How to start a PhD with no money

We understand that some Motherland Moguls are working towards a career in academia. It could be because you’re looking to add Prof. before your name or you just want to further your studies. Chances are you’ve looked up the cost of studying a PhD and balked at the price tags.

Because SLA always has your back we spoke a self-funded PhD student. Oreva Olakpe is not only studying for a PhD in international law focusing on African migrations, she’s also an entrepreneur and a hustler. She’s self-funded her way through school so we knew she’d give some great tips.

Why self-fund a PhD?

Finding funds for a PhD is hard. Most of the funding out there is based on the interest of people that have the money. If they are not interested in what you are doing, there’s nothing for you. If you’re from a country that doesn’t have the money to fund research on their particular field. Don’t feel too bad though.

Well, the issue with funding is that it can suck out the creativity of your work. Especially when funders want to dictate where your research goes (and if they can, they will). When you self-fund, your research is in your control and you can go wherever you want with it.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s very difficult to be self-funded. In Oreva’s program, there’s just one other self-funded girl. And guess what, both of them are African. There’s nothing Oreva didn’t do to pay for her living costs. She says, while there is a joy in knowing that your efforts are paying for your research, it’d be wrong to glorify it.

So if you’re ready to walk down the self-funded path, be ready to do all sorts of things to make money…

Save up

First of all, don’t jump straight into your PhD from your masters. Have a year to figure out things financially. Find a 9-5 that pays well and start saving ahead of school.

“For me, I only managed to save up a bit of money. What was able to help me get through the stress was doing entrepreneurial activities.”

Apply for (small) grants

Any PhD student is familiar with the grant application process. Grants can be very competitive and the trick to get through them is to apply for many.

“I got tiny grants from different organisations as opposed to the big funding that most people get.”

Small amounts pouring in from different organisations can come up to a lot. For Oreva, grants paid for all her international flights. For her fieldwork, she spent a couple of months in China and grants paid for all that. When money comes in from different sources, you can take care of annoying things that suck up your funds without you knowing (like transport and food).

There’s no shame in applying for all the grants. Also consider applying for a scholarship. A fair warning though, there is not much out there for Africans in social sciences.

Have a support system

“The most important thing that helped in cases of emergency, was family members.”

Just because you’re self-funding doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help when time calls for it. For Oreva, family came through when she needed her tooth removed and did not have cash at hand. Her mom and sisters are deep in the entrepreneurship vibe and this supported and inspired her hustle. Oreva credits them as her motivation to try business ideas as a source of financial and intellectual freedom. Friends came through when someone smashed her laptop screen —the most important thing for a PhD student— and she needed to repair it.

Another way family and friends pull through is with connections. If you need to do fieldwork in certain locations, they can help make things easy for you. The important thing is to have a support system, whether its your family, friends or the investment your parents put in your name.

Get your hustling gear on

Oreva has sold clothing (ankara), artwork and jewellery that paid her a lot. In addition, she does a lot of freelance writing and has worked with blogs while also writing academic articles for companies. While she lived in China, Oreva was also an IELTS tutor and French tutor.

It seems if there’s one thing self-funding a PhD will do, it’ll improve your entrepreneurial spirit. Academics are associated more with the library than the marketplace but the truth is entrepreneurship fits into any career. Academics can also be entrepreneurs.

“A lot of the African students I know are hustlers.”

In SOAS, where Oreva studies, there’s a market for students. Maybe it’s unsurprising that most of the people selling at the market are African students. Some sell jollof rice, buns and chin-chin while others sell jewellery, bags, homemade beauty products, soaps.

Find ways to cut cost

“I don’t stay in London but in my family home in Nigeria. This way I don’t have to pay that high rent.”

You don’t have to be physically present at campus for most PhD programs. To cut costs further, you may also consider studying something that relates to you or to your country. Oreva’s case study is focused on Nigeria.

Pick research topics that will be cheap for you. This way your networks will come through. For example, when you have to travel to conduct research in your home country, chances are people will be more willing to help you.

And it doesn’t have to be people you know. It can be local universities coming through because they see the value of what you’re doing.

