Kashmala Khan with EMBA classmates Candice Cassella and Jigna Pokhan.

Executive MBA Program ignites student’s drive to create business, make an impact

During her career in private banking and wealth management, Kashmala Khan, a new graduate of the Rutgers Executive MBA Program, always found satisfaction in helping clients achieve their financial goals and aspirations.

She especially liked working with small business owners because she appreciated their hard work and their ability to tackle challenges even as they carried out the day-to-day work of operating their businesses.

“I truly appreciate the many daily financial and economic challenges and crises that small business owners have to juggle just to stay alive,” Khan said.

With every class and lecture that she attended during the EMBA program, she collected information and insights that she thought would help her develop an idea she had for connecting small business owners with trusted experts who could provide them with advice.

“The EMBA program did a fantastic job of putting the building blocks together. I jotted down ideas in every class,” she said. “I would literally wake up in the middle of the night as something said in class would come to mind.”

Khan said she never really thought she would become an entrepreneur, but she said the professors and guest speakers in the EMBA program often spoke about effecting change, something she realized she also wanted to do.

“As much as I love doing what I do, I knew I needed to do more than go to the office,” she said. “It didn’t have to be a crazy business that’s going to make billions. It had to be something that would make a difference.”

By the end of the third semester, Khan’s idea of trying to help one small business at a time became more real. Her idea for the proposed business, which she is calling Business Resource Central, involves a platform that will provide small business owners with a curated listing of professionals with the expertise they’re seeking, whether it’s financial or strategic. Her goal is to allow small business owners to benefit from the business and financial expertise that exists locally while assigning them relationship managers who will work as their advocates to guide them in the right direction.

“Given that our local white-collared freelance community is growing and that most business experts have at least some extra bandwidth in their lives to help others – it was a no brainer,” she said. “Connecting them with our local businesses will only strengthen our communities.”

“As much as I love doing what I do, I knew I needed to do more than go to the office," Khan said. "It didn’t have to be a crazy business that’s going to make billions. It had to be something that would make a difference.”

Khan discussed her business idea with Professor Farrokh Langdana, the director of the Rutgers EMBA program, and he connected her to Doug Brownstone, a professor and director of the MBA Team Consulting Project. Langdana approved an independent study as one of her electives, which allowed her to focus on developing a business plan.

In the independent study, Khan was joined by classmates Jigna Pokhan, a healthcare executive with extensive business management and development experience, and Candice Cassella, who has more than 20 years of experience in enterprise software roles. Both women were eager to increase their entrepreneurial experience.

With Professor Brownstone’s guidance and input, and the strong foundation built by REMBA, Khan’s idea became a concrete business plan for “Business Resource Central,” a premium matching service that works one-on-one with local small businesses and pairs their unmet finance and strategy needs with U.S.-based, vetted and qualified experts.

“The independent study, hands down, has everything to do with where I am,” Khan said.

Professor Brownstone was impressed with Khan’s drive and passion and the work all three women put into the project. “I see a lot of business plans every semester,” Brownstone said. “What they handed back to me was one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was just on a different level.”

Professor Brownstone said he will continue advising Khan as she finalizes the business plan and prepares to pitch to investors. Khan, who is currently vetting business experts and surveying potential customers, said one of her pitches will be to the judges for the annual Rutgers Business Plan Competition later this year.


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