Pardeep, founder and CEO of Brew N Blend startup, followed a unique career path. He quit dental School after his first year to launch his startup. His greatest challenge was to explain his unconventional transition from the medical field to building a startup in the food space. He worked with MER on his essays and interview prep for Booth and was accepted into the program. Learn about Pardeep’s incredible journey from being a dental school student to being an entrepreneur.
Now presenting Pardeep in conversation with Poonam………
Talking Points of the conversation:
- His background-1.09
- Reasons for switching career path- 2.25
- Why MBA/Career Goals- 8.55
- His Reasons for applying to only One School -Booth- 12.08
- Planning for GMAT/GRE- 14.20
- Biggest application challenge- 22.00
- Advice for Prospective Applicants- 25.02
- Interest/ hobbies- 26.37
- Thoughts on impact of Covid-19 on MBA experience- 32.40
- Interview Prep- 32.40
Poonam: Hello Pardeep! How are you doing? Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Pardeep: I am very well. I hope you are doing well. It is my pleasure to be here and share my experience.
Poonam: Congratulations on receiving an offer from the Chicago Booth Weekend MBA program. How does it feel?
Pardeep: To be honest, it was a surreal experience. When I first received the phone call, I still could not believe that I actually got in. For a couple of days, I had to get myself together, to realize that all the hard work that we had in together finally paid off, and I came to the realization that I will be a student at Chicago Booth. It feels wonderful, and I am looking forward to the journey ahead of me.
Poonam: I am so happy for you. Can you tell our viewers something about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What you do now?
Pardeep: I am originally from New York City. I studied at Stony Brook University, where I got my bachelor’s in biology. Currently, I found my calling in the food space industry, and I am launching a superfood snack in March. I will be introducing snacks from my home country into the American market.
Poonam: Congratulations. From a medical student at dental School to an entrepreneur, you have had a unique, successful, but unconventional career path. Could you throw some light on your decision to switch from the medical profession to a startup in the food space?
Pardeep: Sure, I can walk you through that and how I transitioned into the superfood part. I started by applying to dental schools. That was primarily because that is what my parents wanted me to do. There was massive pressure on me for me to go into the health profession. However, when I got into the lab and performed various procedures on the mannequins and dummies, I realized that this is not what I would like to do for the rest of my life. I had to make a decision if I wanted to continue doing this for the next three years because this is what my parents wanted me to do or follow my passion and do what I enjoyed doing. I had to make a difficult but conscious decision. So I quit dental School and took off into the venture of open innovation. I started with a product licensing company, and being the creative person that I am, it gave me all the tools for open innovation. Though it was not a successful effort, I still wanted to stay in the world of business and continue my journey into the entrepreneurial world. When I was doing my product licensing company, I was working with kitchen utensils. It was easy to break into the market, especially in the kitchen market, which I was primarily focused on.
Due to some lack of research, this project was not successful. It was a transition for me to move into product licensing, into kitchen utensils, and into the actual food industry, selling food and snacks. I decided to open my own company. I am the founder and CEO of a company that specializes in superfood and snacks. I noticed that people who were opening new companies tried to introduce snacks from back home into the American market. I realized that I have been snacking on so many healthy snacks, and being a big advocate of healthy eating, I felt that it was a perfect fit for me to provide these snacks to the market. That is where I am currently standing. I am happy that I decided to switch, and I am looking forward to a successful venture.
Poonam: What challenges did you face to build your career in a completely unknown industry?
Pardeep: There were many challenges I faced in starting my own company. The best way to learn is to do everything on your own instead of looking out for handouts and help. There will be bumps in every stage and every phase of the company you are working on. You just have to push through. Once you have the blueprint for creating the company and how the company works, you can apply it to any other company. This is exactly what I did. I learned the hard way of opening my product licensing company, but I was able to apply my learnings with ease into my food space startup. One of the other problems I ran into was improper research. You have to dig deep into what you are getting into and what you are looking forward to be doing. One of the problems that I was facing while doing the product licensing is staying in touch with the same individuals throughout the process that I was trying to sell my product. Sometimes you talk to an individual, and you get a response a week or two later. So I had to stay determined to keep reaching out.