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Why a global MBA from INSEAD may be the right move for you


With campuses in Europe (France), Asia (Singapore) and Abu Dhabi, INSEAD business school may be the most diverse and international business school in the world. Recently ranked as the #1 Global MBA Programme by Financial Times, INSEAD should be on any Motherland Moguls list as a potential business school option.

We chatted with Kemi, Timi, Lakheni and Alvine, four Motherland Moguls and current INSEAD students about how they stood out in their applications, what they love most about business school and what you should do today to start your journey towards business school 

Why did you think an MBA was the right step for you in your professional journey?

Kemi: I always refer to myself as being a ‘home-grown’ Nigerian; having lived, schooled and worked in Nigeria for all of my life, and being home-grown comes with its unique experience. After 8 years of experience across banking, telecoms and management consulting, I felt like an MBA (and an INSEAD MBA in particular) was the appropriate next step in my professional journey.

I truly believed that the MBA experience would be truly life-changing and would equip me with the knowledge, exposure, connections and confidence that I needed to become a true global leader. I was convinced that the exposure to people from 80 different nationalities, with diverse perspectives and opinions from different walks of life that the INSEAD MBA offered would definitely broaden my horizons and enlighten me profoundly.

Beyond the potential richness of the interactions, I also knew that the curriculum’s focus on entrepreneurship and the practical approach to teaching would prepare me for my role in supporting entrepreneurs and businesses in Africa.

INSEAD - Kemi Onabanjo

Timi: I had been working for over six years in a commodities trading house in various functions and geographies, which eventually led to me being based in South Africa. After a number of years there, as I periodically do, I reviewed my short and long terms goals and assessed what my next steps should be.

With my passion for Africa and my experience in the energy industry, I realised that a combination of both is where I could do my part in my Africa development story. To achieve this, I concluded that an MBA would be a bridge between where I was and where I wanted to be. I wanted to work in the investment space for energy and infrastructure development on the continent, particularly Nigeria.

An MBA would be a start in closing my knowledge gap, whilst furnishing me with the necessary soft skills, and valuable network to begin actualising this dream.


LakheniI have always had a passion for entrepreneurship and for solving both my country and the continent’s challenges. After spending 8 years working in academia, government and the not-for-profit sectors I wanted to explore a career in social entrepreneurship.

I however felt that my limited industry experience exposed weaknesses in my business skills which I need to hone if I wanted to advance my career development. I choose the INSEAD MBA because I felt that it was best suited to provide me with a global business knowledge with a focus on social entrepreneurship and experiential learning required to ensure that I am a well-rounded professional.

I also knew that I would interact with a high calibre of professors and student body that would afford me the opportunity to gain insights about a plethora of countries, industries and cultures which would be invaluable to my pursuit of a global career.

Lakheni - INSEAD

Alvine: I am native from Cameroon and after 11 years of studying and working abroad, I felt the necessity to do something more meaningful for a living and focus on a place where my initiatives would have a real impact on people’s life. In my opinion, the way to achieve this goal was by becoming a serial entrepreneur in Africa.

However, to get there it seemed obvious that I needed to undertake an MBA in order to enlarge my scope of expertise and learn how to do business in this changing world.

And very honestly, the MBA INSEAD offers naturally appeared as the best option for me because it was a one year course and its entrepreneurial classes were reputed to be rich and insightful.

Alvine - INSEADHow did you stand out in your application and show the admissions committee what you could offer the school?

Kemi: It is important to know what attributes your target schools value, and ensure that these attributes shine through all aspects of your application. INSEAD places a premium on leadership experience and diversity, and these were the 2 main themes that I focused on across all aspects of my application – essays, recommendations, interviews, etc.

Based on feedback from alumni who reviewed my essays, I was able to highlight the diversity of my professional experience within emerging and developed markets and across different industries in both the private and public sector. I also shared my personal experiences of meeting and working with people of different nationalities, as well as my curiosity that led me to travel to numerous countries to learn about different world cultures.

Finally, I am sure being a woman also helped – everyone knows that it is impossible to win with only half of your team, and so a lot of business schools are actively bringing in more women into their programs.

Timi: I knew that INSEAD was a school that placed high value on diversity, and I endeavoured to showcase this in my application. When I say diversity, I mean diversity in all respects – gender, nationality, professional & personal experiences etc.

