The 2017 Opening Residency of The Richmond MBA welcomed 34 students to The Jefferson Hotel to get to know one another and kick start their experience at Richmond.

“Opening Residency set the tone,” said James Poole, GB’19. “In working on the case, I learned what is expected of me as a student and what I should expect from my fellow classmates and my professors.”

The Richmond MBA gives students a unique opportunity to get to know one another in a small, tightknit environment before they even set foot in a classroom.

“Staying at The Jefferson was amazing and definitely gave the program a distinguished quality that will not soon be forgotten,” said Heidi Drauschak, GB’18. “Being able to socialize with the other new students - and learn about their lives outside the MBA program - was wonderful and began to build relationships that I'm sure will survive past the program.”

The students attended workshops led by Robins School of Business professors on topics ranging from building one’s professional network to leadership and management.

“Meeting new professors and getting a feel for their personality and knowledge base really stood out to me,” said Travis Allen, GB’21. “It re-enforced my belief I made the correct decision.”

As part of the program, students attended dinner at The Virginia House with Robert Reynolds, the son of Richard Reynolds, founder of the Richard S. Reynolds Graduate School of Business at the University of Richmond.

Robert Reynolds shared insights about his father’s business, and lessons he learned from his father’s work.

“The classic learning environment I am accustomed to involves a classroom, a class, and a teacher. Opening Residency taught me that any environment can be conducive to learning and anyone can be a teacher,” Poole said of the evening.

The task for the majority of the program is to create a business strategy for this year’s client: Shockoe Atelier. The students separated into groups of five to find ways the denim company could improve business and turn a profit.

Shockoe Atelier is a family owned and operated denim company, creating hand-made jeans for Richmond and beyond. Located in Richmond’s historic Shockoe Bottom, a father and son make every pair by hand, individualized to each customer’s size and preference. The Richmond MBA students spent the 10 days of Opening Residency working together to help Shockoe Atelier grow and improve its business. They met with Pierre and Anthony Lupesco, the father and son who run the business, as well as one of their employees to determine the company’s greatest needs.

Then on the last day, the groups presented their strategies to the clients, as well as professors and executives from the Robins School.

“I learned that consulting is all about relationship building. You have to make a connection with the client and learn about what matters to them,” Drauschak said. “You can make the best recommendation in the world, but if they're not ready to hear it, it’s never going to happen. You have to take their perspective into account and create a solution that tailors to their needs." 

Overall, the groups recommended that the company showcase their family story, as well as invest in a bigger Richmond presence in order to improve business. The students say that after preparing a formal client presentation in the first week of The Richmond MBA program, they feel they can tackle anything that comes next.

“I know there will be many challenges in the MBA program, but I am excited for them and know that there are infinite resources to help me,” Draushak said.