Lauren Dunford

Lauren Dunford
MBA 2018
  • Hometown: Orinda, California
  • Pre-MBA: Chief of Staff for Revolution Foods

Lauren Dunford

Post Graduation Goals:

Moving to Nairobi with my husband to work on a high-impact startup that helps businesses in Kenya get access to affordable solar power

Favorite GSB Memory So Far:

It’s hard to choose, but TALK is a favorite. Hearing pieces of the life stories of other GSBers, and frequently being inspired by their thoughtfulness and reflections is a special way to end each Wednesday and reset for the rest of the week.

View from Stanford Escondido Studio Window
It’s sunny outside our studio window. After a quick breakfast, I jump on a Skype call with a guest from my Product Launch class. He started a company that transitioned from enterprise sales to direct-to-consumer, and flew in from Israel to share insights from that experience with our class. My husband Jason, also an MBA1, and I are working on a startup together to help businesses in Kenya get access to affordable solar power. I asked if he might be able to help us think about ways our startup could add value for businesses or clean energy providers. I can’t wait to try out some of his ideas!
Bike over to Coupa Café to grab coffee with Yi, a classmate who wants to learn more about Revolution Foods, the mission-driven company I worked for before GSB. Yi is interested in careers in helping increase access to healthy food, and it felt great to be able to share my experience in the space and brainstorm ideas together for how he might get involved.
My husband Jason and I booked a classroom on campus to give a quick pitch to two second-year MBA students who are starting an angel fund. Our startup is probably far too early stage for them, but it can’t hurt to practice! We hope to make a bunch of progress this summer in Nairobi.
Met up with Mbwana Alliy, a GSB alum who runs Savannah Fund, a seed fund specializing in high-growth technology startups in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s so cool to hear about the work he does to support entrepreneurs, and we discuss whether I might do a four-week GMIX internship with him in East Africa this summer. Great conversation, and I’m excited about the chance to work in VC for the first time and learn about the startup space in Kenya and Tanzania.
Two GSB Students at BASES entrepreneurship challenge
My husband Jason and I are finalists for the BASES entrepreneurship challenge, so we bike over to the Engineering Quad to sign in to the judging area. We do some last-minute practice, then pitch our startup to six judges - five minute pitch plus seven minutes for questions.
Two Stanford GSB students working on computure
After the pitch, we catch a few minutes to work on our intense Corporate Financial Modeling class. This week, we’re using raw data for a multi-store chain to model the next five years of growth for the company depending on how many stores it opens per year. This class is a huge learning curve for me but it’s empowering to learn to create tools and models from scratch. I’m already about 3x faster in Excel than I was six weeks ago, have learned a bunch of approaches that would have made me much more impactful in my past career, and can’t wait to be able to apply these new tools in the future!
View of lecture screen in GSB class
Thankfully, Corporate Financial Modeling includes a weekly session where the TA team shares general tips that are helpful for this week’s case. Today, we learn to build a sales growth curve and pull together different “vintages” of store openings into a complete model. I’m taking copious notes. We’ll have to use all this immediately for our model due Thursday morning, and I can see many ways I’ll be able to use these specific strategies in future work.
Room full of Stanford GSB students at TALK presentation
It’s TALK week! TALK is a special GSB tradition where students share a highly personal reflection, usually on their lives so far, with their classmates. I gave my own TALK just a few weeks ago, so I know how much preparation and reflection TALK takes and am committed to attending every one I can – getting to know my classmates is a huge priority for my time at GSB. Tonight two classmates I didn’t know very well gave incredible TALKs… I can’t wait to get to know them better! Forgot to take a photo tonight, so here’s one from my own a few weeks ago.
Some last-minute strategizing for Corporate Financial Modeling, then off to bed!
Tablet sitting on a window sill
Woke up, listened to the news while making oatmeal for Jason and me. I finished up my reading for Global Operations before biking to class at 8:30. Jason and I live in Escondido Village, the couples housing on campus, so it’s a 4 minute bike ride to GSB. Hooray for an active commute!
Stanford GSB Professor standing in front of whiteboard
My Global Operations class today is focused on how clothing retailer Zara streamlines operations from factory to customer, and maintains flexibility and quick-response throughout the supply chain. I’m glad I petitioned to get into the advanced class since I had significant operational experience before starting GSB, and it’s helpful to think back to that experience after learning quantitative models and frameworks in class.
Since we’re halfway through the quarter, I started a new Managerial Accounting course today. I wanted to take this course to build on the base Accounting class I took in the fall and learn more about how accounting can help inform decisions and align employees’ incentives.
Two students at Lake Lag