At this point, I would like to stress that INSEAD is very keen on increasing the female student population, which currently stands at 30%. So, I would urge you apply to business schools and you will be surprised at how strong and valuable your profile is.

Also, I got a lot of support from friends and family through the application process including GMAT emotional support (!), and essay brainstorming/review sessions.

Lakheni: Throughout my professional career, I have worked in non-traditional MBA industries. I have worked in the public sector, not-for-profit sector and for a trade union.

Since INSEAD strongly values diversity, I knew that my unique professional background would be valued by the institution because it enabled me to bring a different perspective to business problems which would enrich classroom experiences and consequently enhance both the professors’ and my classmates’ MBA experience.

That is really what I tried to communicate in my application.

Alvine: I think I stood out in my application by showing to the committee that I would be able to share my dual experience as a financial engineer in a bank in Paris and as an entrepreneur in Cameroon.

My guess is that the committee realized that this dual experience of mine would be very insightful for my classmates at INSEAD.

What area of your application did you spend the most time on and what was your strategy?

Kemi: Overall, I spent a great deal of time on my GMAT. To be honest, I had to write it twice (so you know this journey wasn’t all rosy). It turns out my test-taking skills were not as good as I thought and so my first attempt was not great. I eventually realized that the GMAT is not a measure of how smart you are, it is only a measure of how good you are at taking the GMAT.

Once I realised this, I spent time mastering the tips and techniques of understanding all the core concepts across all the GMAT sections. I studied every single page of my Manhattan books and did every available practice question and test. Practice! Practice!! Practice!!!

My second attempt was much better, even though I wrote it in the middle of a difficult project, compared to my first attempt which I wrote while on a 5-week study leave.

Timi: The GMAT! I spent a few months prepping and I could have done with more! The key to this is to study smart, i.e. not just (re)learning the concepts, but also mastering techniques to improve your speed through the test.

Of course, your essays are just as important as they allow the schools to discover who you are. Spending a significant amount of time brainstorming, writing and improving them through various iterations will make for a stronger application.

Lakheni: Like most MBA applicants, I spent most of my time on my essays and ‘managing’ my referees. Regarding my essays, I spend about a month with a notebook jotting down any stories and phrases that I wanted to include in my essays.

I find writing on the spot difficult and instead ideas come to me at random times. Once I had collected enough material for my essays I then began writing them. I then asked family, friends and colleagues to review them and give me feedback. I went through this review process several times until I was finally happy with my essays.

I also paid great attention to whom I selected as my referees. It is tempting to ask the most senior person in your organisation to write your reference letters however I decided to pick people that I had worked with extensively because they could provide anecdotes in their reference letters which are far more important to the selection committee than the seniority of the person who writes the reference.

Once I decided whom I wanted to be my referees I spent a significant amount of time talking to them about my application, sending follow-up emails and reminders and then ensuring that I thanked them for committing their time to my application.

Alvine: The area of my application I spent the most time on was writing the essays. To finally complete those I decided to write naturally and to be sincere about my past and my aspirations.

What resources/websites/programs were helpful for you during your application process?


    • Business school (especially INSEAD) Alumni – I found several alumni extremely helpful during the course of my application. From advising me on what round to apply in, to guiding me to sources of funding, reviewing my essays, and doing mock interviews with me, these people were truly invaluable resources that contributed to the success of my application process.
    • – Beyond being the official registration site for the GMAT, is a useful one-stop resource for researching different schools, getting access to high quality study materials, and connecting with other potential applicants who can help you on your journey.
    • Last and not least, my personal support system of friends and family were pillars of support throughout the entire process. Their encouragement helped me deal with the disappointment of my poor performance on my first GMAT, and kept me going when I felt like giving up. They continued to cheer me on through the application marathon and ensured I finished strong. Do not underestimate how stressful the process can be, and how important it is to have supporters and believers urging you on.

Timi: The number one resource for me was business school alums – speaking to them to gather their insights, getting advice on how to navigate the application process (GMAT, essays, interviews), what to expect during the program etc was incredibly valuable to me.

