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Futures: Sailing Away

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

Apr 02, 2015

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Executive MBAs Envision Better Marinas

When faced with a problem, Dan Cowens, EMBA ’14 takes matters into his own hands. After a frustrating visit to a marina while on vacation, he decided he could operate a marina better than current industry standards.

He and a team of four other Executive MBA students launched their entrepreneurial venture, Oasis Marinas, during a Smith School project in 2014.

The marina management company assists marina owners in all aspects of running their businesses. Cowens pitched the idea to his Action Learning Project team — and what started as a class assignment continues today as a growing venture.

“People can make money doing anything, so surround yourself with people who are really passionate about what they do,” says Cowens, who takes his advice to heart. He surrounds himself with partners Paige Holden, EMBA ’14, Marco LeGette, EMBA ’14, Jason Mathis, EMBA ’14 and Tanjina Shapiro, EMBA ’14.

“The best startup team you can have is comprised of people who believe in the vision, are passionate about the product and trust in one another," says Holden. “It's great when you can bring people together who have honed their skills in their respective fields, as we have, but to be successful at the end of the day everyone must also be committed to working together through the ups and downs that come with starting a business.”

Like any growing company, capital is one of Oasis Marinas’ greatest challenges. As founder, Cowens initially self-funded the venture. But he says capital remains a primary concern.

Oasis Marinas got a boost in October 2014 when the company won $30,000 in a Salisbury University entrepreneurship competition, bringing the partners one step closer to moving the company beyond the startup phase. Other recent achievements include designing an official website and logo and setting up a phone system.

“In a startup, things we take for granted in a big business, like phones, need to start from scratch,” Holden says. “At this stage in the game, there are so many different layers of success, and each one is a milestone toward a bigger goal.”

With each new milestone achieved, Cowens remembers where his growing company got its start. “Without the Smith School, Oasis Marinas wouldn’t exist,” he says. “My Executive MBA gave me the courage to go out on my own and try something.” /CG/

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