Another problem was finding my niche. It is essential to find where your product fits in today's world because you have to make sure that you have both- a good product and the consumer base that is willing to buy the product. Therefore, finding your niche is crucial.
Finally, product development was complex for my food startup brand. I had to make sure that the consumers get the first good impression of the product when they taste it. I had to make sure that the product development and the taste of the actual product are spot on. So these are some of the challenges I faced in getting me where I am today.
Poonam: Interesting. Future entrepreneurs can learn a lot from you. When did you start thinking about MBA? Why now?
Pardeep: I am at a point where I am very close to launch my startup. And there are a lot of skills I lack right now. I need to gain marketing skills, sales skills, and networking skills that I will need to apply to my company. Opening up a company and getting to where I am now is one thing but applying those skills that I currently lack will be crucial for the company's success once the company is launched. So, I believe that now is the most critical and best time for me to pursue an MBA.
Poonam: What are your career goals?
Pardeep: My ultimate career goal is to be successful in the food space industry. My goal for the next one to two years is to gain deeper business knowledge and see myself in the retail stores. My goal is to be in 200 retail stores within a year and a half. It seems far-fetched, but I have to work towards meeting the goal. The higher the goal you set, the higher you reach. So, I have set higher expectations for myself.
My long-term goal is to give back to the community. When I know that the company is thriving and I can contribute, I would like to give some company proceedings to farmers back home. That is where we get our products from. I want to be able to cut off middlemen. Buying from big companies does a big disservice to the actual farmers who are working tirelessly to get the products out. I want to eliminate the middleman and procure the products straight from farmers and help them, especially those in the economically challenged areas. I will create a system where they can sell directly to the consumers instead of going through a company that pays them much less than what they get from the actual consumer. It will be an excellent way for me to contribute to the community back home and help them financially.
Poonam: I am impressed. You have an absolutely clear idea about your goals, and you want to give back to the people back home. This is really commendable. You applied only to one School- Booth. How is Booth the best School for you?
Pardeep: I wanted to make sure that I get my MBA from the best school that is a good fit for me. I wanted to have a deep connection with the School. So I researched many other schools and found that Booth was the perfect fit for me personally. I will be getting a world-class education from the distinguished faculty. Entrepreneurship is one of the highest concentrations among the Booth students, so I will benefit from that. I will meet other like-minded individuals and apply the Chicago approach to my mindset and my journey. Booth MBA will help me think a lot better than the way I think now and find better solutions. The most appealing factor to me was to get the opportunity to participate in the new venture challenge through the accelerated program in the Polski Center of Chicago Booth. I will broaden my business education by participating in the accelerated program, nationally ranked #1. Since there is a considerable rise in the food space industry at Chicago Booth, I think it will be a wonderful and rewarding experience.
Poonam: Sounds great. Can you tell us your GMAT/GRE prep? Given the challenges you must be facing as a CEO and founder of your company, how did you find time for GMAT/GRE prep? What challenges did you face? What was your test prep strategy?
Pardeep: Sure. I am very familiar with standardized exams because I had to get one at high school, for college, and then enter dental school. Now I took GRE for the MBA program. First, I want to let everyone know that though you do have to score well, you should not let the score define who you are as a person. If you feel that you have not scored well, keep pushing, there are other ways to show the school that you can excel in their program. So, I believe that the biggest challenge for me while preparing for GRE was to get set in the study mode. It has been a while since I sat down to study as I was so busy with my startups. To create the discipline, I would recommend spending one hour the first couple of days just to get in that mode and mindset and gradually increase the allocated time to study. Along with setting up my startup, I had to do hundred other things, so it was not easy for me, but I stayed disciplined and focused and dedicated proper time to efficient studying to score well for GRE.
Some of the things I used for the GRE were the material provided by the ETS. A tip for staying focused is to make index cards. I prefer to write everything down instead of staring at the computer screen the entire day because it gets hard to study when you are looking at the computer screen. Making index cards and writing everything down became very handy to me as I could flip through the cards while eating lunch or dinner or walking. It really helped. This can be done for Verbal and even for Quant. You can write down the formulas and other things you feel you will forget. So, these are some of the ways that helped me to excel in my GRE.
Poonam: These are valid points. How much time you think should be allocated for test prep?