They were great in alleviating the fears and concerns which I had through the process, and consequently being fountains of encouragement. If you had asked me two years ago if I would consider going to business school, my response would have been no. They turned my perspective around.

In addition, GMAT study resources such as Manhattan GMAT were very useful. I did not take classes but I do think that if it is within your means, you should definitely take them.

Lakheni: Unlike most MBA applications who write the GMAT as part of the application process, I wrote the GRE. I downloaded the GRE vocabulary flashcards and math prep material by Magoosh onto my phone to review during my free time.

I was able to cram a lot of studying into every minute of my day because I had the material within easy reach on my cell phone.

Alvine: During my application, INSEAD’s website was obviously very helpful. Besides I use the website to prepare for the GMAT.

What’s your most memorable experience in business school?

Kemi: Business school has definitely met my expectations! I have a whole repository of beautiful experiences and memories that I have collected in the last 7 months at INSEAD (which is currently the #1 business school in the world). I am consistently inspired by my awesome classmates and amazing professors and both academic and social interactions are always an experience to remember.

My best experiences have been from connecting with people and getting to know them at a deeper level (beyond group work), and I am amazed at how the stereotypes I had about different countries/cultures are being torn down every day. I also really enjoy all the travelling we do and my current ‘most memorable’ experience has to be my recent trip to Japan with a group of classmates.

I am sure I will also have more memorable experiences in the next 3 months before graduation!

Timi: At the risk of sounding like I am exaggerating, every moment for me at INSEAD has been memorable, be it the inspiring, educational, fun and sometimes stressful times on the programme. This is an intensive 10-month programme, which means that time becomes a precious commodity, and forces us to value even more how we spend it.

I have had great memories making new lifelong friends, who I have learnt from in class, particularly through their diverse experiences and perspectives, had fun with, travelled to numerous destinations with (some of which I would not have imagined going to), and all-in-all been inspired by.

It is hard choosing my most memorable experience so far but if I had to choose one, it would be from a class I just completed. One where we spent the entire class focused on Africa cases, from conglomerates to entrepreneurs. We learnt about business model innovations, dissecting and appraising them and overall reaffirming in my mind that the possibilities to have an impact are endless.

Building on learnings from other classes, this class stoked the fire in me to carry on on my drive to play a part in positively shaping the future of Africa.

Lakheni: Every year INSEAD hosts 6 National Weeks, where students from the same country, region or continent showcase its culture, cuisine and customs. I love being able to experience and learn from the amazing events that students put together and the amazing delicacies that they prepare.

It is an amazing way to learn about other parts of the world without spending a lot of money to travel.

Alvine: I think the whole experience here at INSEAD is memorable. In fact, at INSEAD, I was impressed by the different classes proposed throughout the program.

The core courses are well chosen to give us some knowledge in very practical disciplines such as strategy, finance, economics and organisational behaviour. And the electives are very well assorted so that people can choose to build more on subjects they are passionate about.

Besides, I have had a wonderful time with people here at INSEAD, people are so diverse and are more than happy to share their experience.

It was very nice and I am pretty sure I just made some friends here for life.

What advice would you give to other young African women who are trying to figure out which business school is right for them?

Kemi: Research! Research!! And even more research!!! Beyond doing online searches, find ways to connect with alumni of your target schools– alumni are the best way to really get to know a school for real.

Join MBA interest groups and forums so you have access to information about MBA events in your city and ensure you attend them to get meet representatives of the schools and have all your questions answered face-to-face (this is more effective than emails).

Good luck with your applications and never underestimate yourself!

Timi: I would say conduct as much research as possible. In addition to attending open days and welcome events in your city, alumni are a great resource – speaking to as many as you can connect with will give you a good sense of the culture and personality of each school.

You begin to get a sense of which school best fits the environment where you will flourish and get the best out of the MBA experience. Also, never underestimate the strength of your profile!

Lakheni: It is extremely important to know what you want to get from the MBA experience and how you expect the experience to help you to achieve your long term goal.

Every school has a different focus and culture and speaking to alumni will help you to gauge if the business school that you are interested in is the right fit for you.

INSEAD for example is well-known for having a diverse student body and since I love travelling and learning about different cultures, it was important for me that I be in a school that embraced diversity.

