The Power of the Alumni Network: It's all about Relationships

by Elizabeth Yarbrough 1992

Elizabeth Yarbrough mugshot

Elizabeth Yarbrough

Class: 1992
Major: BS Business Administration
Occupation: Healthcare Digital Marketer
Chapter: South Carolina - Piedmont

I started a healthcare digital marketing company in 2009 based out of Greenville, SC. At the time, my only work experience involved a commercial lending training program and one year of Commercial Lending. (I retired soon after entering the working world to become a full time mom to my soon to be three children.) I made a C in Marketing from Professor Larry Lamont, and never thought I would end up in the field of marketing. However, in 2009, I was presented with an opportunity to start my own company, use contract labor and develop websites and other digital assets for physician practices and health systems.

As Jeff Shay, Johnson Professor of Entrepreneurship and Leadership, would tell you, the road of an entrepreneur has many ups, downs and even left side turns. But what I have learned most about business, life, health care, and entrepreneurship, is that it is all about the relationships that we develop, engage, support and encourage that make us who we are today.

A year ago, I saw a post online from Jeff announcing the Washington and Lee Entrepreneurship summit back in Lexington. I was coming off of a big software launch with my company and was tired of my "bootstrapping" my little venture. Alone, I had grown the company from 10K in sales the first year to well over 300K by the third year but In order to take it to the next level, I needed to find a partner and seek funding. I thought to myself "what better way to do this than to start back at wonderful W&L. So I signed up.

What transpired that weekend, is truly difficult to put into words. The relationships that were formed, the ones that were re-established, the networking that happened and the advice and support I received was unimaginable. It was then that I developed a strong appreciation for the true value of my Washington and Lee education. Life is about relationships and I had a fantastic networking group right before me that I had yet to tap into. We heard from Alumni Angel Investors, VC, start-up companies, failing companies and extremely successful companies. We had breakout sessions on the hottest topics and were able to ask questions, seek answers and voice our opinions. It was an opportunity for me to meet with fellow alumni and students to be mentored as well as to mentor.

The relationships I nurtured that weekend and alumni contacts who had contacts who had contacts with whom to connect was overwhelming. My integrity and credibility were already establish by the mere fact that I graduated from W&L.

I am proud to say that upon the advice of many W&L friends, I have taken on a new partner, written a dynamic business plan and am working on a initial capital drive for angel investors. Our conservative financial projections make my 300K look very small. I am excited, and anxious all at the same time, but very happy with the W&L alumni with which I have surrounded myself as mentors and friends.

The relationships I developed while attending the University and the relationship I have developed with fellow alumni since graduation are lifelong connections. The contagious enthusiasm that surrounds a group of W&L graduates in a group setting is invigorating. I am so glad to be back involved in one of the greatest alumni networks around. Thank you, W&L, for all you do!

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Perspective Types: Advertising, Marketing, Communications, & PR, Digital Communication & Social Media, Medicine/Healthcare, Networking
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