By Carolyn Gray Anderson
In the short time since she graduated, UCLA Anderson alumna Shreena Grewal (FEMBA ’16) has added an online shop and new event concepts to her ice cream catering company, Bites Desserts. Trained as a financial analyst, Grewal is a self-described fashionista, foodie and jetsetter — all of which inspired her entrepreneurial ventures, including the recently launched Cake and Couture line of gifts.
“I’ve always been a problem solver and have always enjoyed the idea of being an entrepreneur and creating my own solutions,” she says. “My company helps to make events more memorable with all-natural ice cream in unique flavors and packaging. Our ‘solutions’ range from custom sundae cups to s’mores bars.”
Grewal tapped resources within the Anderson community to get started and drew in particular on her GAP experience. “Trying to get customers is no easy task,” she says, “especially in the competitive market of L.A. I strongly believe that an MBA is not just for those trying to make it in corporate America. My UCLA MBA played a large role in helping me to create and grow my business and I was able to benefit from the numerous tools and experiences that resulted from being at Anderson.”
Here are Grewal’s four top tips for making a sweet success of your startup:
- Networking — Everyone talks about how important and beneficial networking is when in business school, especially when looking for jobs. Networking is also extremely beneficial for entrepreneurs. I was able to meet countless people through Anderson, leading to various business opportunities and critical feedback. These interactions have really helped me evolve my business. For example, catering FEMBApalooza three years in a row has been a great way to meet my fellow classmates and alumni, share my story with them, and get my product out there.
- A Refresh on the Basics of Business — My undergraduate degree was in business, but who really remembers everything they learned in college, right? Getting my MBA really gave me a refresh on the basics of business (marketing, operations, finance, etc.), and also helped me learn new concepts and ideas (leadership, international strategy, business law) that I could apply to Bites. Going through the Global Access Program, albeit daunting, was probably the single most important thing that helped me in terms of really perfecting my business. During the process, you are analyzing and assessing someone else’s business and their ideas, going through everything with a fine-toothed comb. I realized I had not taken the time to do this with my own business. After GAP, I did the same thing with Bites, leading me to make some significant changes.
- The Importance of Branding — Initially, I did not really have a cohesive brand or identity. My various classes and GAP made me realize the importance of creating not only a business, but also a brand that people can identify with. Now I have a more refined brand, which I was achieved through my logo, use of specific colors and images, social media presence and making changes to my menu and product offerings.
- Diversifying and Creating Synergies — My strategy classes enabled me to think of the importance of diversifying your business and creating synergies through ancillary revenue streams and products that complement your existing product lines. This idea led me to create an online source for custom catering, favors and gifts for special occasions. Since I was already catering various events, I figured a natural complement to Bites would be to offer my customers other solutions for their events. So far, it has been a great addition and has helped me grow my business and awareness. Some people come to me for ice cream catering while others come to buy gifts for people; but in the end they usually leave with both!