Alvine: I will advise the other young African women out there to choose the school which will fit them and helps them fulfil their dreams.

They first have to understand which direction they want to take after their MBA and based on that they will be able to choose which Business School will facilitate their journey and take them to the right destination.

Want to go to Harvard Business School? Here’s how these African women made it happen

Maimouna Diakhaby

Harvard Business School is arguably the world’s most popular and influential institution of business education in the world. With alumni leading the globe’s most powerful companies, it’s no wonder that many Motherland Moguls have HBS at the top of their list for their MBAs.

We’ve caught up with two HBS students to learn about why they chose the school, the strategy they used for their applications and their best resources during the application period.

Maimouna Diakhaby - Harvard Business School

Maimouna Diakhaby

MBA Class of 2016

Country of Origin: Guinea

Pre-MBA Job: Business Analyst at Rio Tinto

Favourite Class: Managing International Trade and Investment

Why did you think an MBA was the right step for you in your professional journey and why did you think HBS was the best place for you?

After 4 years of work experience, I knew it was time to round my analytical skills with leadership and management skills. I was also looking for an education that would give me a comprehensive understanding of how different parts of an organization fit together to create value.

While there are amazing programs in the US for any aspiring student, my first choice was Harvard Business School for 2 keys reasons:

First, the school’s leadership focus was not only used for promotional reasons but also embedded in the entire curriculum. At HBS, every case discussion puts you in the shoes of a leader (CEO, head of state…) and forces you to make a decision that could change the course of an organization. The school attracts, selects and shapes individuals who are striving for technical excellence and looking to have an impact and influence the environment they live in.

The other reason I chose HBS relates to the school’s branding in Africa. As a woman looking to contribute to the continent’s development, I wanted to get a degree from a school with a strong reputation. In fact, women are too often relegated to more “feminine” roles and rarely taken seriously in some regions. The HBS network and reputation in Africa will hopefully allow me to break those barriers and focus on creating value.

How did you stand out in your application and show the admissions committee what you could offer the school?

It’s really hard to isolate what made me stand out. The admission office states that it looks for a well-rounded applicant and that all aspects of an application are equally important. In my application, I just tried to convey my story in a coherent and comprehensive way. I made sure to present all aspects of my background- strength and weaknesses included.

I strongly believed that if HBS was truly a place where I would thrive, my true ambitions and flaws would be accepted. I also believe that showing that I was a “balanced” prospective student played an important role. The typical HBS student has had a successful career coupled with strong extra-curriculum involvement that truly reflects their passions.

What area of your application did you spend the most time on and what was your strategy?

I spent the most time crafting my essay. I must have read it a thousand times (no jokes). I really wanted to make sure that it was an accurate reflection of my personality and would effectively allow the admission team to assess the kind of leader I was aspiring to become.

It is really important for prospective students to make sure their essay is coherent with the rest of their application. Also, use it as a platform to introduce yourself without exaggeration or disguise.

What resources/websites/programs were helpful for you during your application process?

GMAT Club is a fantastic resource. Most MBA students I know have referred to it at one point or another. People use it to ask questions, share information with other applicants or just learn useful tips on the gmat. The Manhattan GMAT preparation books were also my go-to reference while prepping for the test.

READ MORE: Founder of MBA Mama shares with us her advice on successful family planning during your MBA

Sola Olaniyan-Bright - Harvard Business School

Sola Olaniyan-Bright

MBA Class of 2016
Country of origin: Nigeria
Pre-MBA job: Adidas Group Finance, Germany
Concentration at HBS: We don’t have official concentrations but I’ve had the most electives in the fields of Entrepreneurship and Start-up Finance.
Favorite classes so far: Three come to mind:
1. Entrepreneurship and Global Capitalism: a business history course that studies the lives and journeys of successful businessmen and women from the 18th century till date. I loved this class because it challenged us to study different aspects of the world’s biggest entrepreneurs and to form our own opinions on the decisions they made from a financial, moral, and ethical standpoint which, of course, ended up being very personal for everyone who took the class.
2.  Entrepreneurial Finance: We studied the mechanics of businesses, mostly start-ups, from idea to execution primarily through the lens of investing and other financing decisions.
3. Business, Government, and the International Economy (popularly known as BGIE): It’s macroeconomics in practice where we study a different country every class to understand the underlying drivers of their performance and sometimes predict the future of their economies over time.