Met up with my best friend Anne for a run around Lake Lag. Anne and I have known each other since birth – our parents are best friends – and she’s currently finishing up at Stanford Med School. The lake is beautiful after recent rains, and it’s refreshing to have a chance to run during the middle of the day. Last year we trained for a marathon together. Although this year is a little too crazy for that, I feel so lucky we get to run together frequently!
View of excel file on computer screen
Working away on our Corporate Financial model. I have a long list of questions for the TAs, so I stop by the TA office hours. There’s already a line by the time I get there, but three classmates are nice enough to let me go ahead of them so I can make it to my 4:30 class on time – so kind! Another classmate helps me out with a question about averaging across multiple cells. I’m grateful the atmosphere here is one of collaboration, not competition, and want to make sure to do my part to help my classmates out as well… both now and post-GSB.
Through a program called Arbuckle Leadership Fellows, I get to take GSB’s famous Interpersonal Dynamics course this quarter. The course is better known as Touchy Feely, and is an incredible deep-dive to learn more about relationships with individuals and groups - useful in both work and personal life! Today, we are introduced to an exercise in class that will help us think about how individuals influence groups. Then we head into small rooms to sit in a circle with our T-groups, groups of 12 students and two facilitators.
In the break between T-group sessions, I head to the computer lab planning to do some work on our Corporate Finance model. Instead, my head is so full of thoughts about Touchy Feely that I end up journaling about the T-group experience instead. As part of Touchy Feely, we get a handy sheet listing out different emotions. I use the sheet to pinpoint how I’m feeling, and I set goals for the next session.
Evening view of outside Stanford GSB building
Continuation of our T-group time, from 7-10pm every Tuesday. Lots of good interpersonal learning that will be extremely relevant in both work and personal life in the future.
A close friend gave her TALK today, and I was bummed to miss it since it overlapped with T-group. I met her in the lobby afterwards to debrief and can’t wait to watch the video. Then to bed to rest up for my Product Launch final tomorrow. Right before bed, Jason and I learn that flooding is holding back progress on one of our first pilot solar projects in Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya. It’s really hard to see the suffering caused by the floods, and at the same time it intensifies our drive to do our part to confront climate change.
I start work on an application for an Energy Innovation grant to help build a prototype for our startup over the summer. On Wednesday I biked over to the Engineering Quad to meet with the Energy Innovation team. They encouraged us to apply, and have connected us with some great resources and other companies, including a complementary startup working on clean energy to replace diesel generators in Nigeria. As part of the community of folks interested in clean energy, it’s been cool to discover opportunities to connect with the technology and innovation going on in other parts of campus.
Two students on Dish trail
My friend Naomi and I were in the same section, but haven’t had much overlap in class this quarter and have been trying to schedule a run to catch up for the past few weeks. At long last, it’s here! I’m thrilled to hear that a connection to a friend in the fall turned into a summer internship that perfectly fits Naomi’s passion for healthy food, and we catch up reflections on what we’ve been learning so far while running around campus and the bottom part of the Dish trail.
Lunch with a classmate who is curious about entering the healthy food space. We find a pretty nook above the Arbuckle dining area and chat about what kinds of social impact in that space might be exciting to him. As I think about entering the clean energy space in Kenya for the summer and post-GSB, it’s fun to be helpful in any way I can to classmates interested in getting involved in my pre-GSB world… lots of important work to be done!
Six members of Stanford GSB's Women in Management group
My Women in Management group meets every two weeks. This week was a smaller group as some of us were away for the weekend, but it’s a group of women I really value, and always a treat to get to prioritize deep conversations. Today we talked about our approaches to friendship, especially maintaining relationships long-distance.
Dashed into the library’s computer lab to evaluate two other team’s models for Corporate Finance. It’s a great chance to see a variety of ways of approaching the same problem, and learn firsthand what makes a model and presentation easy to read and digest for an outsider.
Met up with a close GSB friend – wonderful to have a chance to catch up after an intense last few weeks. She was in the GSB Show, with a crazy rehearsal schedule, and we’re both looking forward to a more mellow second half of the quarter.
Stanford GSB courtyard
Walked through the beautiful colored courtyards to the lounge for a Small Group Dinner, a program where classmates receive funding for hosting a meal opened up to a random lottery of classmates. This dinner features sake and ramen, as one of the classmates hosting is from Japan. Kanpai!
Stanford GSB Highland Hall
After dinner, the dinner group headed over to the Zen Garden Party in the garden of Highland Hall. Two classmates DJ’d and we had an unexpected ton of fun on the dance floor.
When the dancing wraps up, I stop by the rooftop lounge to chat with a friend who was at the Military Appreciation Dinner, then head back to the studio for bed.