After lunch with Hrag and Josh last month, to listen to a strategic business plan they’re working on, I couldn’t wait to blog about these amazing men. It took me so long because their story is extra-great. Hope you like it.
Hrag is an amazing, non-traditional FEMBA, having founded a Charter school, Valor Academy, in 2005.
Hrag started his career in education as a Teach for America teacher in South Central at Locke High School, which was then one of the most violent and under performing schools in the country. As an immigrant who attended public schools growing up, Hrag was incredibly frustrated with the educational options his students were exposed to. Thus, he left Locke and at 23 decided to open his own school to put low income students on the path to college. He founded Valor Academy, and Valor has gone on to become the 2nd highest performing middle school in the LAUSD and has won a number of accolades for its unique approach to education. Here is Hrag speaking about Valor Academy at Pepperdine.
Hrag holds a double-major degree from Boston College in Biology and Honors English, a Masters in Secondary Education from LMU, and is currently pursuing his FEMBA degree at UCLA. As a Teach for America Corps member, he taught 9th grade Biology and Honors Biology at Locke High School in Watts. At Locke, Hrag helped found the School of Math and Science and became head of the Biology department. To design Valor Academy, he completed a year-long Fellowship with Building Excellent Schools, a nationally-recognized charter-development organization, and a leadership residency at KIPP: Academy of Opportunity, a high-performing Charter Middle School in L.A. Hrag was recently awarded the Gold Award for the alumnus of the decade for Boston College as a result of his work with Valor Academy Charter School. See a Boston College article here.
As Hrag was going through the FEMBA program, he decided to broaden his organization’s impact and underwent a strategic merger last year with another charter school organization called BrightStar School’s. Through this merger he was able to launch a second school (Valor Academy High School), and has plans now to grow in a few years at a national scale. His partner at BrightStar School’s is Ari Engelberg, who is also an Anderson alumnus (1999) and founder of Stamps.com.
Also during FEMBA, Hrag met Josh Schachter, who began FEMBA while working at eHarmony. (I met Josh as a student in my Strategic Business Communications class in the summer of 2012 and I was blown away at his effective, persuasive, stand-up presentation style. Josh persuaded us about Umami being the world’s best hamburger, btw.)
While eHarmony was a great opportunity, Josh executed a job search and landed at a marquee role at the NFL Networks in Culver City. As the “mother of all sports brands” the NFL is the 10,000 pound gorilla in sports and Josh saw an excellent opportunity to leverage his digital savvy with the NFL brand.
At lunch, Josh and Hrag pitched their entrepreneurial strategic business plan that they’re working on, and I was honored to hear it (top secret for now, but stay tuned).
It was only after lunch, in the wrap-up conversation that Josh happened to mention that he was organizing his second NFL Case Competition, inviting MBAs from UCLA, USC and Berkeley.
“What?” I said. “That’s fantastic. Lots of MBAs enter case competitions, and many win. But how many MBAs actually start a case competition? Especially in a space as sexy as the NFL and Media. Send me more.”
Below is footage from 2013, the first year of Josh’s Case Competition. My how it grew in just one year! This first video is the kickoff at UCLA, and the lower video is the 2013 finals held at USC.
See what’s great about UCLA? Don’t you want to hang out with people like Hrag and Josh? Just amazing.