Why did you think an MBA was the right step for you in your professional journey and why did you think HBS was the best place for you?

Pursuing a graduate degree is something I’d always known I wanted to do. Having studied Accounting at university and completed the ACCA exams (chartered accounting qualification), I was initially looking to do an MSc in Financial Engineering or something along the lines of strengthening my roots in finance.

However, after 5 years in asset management and management consulting across various industries, I knew I wanted to go for a degree that would be much more than an academic exercise. I wanted a degree that would better equip me to be a rounded business leader by exposing me to as many different aspects of business as possible while keeping me globally competitive and this made an MBA a clear choice.

I chose HBS for 3 reasons the brand, the learning style (case method), and the network.

  •  The brand is very strong especially on the African continent and of course beyond.
  • The case method puts you in the driver’s seat of the some of the world’s biggest organizations in the most complex situations and it forces you to think critically about key decisions to be made while teaching you the frameworks behind how to think through those problems.
  • As far as the network goes, it’s pretty great, especially in Africa compared to many other schools. The school has graduated very successful alumni that you have easy access to just by virtue of being a member of the network.

How did you stand out in your application and show the admissions committee what you could offer the school?

I spent a whole lot of time reflecting on my life and writing my essays at the same time. I really wanted to make sure I was true to my own voice in my application and I didn’t want to compromise on clarity of thought during reflection.

So I spent about 3 hours every week for about 12 weeks writing down answers to questions I believed were important in showing the real me and telling my own story and then prioritizing based on what I knew my resume or recommendations wouldn’t be able to demonstrate. I also got a few trusted friends and colleagues to read through and give honest feedback along the way.

What area of your application did you spend the most time on and what was your strategy?

Definitely my essay. Having graduated from a Nigerian university from where no graduates had ever been admitted into Harvard, I knew my grades wouldn’t be enough. I knew I was up against stiff competition globally (with a 12% acceptance rate at HBS) and felt I had to work to overcompensate with the quality and authenticity of how I told my story.

I also wanted to make sure what I shared was different from but at the same time complementary to what my recommenders had to say about me in showing a full picture of who I was as a person. I know it takes some successful applicants a much shorter time to write their essays but that was certainly not the case for me.

What resources/websites/programs were helpful for you during your application process?

Number 1 would absolutely, positively be The learning plans, the success and failure stories, the info on upcoming admissions webinars, and many other aspects I’ve left out made it an invaluable resource for me, especially as I didn’t know very many other people who were planning to attend b-school at the time.

Also, for GMAT prep, the entire Manhattan GMAT series as well as the Official GMAT review really helped build my confidence. With those resources and consistent practice, most people are already well on their way to a good score.

Twitter Chat with Yasmin Belo-Osagie: Getting Into The Graduate School of Your Dreams (Mar 14)

Missed this event? Make sure you don’t miss the next one by joining our community today.

Click here to follow She Leads Africa on twitter

Applying to graduate school can be an exciting but nerve wrecking time. Graduate degrees have the potential to help you add advanced knowledge and credentials to your CV and move up in the rankings at work. However, competition is stiff for the best programs and even qualified candidates can struggle when it comes to convincing admissions officers to allow them entry.

Join us on Monday March 14 for a Twitter Chat with our very own Yasmin Belo-Osagie where she’ll help us figure out how to get into the graduate school of our dreams.

Follow She Leads Africa on twitter and use the hashtag #SLAChats to ask your questions and participate in the discussion.

Topics that we’ll cover:

  • How to develop your application strategy
  • The best study tools to help you prepare for the entrance examinations
  • How to get letters of recommendations to help you stand out
  • Tools to help you manage all of the different deadlines and requirements

Yasmin-Twitter Chat-Twitter_Card

About Yasmin: 

Yasmin is a co-founder of She Leads Africa where she leads the events and offline programming team. Prior to starting SLA, she worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company where she focused on developing multi-year growth strategies for large organizations. She graduated from Princeton University (majoring in history) and is now mid-way through a JD/MBA at Harvard Law School and Stanford Business School.