Pardeep: To me, it was an unproductive first month trying to get into the study mode because I had too many things happening to my business. I allocated one to three months for the exam prep. Three months may be pushing too far. Anything between one to three months should be good enough for someone to do fairly well in the GRE.
Poonam: It also depends on your learning style.
Pardeep: Exactly. If you have a lot of weaknesses that you need to work on, it might take you a bit longer to work on your weaknesses. In my case, my Verbal was better than others, and my Quant was just average, but I was able to improve my average quant to a higher level pretty fast. Another piece of advice is- don’t spend much time on the things you feel you are good at because it feels good to keep studying things you are good at. Try to learn things that are not your strong suits. This will help you in the long run. My Verbal was strong, so I didn’t spend much time on that. Instead, I worked on improving my Quant.
Poonam: Yes, this is a valuable test prep tip. Can you share your application strategy, planning, and preparation with our audience/ readers?
Pardeep: Take the application process seriously and think through each section of the application. I wanted to portray my best stories to Ad Com without them being able to speak to me. I recommend attending all the events that are offered by the School. I attended every event that Booth conducted, even the repeat events, thinking there may be some questions that I might have missed. You might have missed some events, so visit their website, and you will find a whole list of questions asked by students along with their replies. Make sure to attend the admission committee's events and try to make yourself familiar with the Ad Com. I think this is one of the most significant ways that has helped me. Also, I would suggest talking to students. I talked to a lot of students, and each student provided me feedback on what I could do better and what Ad Com was looking for. Current students were also a tremendous source for me. Furthermore, I will highly recommend GMAT Club. It is underrated, and a lot of students don’t necessarily look into that. This is a great resource for MBA applicants, and it helped me tremendously. If you are an introvert and don’t want to talk to current students, the GMAT club will be the perfect place for you to sit down and read the valuable information, provided by the current students or alumni.
Poonam: Good that you were visiting GMAT Club quite frequently. It is a treasure house of valuable information. Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the school admission process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?
Pardeep: The entire application process is very challenging, and you want to make sure that you are allowing enough time to work on every part of your application. So, one of the things I was having trouble with was my essays. Apart from my GRE and my resume, I felt that my essays were one place where I could effectively communicate with the Ad Com because I came from an entirely different journey than others. I also found it very challenging to effectively and concisely communicate to the Ad Com who I am as a person, why I would be the best fit with their program, and what I have to offer. For essays, I would like to give all thanks to you. We worked together; I was able to use myessayreview services. I know I reached out to you very last minute, but I knew that your services would tremendously help me. The results proved themselves. I got admission into Chicago Booth. You are a great storyteller, and that is what I was looking for through the service. Working together, we were able to compile perfect application essays to convey who I am as a person. It was a great experience working with you, and I give all thanks and credit to you and us for creating perfect essays and getting my point across.
Poonam: Thank you so much, Pardeep. I also enjoyed working with you a lot. It was a great experience for me too.
Pardeep: Working with someone like me with a different kind of place and the journey must have been a little different for you as well. But your patience helped me a lot, as you understood my story and helped me perfectly convey it. So, I thank you for that help and guidance.
Poonam: Thank you for giving me that opportunity. What would you advise other MBA applicants who are facing similar challenges? Would you like to give some pointers to the prospective applicants?
Pardeep: The one piece of advice I would give is that be yourself and be authentic. No one can better express themselves more than how you can express yourself personally. Think about why you want an MBA and why you want it at this specific time in your life. I believe that the Ad Com can see right through you as a person and know if you are not sincere. This is the same advice I got from the current students that I talked to. They all told me to be myself and be true to who I really am, and I will not face any problems throughout the way. That is one piece of advice I will give to everyone - be authentic and be clear about why you want to do an MBA at this point in your life. Also, do extensive research on the schools you want to attend and why you want to attend.
Poonam: No two people are the same, and no two people will have the same reasons for pursuing an MBA. So being yourself is the most important thing here. What are your outside of work interests? Can you tell us about your interest and hobbies other than your start-up?
