Learning by Coaching: Reminders from Big Red Microenterprise

by Crosby Fish (MBA ’17) (6/20/17)

Crosby Fish (MBA ’17)

Realizing the value of curiosity and engaged listening.

In the rush of an MBA program, it is often easy to lose sight of the fact that communities around the country and around the world come alive because of the small entrepreneurs and business owners that are serving their neighbors and investing in the economic and social vitality of their surroundings. One of the things that makes Ithaca special is the tight network of entrepreneurs and community leaders that are committed to contributing whatever they can to make this town a great place to live. Big Red Microenterprise (BRM) gave me the opportunity to leave Sage Hall, step off the Cornell campus, and interact with an entrepreneur whose business is to share her skills with young people in the Ithaca community.

My BRM client was Anna’s Movement Arts, which offers figure-skating and yoga classes and camps for young children. Anna Goehner, the sole proprietor of Anna’s Movement Arts, reached out to BRM in the first place because she wanted someone that she could talk to about aspects of her business that she was concerned about. BRM’s emphasis is on a coaching relationship as opposed to a consulting relationship, and I found it rewarding to ask questions that helped Anna look at her business in a different way. Anna’s Movement Arts is a one-woman operation, and it was a privilege to learn and hopefully contribute to an enterprise that has been built through passion, skill, and sweat equity over the years.

BRM offered my first ever professional coaching opportunity. At the start of the semester, I’m not sure I even knew what that would really look like in practice. Now, after working with Anna’s Movement Arts over the past few months and observing the seasonal changes that the business goes through, I have come to realize how valuable curiosity and engaged listening can be. It has helped me appreciate the value of the knowledge and experience that I am gaining in school, and inspired me to be on the lookout for coaches that can help me as I push ahead in my own career. Last but certainly not least, it was an important reminder of what it means to be a part of a community like Ithaca.