The Beginning is the End is the Beginning

In August of 2018, I began a new adventure as an MBA student. On the first day of orientation, we did an ice-breaker activity where we were given bingo cards with different traits in each box, and we had to find different classmates to add to each box. These ranged from "worked in IT" and "reads The Economist", to "loves ranch dressing" and "favorite color is orange". I went through the motions of this so-called "activity" with the excitement of meeting these cool parents, world travelers, and ranch lovers, as well as the anxiety of being an extremely introverted introvert. As we stood around awkwardly looking at the boxes we still needed to fill, someone asked,

"Does anyone know an entrepreneur here?"

Sheepishly, I replied something like, "well, I'd like to start a business, but I haven't, so I'm not actually an entrepreneur, but I guess if you really can't find anyone else I might be a decent backup on that, but I'm not really, so, yeah." Smooth.

Apparently, these icebreakers don't actually count for anything, so everyone around me scribbled my name in the "is an entrepreneur" box. Hello impostor syndrome, my old friend.

All of a sudden, my new classmates kept approaching me. "I heard you're an entrepreneur, can I put your name down for that one?" "Well, I want to be an entrepreneur, but I'm not just yet." "You want it though, that's good enough."

I know full well that what they meant was it's good enough to get this bingo card filled out so that we could move on with our lives. But wanting it turned out to be such an important part of the entrepreneurial journey. As we started the intense MBA program and learned how to survive our classes, networking, and internship searches, I constantly flipped between wanting a paid internship and creating an entrepreneurial internship for myself. I went through the motions of info sessions and interviews, but I never felt that spark, or that feeling that any of these roles would guide me closer to my purpose. Around March, I finally committed to creating my own internship. I remember a sudden feeling of relief and excitement: finally, this was what I actually wanted. I spent the summer building a business from the ground up, and worked through my second year to get to a point where we could finally sell some coffee.

Now, in May of 2020, I'm finishing up my finals and getting ready to graduate with my MBA from W. P. Carey. At the same time, we are launching our website and selling coffee to all of you while supporting women in our community. Who knew this end would truly be a new beginning? And who would have thought that I'd actually have a real business to call my own when I finished the MBA? August 2018 Denise would have never thought it possible. But wanting it made it so.

I'd like to welcome you all to the Empower Coffee Roasters family. I sincerely hope you enjoy our products and become engaged in our work. But more importantly, I hope you all have the opportunity to reflect on your own purpose, and your own path, and realize what you really want for yourself.



  • Congrats Denise! Loved having you as my chem 101 lab TA but it’s awesome to see that you are following your passion! You’re a cool person. Wish u da best.

    Sabrina Gorry
  • Very stimulating Denise! I wish you all the success in your journey!

    Jatin Kapur
  • Congratulations! This is such an inspiring story! I think Empowered coffee is the perfect name for a company led by such an Empowering person! I wish you and your husband great success!

    Brysen Rebischke
  • Congratulations! This is such an inspirational story! I love your mission and motivation! Empowered Coffee is a perfect fit to be led by such an empowering woman! I wish you and your husband great success!

  • I’m proud of you, Denise! Stay true to yourself and to your dream, and I know you’ll do well.

    Dustin Weil

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