Making impact: Berkeley EMBA grad fuels cleantech and women entrepreneurs

    

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When Rose Maizner, EMBA 17, met with RenewableTech Ventures founder Todd Stevens to discuss the possibility of joining their team, she complimented him on his launch of an impact fund.

“We’re just investing our money in good things,” replied Stevens, who formed the Salt Lake City-based venture fund to invest in early-stage clean technologies, but had yet to think of himself as an impact investor. The seasoned venture professional simply chose to use his skillset to help better the world.

Rose wouldn’t have been familiar with impact investing either had she not attended a 2010 talk on the subject by then-Berkeley Professor Darian Rodriguez Heyman, who gave the keynote address for a Utah Fundraisers Society event. That talk turned the course of her career and pointed her to the Berkeley MBA for Executives (EMBA) program.

“Working in the nonprofit sector, I’d seen the challenges around funding and how the lack of sustainability could cause great programs to disappear overnight,” says Rose. “His talk revealed a way to create lasting change by generating revenue as a socially responsible venture.”

Afterward, Rose signed up for the Berkeley MBA mailing list. She also scoured Salt Lake City for potential impact investment firms and found RenewableTech.

Part of the deal

Stevens hired Rose based upon her nonprofit development background and her enthusiasm for exploring what “impact” might mean for them as a fund in the cleantech space.

As long as Rose was willing to learn the intricacies of cleantech and venture funding, the firm promised to support her. If she wanted to pursue partnership, however, getting an MBA would be “part of the deal.”

So, in 2016, Rose became a commuter student, flying from Utah to the Bay Area to attend weekend blocks and weeklong immersions.

She credits her first immersion week—Leadership Communications in Napa Valley—for shattering her biases and fear.

“My classmates came from such diverse backgrounds and, frankly, I was intimidated because they were all so brilliant,” she says. “But that week revealed how much we have in common and developed in us a sense of wanting group success.”

The WEMBAs

The women in her cohort formed the WEMBAs (Women of EMBA). Through WhatsApp, they supported each other and chatted about the issues they face as women professionals. 

It’s a practice they continue today. 

When Rose faced her first pitch last year, she messaged the WEMBAs for tips on calming her nerves. “I got this amazing bunch of messages. It was the perfect boost to have before going on stage to speak.”

Relevant courses

Along with peer support and foundational skills in finance and strategy, her Berkeley education offered courses relevant to her work and passion.

New Venture Finance, taught by Distinguished Teaching Fellow Maura O’Neill, connected corporate finance basics with entrepreneurship. “I still refer back to those course materials,” says Rose.

Independent study with advisor Kellie McElhaney, executive director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership, fueled ideas for Womenpreneurs, a company Rose co-founded in 2015 to support female founders and leaders.

Her study focused on improving female entrepreneurs’ access to capital. At the time, only about 2% of venture dollars went to women, and only about 8% of investment decision makers were female. 

Rose wondered if the solution might be to bring more female investors to the table. So she interviewed wealth advisors and women who had sufficient funds to invest to see how active the women were in deciding how their money was managed.

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Her findings helped form the “theory of change” framework Womenpreneurs now uses to create programs—not only for female founders but also women leaders and investors. The goal is to spur strong, female-led and -founded companies by building a supportive network of women peers and investors around them. 

Now a partner at Renewable Tech, Rose’s support network has expanded to include Berkeley professors, alumni, and staff. 

“It’s not like I graduated and the magic of Berkeley was over. I’m still a member of this amazing community, and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it.”

Ready to make a positive impact? See how the Berkeley MBA for Executives can supercharge your professional network, reach, and skills.

About The Author

Susan is Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA for Executives Program. She has nearly twenty years of experience in marketing and advertising, having worked in several different industries including technology, travel, healthcare -- and many others from her media planning days at J. Walter Thompson where her clients included Chevron, Kaiser Permanente, Nestle, and Ford. She enjoys advising prospective students and guiding them through their personal MBA experience.