fear failure was so afraid of it, that we sometimes it, it inhibits our way to move forward in the world. And without that failure, as a professor I once heard, say, failing up not failing down. But up, as long as you take that with you, right, and you, you take those away, you pick them up, and you carry them with you to your next process. And you apply them to your next process. If you can do that. If you can learn from those mistakes or ways of doing better, then you're not failing down, you're failing up, which is a really different mindset than its predecessor. So it's really important for people to take that those leaps of faith and face that fear head on. Because at the end of the day, once you face that fear, it's no longer holding you hostage anymore, and now you're on better things. So I can't think of a better way to close out this episode, then with that thought that you shared on fear and failing and understanding that those are all just part of the process. Do you have anything else that you want to add that I have not asked you today?
Unknown Speaker 24:07
I would say that one thing that I've really appreciated about the program is that it is really designed to be able to support professionals who are working. And it's also really designed to support us with having real life applications for the content that we're learning. And each of the classes are really geared towards having us do collaborative presentations and be able to dive deep into content by creating content packages and being able to share what we're learning through discussion board posts. It really is designed to be like an engaging learning experience where you can interact with your peers, and then also take what you're learning and apply it into your life. And so I would say that's also something that I've really appreciated about the program and didn't necessarily anticipate fully or no going in that it was going to be something that would fit into my existing life and responsibilities. So well.
Dennise Cardona 25:15
That's a powerful closing statement right there. Elyse, thank you so much for being here and talking with us about your experience with the entrepreneurship innovation and leadership graduate program at UMBC. I mean, when I say you've really inspired me, and you make me want to really go out there and do more, do more good work and be more focused on not being afraid of those steps that makes me feel vulnerable to just take that leap, and learn from those lessons and not be afraid to fail, because that's where the growth and the progress is. And, gosh, I wish you so much future success built on what you already have built with your yoga business. Be More Baltimore, it's amazing, and I'm really happy for you.
Unknown Speaker 25:57
Oh, well, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure speaking with you. I really appreciate the invitation and I'm looking forward to being able to stay connected.
Dennise Cardona 26:07
Thanks so much for tuning in to this episode of UMBC Mic'd Up podcast. If you'd like to learn more about UMBC his entrepreneurship innovation and leadership graduate program, please visit eil.umbc.edu
Transcribed by https://otter.ai