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Allison Pickett

Allison PickettB.S. ’13, MBA ’14 - MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program

Allison Pickett joined the Clemson MBAe program after completing an undergraduate degree in business from Clemson. While job hunting during her senior year, she was intrigued by the MBA program that Clemson offered, but was unsure how to proceed since the program required work experience. She came across the MBAe program, designed for individuals who want to develop and launch their own businesses, and her life was changed forever.

Before entering the program Allison had already come up with her own business idea, Green Tiger Studio, but was unsure where to begin in terms of launching the venture. She saw the MBAe program as a unique opportunity to earn a graduate degree while also learning the ins and outs of running a business.

"It was the best year of my life. I was able to earn my MBA in a unique environment, and use my business as a case study," Allison says. "I also met my husband, Jake, in the program, which was an unexpected and wonderful thing."

Throughout the year-long program, Clemson recruits entrepreneurs from the surrounding community to provide guidance and mentorship to the students. Adam Anderson, owner of local company Palmetto Security Group, was Allison's mentor in the program. When he learned she had decided against pursuing her original business idea after graduation, he offered her a chance to be the director of marketing for Palmetto, a position she filled ably for six months.

In January of last year, Anderson asked her to be a co-founder of a cybersecurity company that identifies and minimizes vendor risk inside the enterprise supply chain. That company, Atlas Vault, launched last year. They have developed software, have a beta client and have just been accepted into the prestigious accelerator program, MergeLane.

MergeLane, located in Boulder, Colorado, is a 12-week residency accelerator program for women-led companies. Being accepted into their program is a great honor, and is just the latest step in a journey that was kickstarted by the Clemson MBAe program.

Allison joins a group of nine other women-led startups who were selected from more than 1,500 companies that were invited to apply, said Sue Heilbronner, MergeLane's CEO and co-founder. To be considered, a company needs to have a female co-founder or leader. MergeLane's mission of nurturing female-run companies is motivated by two factors: There are far fewer women in startups than we would expect. We believe diverse companies are stronger companies, and we want to help narrow the gap. Second, data overwhelmingly shows that venture-backed, female-run companies produce higher returns.

What would Allison suggest to others who are considering a similar program do?

"I would recommend Clemson number one because I bleed orange, but their MBAe program was seriously the best thing I ever did for my career," Allison said. "I met so many amazing entrepreneurs, advisors, and mentors who were so willing to help. We were able to explore the opportunities that we dreamed of through entrepreneurship. The biggest lesson I took away was how to fail. You have to be willing to fail, and get back up and go again. And be ok with it."

Beginning February 1, Allison took residence in Boulder, taking advantage of all that MergeLane's program has to offer. She participated in demo day in April in an effort to win investment funding that can catapult Atlas Vault into the global arena.