Pardeep: Absolutely. It may seem that I am just work-oriented. I am a human also, and I like enjoying other things besides work, taking some time off, and getting a mental break. One of the things that allow me to do that is hiking. I am a big hiking enthusiast. I love hiking. It is a great way for me to escape the actual reality for just a little bit, reflect on life and get my mind back together. Lately, I have not been able to do that because of the pandemic as I have to be safe.
Another thing I like to do is volunteering my time to organizations. I am a big advocate of giving back to the community. I serve food at the Sikh temple every Saturday or Sunday, help the kids with any sports-related activity, and work at a childcare center to work with children. Also, I work with individuals from other countries to help them get accustomed to the American lifestyle, which I think is very important. It is hard being alone when you are from a different country and not used to American culture.
Also, I love practicing yoga and am also a big advocate of healthy eating. Yoga and healthy eating helped me lose 40 lbs this year. I wanted to make the best of this global pandemic and take something positive out of this experience. Mindful snacking is one of the things my company represents. So, I want to make sure that I am applying what I am trying to convey through my company.
Poonam: You are very community-oriented. I am really impressed with your community work, and this is one of the highlights of your resume. Finally, as you know, COVID-19 had turned lives upside down globally in the past year. What are the macro trends going to be in the post COVID world?
Pardeep: These trends take place when there are disruptions to everyday life. Because of the pandemic, everything has transformed from a physical experience to a more digital one. Even birthday parties, marriage parties all have gone virtual, which is hard to believe. These are some of the effective strategies that the world is coping to practice social distancing amid the pandemic. I think these trends will continue. People are getting comfortable doing things virtually. This trend will help me with my company as more and more people are shopping online, and e-commerce is becoming more prevalent, especially in the elderly population. They were first hesitant to shop online, but the pandemic has forced them to shop online, and I think they will hold on to that trend. The younger generation has been doing it for a very long time. I think it is crucial to my company because now I will reach a broader consumer space to sell my product al.
Poonam: Is there anything else you think I should have asked?
Pardeep: Yes. I would also like to mention that upon receiving an interview invite from Chicago Booth, I had to work on my interview skills. And it had been quite a while since I interviewed for my graduate school, which was around four years back for Dental School. So, this was something that I had to brush upon. I knew that I had made through the first 50%, and I must make through the last 50% into the bag. And for that, I had to use none other than your services. So, I reached out to you and told you that I got the interview invite, and you were delighted to hear that. Your interview prep service helped me tremendously. It made me understand my strengths, something that I can portray to the interviewer. It also helped me understand my weaknesses that I was able to work on tremendously.
I remember telling you initially that I was kind of scared because I never had a virtual interview in my life, and all the interviews I had were in person. This one was different for me, so I did not know what to expect. From your experience working with other students, you effectively guided me through the process and told me to stay true to who I am and be yourself. And that is exactly what I did. We worked with great questions that you asked. My interviewer asked some of the questions that you had asked in the mock interview session. So that was also another plus for me using your services. You effectively highlighted the things I had to work on and helped me calm down through the process before the interview. Ultimately, I received the decision and got accepted into my dream school, my top choice.
Also, I would like to add that if you are thinking of switching into a different career and different industry, don’t be scared to take that leap. Listen to your heart and move forward. In the end, you will be successful. Everything happens for a reason, so keep pushing for success. I am an example of that.
Poonam: I am so glad that the interview service I gave you was helpful, and I really enjoyed talking to you. Thank you for taking out time to talk to us. I wish you good luck with the launch of your startup and your Booth experience. Thank you so much.
Pardeep: Poonam, thank you very much. Throughout this process, I was able to gain a friend and someone with whom I will be able to share my experiences for the rest of my life because you made a huge impact on me through this process in my life. With your help, your experience, and expertise, I accomplished what I wanted to do. And I feel like I have gained a friend for life. So, I would like to thank you for your service. It is truly a blessing to work with you and ultimately get accepted into my dream school. So thank you very much for your service.
Poonam: It is my privilege to have worked with you. And I am sure that your valuable insights and experience will help many people around the world who are scared of taking that leap, taking the risk, and starting a new career. You will be a valuable resource to those people. Thank you so much. Have a nice day.
You can connect with Pardeep via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pardeep-singh-b50861202/
You may email Poonam at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about your application for the 2020-21 admission cycle.