Marcela Mandeville (‘96 BCom, ‘14 MBA)

Jenna Marynowski, BAA Communications Committee Volunteer - 17 March 2021

An experienced entrepreneur herself, Marcela Mandeville (‘96 BCom, ‘14 MBA) is the CEO of Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. Marcela's love of learning has taken her to the Alberta School of Business, the world of international trade, growing her own business and helping others do the same. Here, she reflects on her time in school, advice for entrepreneurs and on community involvement.

Marcela Mandeville

BAA: How has your Alberta School of Business education influenced your career and life post-graduation?

Marcela: My business education at the University of Alberta created opportunities to meet incredible people, learn from different perspectives and build valuable skills and knowledge I’ve applied throughout my career. Since graduating with my degree in international business, I’ve loved exploring the world of business through a designation as a Certified International Trade Professional, an MBA and more than 20 years of global experience in business strategy and planning, marketing, communications and project management as an entrepreneur, a team member and a team leader. Achieving each of my degrees was a significant personal and professional goal that I am very proud to have accomplished and hold.

BAA: What are your favourite memories of your time at the Alberta School of Business?

Marcela: In addition to filling my brain with knowledge during my undergraduate and graduate times, a few key memories pop up.  I loved applying what I was learning toward supporting [the student group] AIESEC during my undergraduate degree. While I was completing my part-time evening MBA studies, I really appreciated deep discussions with classmates and coffee and snack breaks in Hub Mall at Cookies by George, of course.

BAA: Tell us a bit about Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. What drew you to the organization originally, and what has kept you there as you've advanced in your career?  

Marcela: Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to enabling women to build successful businesses. In its 25-year history, the organization has offered support to thousands of entrepreneurs through programs and services focused on connection, capacity-building and capital. More than CAD $28.5 million in loans has been extended since AWE first opened its doors in 1995. In collaboration with our partners across the province, the country, and the world, we continue to provide access to capital, business advice, practical training, mentorship and connections to new markets so that women entrepreneurs can start, scale and succeed.

Originally, I was drawn to AWE’s mission and community. What began as a contract to build two programs for Alberta Women Entrepreneurs in late 2008 has grown into full-time commitment leading an incredible team to achieve the organization’s goal of building stronger communities and economies through women’s participation in entrepreneurship.

BAA: What lessons have you taken forward from your time running your own business consulting firm, Bright Idea International, into Alberta Women Entrepreneurs? 

Marcela: My interest in entrepreneurship combined with my business experience in Canada and abroad has shaped the work I do today. Key lessons I try to apply are:

  1. Asking for help. One person cannot do everything and be strong all of the time.
  2. Understanding others’ strengths as well as my own to make the most of opportunities in front of us.
  3. Learning continuously, whether it’s work-related or not.
  4. Being curious and open to explore and take risks.

BAA: You're incredibly involved in the community—  why is this something that is important to you? How do you recommend those who want to get involved in the community start?

Marcela: I believe strongly in continuous learning and contributing to the community.  My family’s unique perspective and commitment to hard work, perseverance, open-mindedness and respect form the cornerstones of who I am. This has translated into my passion to support organizations and causes that make a difference.

If there are causes or organizations that you care about, it is worthwhile to research what they may need and reach out to them to offer your skills. They are likely looking for volunteers and support.

BAA: A large part of your post-graduation journey has involved supporting entrepreneurs. What advice do you have for those looking to pursue entrepreneurship?

Marcela: Reaching out for support and resources is so important. There is a lot to learn and many entrepreneurs who are willing to share their experiences. There are also organizations (like AWE) who specialize in helping entrepreneurs. Through this network you can access a wide variety of capital, tools, programs and services.

BAA: Do you have any advice for new graduates just starting out in their careers?

Marcela: I highly recommend looking into as many different ways to engage in business opportunities as possible. Small business, non-profit, corporate and government all offer interesting paths to learn and share your knowledge and skills to support your career growth. In addition to paid work, you can take on new challenges and connect with valuable networks through volunteer roles.  

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