Gutsy Moves

I presented my company’s product, TrintMe (a friendship and relationship platform), to Mark Cuban and Daymond John for “Babson Shark Tank Edition.” Cuban and John were not impressed and criticized me in front of an audience of more than 1,000 people. Instead of giving up, I took their feedback positively, maintained my calm, and ended the presentation confidently and gracefully. Cuban and John eventually realized that they were not the target market and could see potential value in my business. —Ali Gull ’12, founding member and director of marketing, Social Intentions Inc.

Sometimes, you just have to go for it.

My gutsiest move was the adoption of my first daughter, Kira, from China. We had been through a long process preparing for the adoption—home study visits by social workers, lots of paperwork, reading about parenthood and adoption, and then preparing for the trip (diapers and other baby stuff included).

Previously, our only ventures outside of the U.S. were some European countries such as Ireland, Sweden, and Scotland. China was a whole different world, and it was here we were becoming parents for the first time. It was quite an overwhelming experience to say the least. Nine years later, Kira has a sister, Jada, also from China, and I have traveled there a dozen more times for teaching, conferences, and meetings. I also have worked with four Chinese research scholars at Babson. From this initial experience, China has become a second home.
Donna Kelley, associate professor of entrepreneurship, Frederic C. Hamilton Chair in Free Enterprise Studies

One of my gutsiest moves was launching my blog [My Ethnic Hair Journey] a little more than a year ago. I blog about hair and identity, and I had no idea if I would have enough content to warrant a blog, or if folks would be interested in what I had to say. Tens of thousands of views later, I am launching a website to house my research, blog, videos, and interviews. In other words, that first deep dive led me to discover a new facet and most fulfilling aspect of my career.

My other gutsy move: I showed up for the second year of my doctoral program with my newborn daughter in tow. I didn’t ask for permission because I was afraid the administration might say no. I went to class with my daughter in an Over the Shoulder Baby Holder and acted like it was the most normal thing ever. Folks, do what you need to and ask for forgiveness later.—Tina Opie, assistant professor of management

Last summer I sought an adventure. I love variety, so I searched for something exciting and interesting that I had never done before. I found gorgeneering. The adventure started when, helped by my guide, I rappelled down a cliff onto a rock in front of a raging waterfall, the first of many. I shimmied on logs and swam across rapids. I jumped off a 10-foot cliff into the rapids. Halfway through I was utterly exhausted and questioning my sanity. But, at the end, I felt exhilarated. I learned my body is more resilient and my spirit more courageous than I thought. Taking this risk gave me the chance to experience the incredible beauty of the gorge and appreciate this one adventure as part of my life journey. I feel proud of my accomplishment and am comfortable with the knowledge that I don’t need to do it again. Ever. —Irene Stern Frielich, MBA’91, president, EnVision Performance Solutions

It was September 1995. I had been in San Francisco just over a year and had nothing to show for it. I remember walking around the streets one day and seeing two individuals who made a profound impression on me. One was a panhandler who sat on a corner and asked for money. The other was a man standing on a milk crate wearing a sandwich board that said, “Repent! The end of the world is coming.” What struck me was that the first man had gotten to a point where his ego had been worn away and he was willing to ask simply and directly for what he wanted. And the second man believed so strongly in his convictions that he was willing to physically wear his message and present it to the world.

By the end of the week, I had created a sandwich board extolling the virtues of my skills. One morning, I put on my best thrift-store suit and boarded the 5 a.m. bus to the financial district with my sandwich board under my arm. I stood outside the Bank of America world headquarters, put the two-sided sign over my head, and began passing out resumes. I was there for 12 hours. This was one of the most humbling moments of my life. I stood out, exposed, bluntly asking for help and displaying my convictions. The response was amazing and really helped renew my faith in people. In the back of my head, I think I was expecting people to throw tomatoes at me (which my friend in New York said would have happened on Wall Street). Instead, many people took my resume and talked to me. A news crew even came.

This seemingly crazy idea led to my getting a job as an associate equity analyst covering high-tech companies. I left that job about a year later, but the payoff inspired me to take more chances, and eventually I landed a job as the 13th employee and a founding business team member at Google, which in turn allowed me to retire 10 years after graduating from Babson. —Steve Schimmel ’94

I commuted for two years from Walpole, Mass., to Hanover, N.H., about 150 miles one way, to work as an assistant hockey coach. I had been coaching hockey at Brown University for five years when my boss took the job as head hockey coach at Dartmouth College and asked me to join him. I had been married for eight months and just had purchased a house when this happened, and my wife had a great job she couldn’t leave. It was my opportunity to continue to pursue my passion of coaching. —Jamie Rice ’90, head coach, hockey, Babson College

I took on the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) for illegally building an east-west highway, Interstate 895, across southern Rhode Island. It was in the 1990s, and I was running a specialty sporting goods company in Providence while raising two toddlers with my husband. The highway would have traversed three aquifers, two of which were sole source, meaning if anything spilled into the ground above the aquifers, there was no replacing the water.

I founded DOT Watch, a citizen advisory group on transportation issues, and convinced the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston to represent us and other environmental groups in a joint lawsuit. We lost in Rhode Island but appealed and won in the Boston Federal Court. To make up for work completed before the case had a chance to be heard, RIDOT was forced to spend a million dollars in plantings, indigenous stone bridge abutments, and wooden guardrails across the nearly completed Jamestown, R.I., segment. That stretch came out so good, RIDOT won an award. The lawsuit prevented the partially completed highway from being connected on the Connecticut and Massachusetts borders.

Not only was I-895 canceled, but in northern Rhode Island, another proposed highway, Interstate 84, also was dropped from the build list. The entire project took eight years to win, but it was worth it. And the Ladies Home Journal named me Rhode Island’s “Heroine of the Year.” —Karen Salvatore ’74, founder, Food And Truth