Divinity Matovu: You don’t want women dropping out of the workforce

She Leads Africa interviewed Cofounder and CEO of MBA Mama, Divinity Matovu. As a mother of two, she is pursuing her MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on entrepreneurial management and finance. She has launched four start-ups, lived and worked in East Africa and prides herself on being a global citizen and an advocate for women’s empowerment. This is what she had to say about navigating family and career planning as an MBA Mama.

“The biggest barrier for women with children interested in pursuing their MBA, women in business is: childcare. Many women find themselves saying: Oh, I have a child, I’m not going to be able to keep up. What will I do about childcare? Will I have any money going in? If we can develop something that helps women to save time and money on childcare, it becomes much easier to have a conversation and for them to continue advancing in their careers. You don’t want highly educated, highly qualified, and highly trained women dropping out of the workforce.

Our brand, MBA Mama, makes visible: women who successfully maintain their careers after maternity leave and even women who have children during the MBA. We are an online platform that provides ambitious women with tools and resources to leverage an MBA, and strategically navigate family and career planning.

Because of the childcare issues, there are a lot of women who are not at the table to lean in. That is not good for our economy or for business. We want to help women navigate having a child during their post MBA career so that they don’t fall behind their male peers, and so that they don’t feel like they have to drop out of the work force.

Divinity Matovu

From our perspective, an MBA is a great degree that women should leverage to have career advancement. Firstly, an MBA is a graduate degree with the highest return on investment. During the MBA program, you can gain a set of skills that are transferable to any industry and add value to any career. An MBA can increase your access to an excellent network. Lastly, the types of careers available post MBA have wonderful benefits.”

Whether you’re a mother, a woman who is passionate about going back to school, a woman interested in starting a family or all of the above, Divinity provides you with these useful tips.

Here’s her  top three tips for a successful family planning during the MBA:

1. Timing is crucial

There are quite a few women who are timing their ovulation cycle when pursuing their MBA. They work with their partners to make sure that they will be pregnant when they want to be pregnant. These women give birth during the winter break, which is 3-4 weeks.

They come back that next semester, and for most of them, they are only taking classes maybe two days a week. There are also women who work to have children the summer before they start full-time work, and after they graduate.

2. Maintain consistent family time

When I’m with my daughter, I’m with my daughter. I’m unplugged and not checking emails or on social media. My philosophy is: quality of our time together as opposed to quantity.

Even though I’m really busy, that really helps us to maximize our time. So, figure out what time works best for you. Mornings are really good for us because we’re up and about and getting ready together.

3. Prepare for the week

I do meal preps on Sunday. So, I cook many meals on Sunday and then I’ll Tupperware everything into portions so that throughout the first three days of the week I have all of my meals ready to go.

We do take out Thursdays, so I know I don’t have to cook dinner that day. Fridays and Saturdays are easy, because I don’t have class. Sunday, I start my meal prep again.

On her four tips on successful business planning:

1. Create your own brand

I am an MBA Mama, and I see myself in my consumers. I’m investing time in the community and I hope that leads people to our brand. I launched the company and was very excited to get my partner Nicole on board.

That was a challenge because I had to make sure that my vision was clear, and that I could get someone else to buy into the idea.

2. Gain Financial Skills

Finance is central to any business operation. You can have a great brand and people can be excited about what you’re doing, but if you don’t know how to manage the money, if you don’t know how to read a balance sheet, and if you don’t know how to get your finances in order—nothing else really matters.

3. If you want to build an online community, communicate and be engaged

Be engaged with your online community—whether that’s responding to a tweet or re-tweeting someone mentioning your brand, communicating with fans on Instagram or featuring people on your blog.

By staying connected, people know that you actually see enough value in what they have to say.

4. Utilize Social Media!

Finally, any of word-of-mouth that can help your business will be good for your brand. People love referrals because it’s a trusted source and it’s even more trusted than paid advertisements. Through our blogs people find us, and the women we feature also spread the word to their followers.

Also, we feature women who share their stories through our “MBA Mama of The Month Initiative.” If someone can recommend your brand by word-of-mouth, that’s really the best way.