Harnessing data to mentor and empower entrepreneurs

Posted 2021-11-30

Cheryl Cui only just graduated from the Master of Business Analytics (MBAN) program at the UBC Sauder School of Business, but she’s already running Kikstart Ecom, a design studio that partners with Shopify to help people across the globe realize their dreams of running an online store.

Cui lends her skills, data-driven mindset and expertise to empower entrepreneurs who positively impact the environment and society at large.

Just how did she reach this stage of success so quickly? Her journey to becoming an e-commerce mentor and business owner began during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time, she was working at the Bank of Montreal and running an online store of home décor items on the side. When the lockdown happened, she noticed an increased demand in her products as remote workers suddenly rushed to beautify their homes.

She started spending more time on her online project and launched an additional website, focusing on the aesthetics, design and overall look and feel of the online channel. Thanks to her good eye for design and through the advice of a mentor, she decided to start helping other entrepreneurs seeking to launch products online, and Kikstart Ecom was born. Now she needed to master another key aspect of e-commerce: data analytics.


‘Speaking in data'

In November 2020, she enrolled in the Master of Business Analytics (MBAN) program at UBC Sauder and began learning how to 'speak in data,’ which in turn strengthened the language of her business.

“Becoming a data analyst gives me a fuller picture of one’s shopping experience. The MBAN program has helped me cultivate a data-driven mindset. It has transformed the way I now work with my clients,” says Cui. “I used to say: 'Let's see what looks nice for your online store.' But now, it's more like: 'Okay, let me look at the back-end of your online platform to see if something's lacking. Let's use the data to chart out your customer's online journey and experience on your website, and see how we can do better.'”

Cui sings praises of one course in particular: Analytics Leadership taught by Professor Harish Krishnan where, among other things, Professor Krishnan taught ‘project management optimization.’

"I now understand how different techniques of managing the flow of a project drives company growth," says Cui.

Empowering forward-thinking businesses

Eco-friendly gift-wrapping business NemyLu Giftware Inc. is an example of Cui’s mentorship magic. The company, based in Victoria, B.C., offers a range of zero-waste, plastic-free gift boxes and serves Canada and the United States. With the help of Cui’s e-commerce expertise, NemyLu Giftware Inc. has already made strong strides through sales and awareness since its launch in October 2021.

For Cui, helping to launch an online venture—and especially one with solutions to improve the environment—fills her with joy.

"I feel incredible," says Cui. "Seeing a founder's new website yield strong sales just feels amazing. Each time I see a notification that my client has made a sale, it reassures me that we're on track to help entrepreneurs with the right tools to earn a stable income and become confident."



A priceless network of alumni

Cui says the network of peers and alumni she built through the MBAN program has already given her an edge, particularly the efforts of UBC Sauder’s Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre to highlight and amplify her work. Cui was featured in the centre’s UBC MBAN Class of 2021 Profile Book and caught the eye of two individuals who approached Cui to hire her as a marketing analyst.

One of them, Saba Mojared, Medical Science Liaison at AzmaBiotech—a platform that offers naturally-sourced health supplements—hired Cui to help onboard Shopify as an online channel to scale the business.

Cui worked to elevate its branding, identify the target customers and optimize the platform to increase sales—all with the help of the 'language of data' she learnt through the MBAN program. In addition, her business has expanded considerably.

Today, Kikstart Ecom has 13 co-designers on the team, three of whom are full-time employees. As a fresh graduate of the MBAN program, Cui is now focused on building her company’s bright future.

“My whole mission with Kikstart Ecom is to empower more entrepreneurs like me to pursue their dreams by selling online. I envision my company to be a one-stop platform where people can turn their e-commerce ideas into real sales-converting brands,” says Cui. “I know my MBAN degree will help me achieve exactly that because I now have a data-driven mindset. I can’t wait to apply all I am learning to the dynamic e-commerce sector.”