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Horn Entrepreneurship

Get To Know Horn: Megan Pillsbury

GET TO KNOW MeganUniversity of Delaware has welcomed a few new faculty members over the past couple years from a wide range of departments and fields. Gladly UD’s Ratcliffe Eco Entrepreneurship Fellows Program (REEF) has added Megan Pillsbury as their director in 2022. A talented individual like Megan Pillsbury has a lot to share and a lot for us to learn about. She was able to speak with Horn Entrepreneurship and share some more about herself, her role, and experiences.

Horn: What is your professional and academic background?

Pillsbury: “I'm an electrical engineer by education,but I didn't like being in the computer lab, I liked being out talking to people. After graduating with my Master’s degree, I took a role in product marketing for a hardware tech company. Then I started learning about sustainability and wanted to learn how to make the business case for a company to become more sustainable, so I decided to go to business school. I did an MBA at Insead, a very international business school based in France and Singapore, and that year in France changed my life. I ran a student club focused on social and environmental impact in business, and then stayed on at the school to be the founding executive director of their Social Innovation Center.  Then after a trip to Singapore, I decided I wanted to be in Asia, and ended up in Hong Kong, still my favorite city in the world. There I founded my first company, creating a new business model in the wine/restaurant industry. After a few gloriously difficult years as an entrepreneur, I took an innovation role for an investment bank, still working closely with startups. My career has been a very non-linear adventure. In 2019 I moved with my husband to New York, and in 2021 I got this amazing opportunity with a climate tech startup. All these weird things that I did in my background, sustainability, technology, business development, and international business, all came together in this one role. After that company got acquired a year later, I decided it was time to start my own company, so once again I am an entrepreneur and love it. Meanwhile, my husband was accepted into a PhD program at University of Delaware, which brought us here in 2022. I was excited to be back on a campus and reached out to Horn Entrepreneurship, who were looking for a new director of Eco Entrepreneurship. And that’s how I got here!”

Horn: What made you get into this specific field and what inspires you to keep working hard?

Pillsbury: “I'm an engineer at heart and a problem solver. And though I never imagined myself as an entrepreneur, I love building businesses, trying to line up many pieces to create a self-sustaining vehicle for change. And the change inspires me. When I see the society that we could be, and an instrument to enable it, that gives me energy to work hard.,” 

Horn: What is your favorite thing about being a part of the UD community?

Pillsbury: “I love how inspiring many of the students are. They have such passion and creativity to make a difference in the world. When I first arrived at UD and watched the Hen Hatch pitch competition, I was so impressed and inspired. I love being around those who have new and fresh ideas, who see things that I didn't see. ”

Horn: What is your favorite part about the REEF program?

Pillsbury: “Again the students! They come up with amazing ideas for addressing environmental challenges. I want to see more people moving into this space, to think about how companies can be better, how they can be an instrument in addressing environmental challenges, and how all of us can play a role in that, whatever our job is. Through this program, I play the role of an enabler, and one of the best feelings in the world for me is being the person who believed in someone who just needed someone to believe in them to release their potential.”

Horn: Describe REEF in 3 words for a prospective student and how would they get involved?

Pillsbury: “Impact, innovation, and fun. And to get involved just contact me or register for ENTR 489. The program runs during the spring semester. Students learn about starting an eco enterprise (or non-profit), and those who want to continue to pursue their idea can receive mentoring and potentially up to $50k in startup funding. It’s open to grad students, upper-level undergrads, post-docs, and even members of the community. There are no prerequisites, just a passion for wanting to do something about the environment.” 

Horn: What are your goals for REEF?

Pillsbury: “I want to see more people, especially young people, making business more sustainable. Whether that's building a business that addresses an environmental problem, or reinventing how a traditional business is done, or just bringing an eco mindset into whatever career they pursue after university. I'm trying to inspire more people to think about and incorporate the environment into what they do in their careers.”

Horn: What are your goals personally and professionally for the future?

Pillsbury: “I’m really excited to be building my new business, which aims to help companies better understand their relationship with the environment, and how they can make it more positive. My goal is to make the biggest possible contribution to drive the transition to a sustainable and equitable economy. ”

Horn: What is something about you that makes you a good fit for your job?

Pillsbury: “Probably my passion, but also my experience. I've had a long career in different types of industries and different types of roles. Also I feel like I have a lot to share with young people and also a mindset that I think is unusual.” 

Horn: What are you most proud of?

Pillsbury: “I like this question. I ask this question in interviews because it tells you a lot about what people value in life.

So when I got my first job out of university, I was a product manager and was offered the opportunity to build the marketing team to launch a new product.  Our team was mostly engineers but one person I selected was an administrative assistant in our department. Management questioned why I chose her over another engineer, and it was because she was really good at her job, she knew everybody, she got stuff done, everybody liked her, and there was a role for her to play in the project. Our team and she were amazing, and we delivered our launch on time and on budget. And the day I left the company, she thanked me for seeing more in her than what others saw.. That really meant a lot to me. And in all the things I achieved there, nothing made me feel more accomplished than that. It was then I realized I'm the empowering leader type, I want to empower others.”

Horn: What do you hope to influence and teach others about?

Pillsbury: “To never count yourself out of opportunities. When in doubt, go for it. Maybe not everything will work out every time, but if you don’t go for them, then there is no chance for it to happen. You will be surprised how many things are available to you if you pursue them. ”

About Horn Entrepreneurship

Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement at the University of Delaware. Currently ranked among the best entrepreneurship programs in the US, Horn Entrepreneurship was built and is actively supported by successful entrepreneurs, empowering aspiring innovators as they pursue new ideas for a better world.

Topics: community, innovation, environment, leadership