Sometimes, one professor can make all the difference.
For Kyle Graham, that was Tim Muth. After reviewing the business plan Graham created as an assignment for the Florida Tech MBA program, Muth knew Graham had the drive to succeed, and suggested he actually start the business.
Choosing the MBA Online
Graham enrolled in the MBA program online to open up career opportunities after deciding his profession as a teacher wasn’t the right fit.
“Growing up, multiple members of my family owned various businesses, and my mom and three uncles all had their MBA, so it was a no-brainer to go back to school for my MBA,” he said.
A native of the Brevard County area, Graham knew he could visit the Florida Tech campus in Melbourne if he needed anything. Another benefit: “It came with a free membership to the FIT gym!”
The 100% online program allowed him to continue working while pursuing his degree.
“Making money while in graduate school is a huge benefit,” he said. “Instead of going to classes during the day, I was able to work and then study for a few hours at night and on the weekends.
“I personally have a hard time paying attention in lectures, and the online program made it easier for me to read the material and apply it at my own pace.”
Graham said the coursework isn’t easier “than in-class learning and sometimes is more challenging.” The discussion boards were helpful because you “had to engage with other students and the teacher would come in and talk about it, that way you get real-life situations, and you had to strategize based on what someone else did.”
The professors “were always there through the message boards, through email, and you could even text them if you really wanted, but they were always there to answer any questions. It was a lot of communication with other students, too, so it really helped a lot.”
And the support from one professor spurred the career change he sought.
From Business Plan to Business Owner
Muth teaches BUS 5602, Essentials of Business Development II, a required course in Florida Tech’s online MBA program that calls for students to create a business plan.
Graham decided his plan would relate to the work of his then-fiancée, Iris, who was a physician assistant at a medical spa, where she used lasers. He thought he’d just get to understand more about her work. In reality, he was laying the groundwork for their future together as husband-and-wife business owners.
“After finishing the plan and turning it in, the professor emailed me and told me I should look into opening a medical spa of my own. Two months later, I attended a conference for medical spa owners, and from that point on I decided to go all in.”
Graham began using everything he was learning in the MBA program to inform and refine plans for his business, Millefiori Medical Skin Rejuvenation.
“Once I got probably eight months into the program, this is when Millefiori started happening,” he said. “Every class, I started to gear it around a business. Marketing classes, marketing online, financial planning – it was just every class when I went into it thinking, ‘How’s this gonna help my business?’ And I put everything I learned into the business and it made me that much more successful.”
As Muth says, the “MBA is not magical [but it] brings together all the fundamental business talents,” including a combination of technical and soft skills.
Because the students are mature, working adults, Muth said, “one of the things we try to do with our online program is not just teach the theory, but also teach practical stuff so … they can take what they’re learning in class and apply it very quickly.”
A Business Success
Graham pitched his business plan to a couple of banks, and eventually secured a $400,000 loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, allowing him and Iris to open Millefiori Medical Skin Rejuvenation in downtown Melbourne.
“Having an MBA, it also leads to bigger and better opportunities, especially owning a business,” said Graham, who serves on the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce and the Melbourne Main Street Board of Directors. “There are opportunities on every corner you find. We get approached all the time: ‘Would you invest in this?’ ‘Be a silent investor in this?’ or ‘Would you like to take over a business?’
“I didn’t know all of these things are available! But people see that you have a successful business, you’ve got your MBA. It’s another way of having credentials and leverage, in certain aspects.”