For some, attending an MBA program is about acquiring the business acumen for a promotion, a salary increase, or an industry change. For Onu Okebie and Brian Boland (both 2019 EMBA grads) attending Goizueta’s Executive MBA program has proven to be truly life changing.
Both came to Goizueta with successful business careers and a desire to pursue their passion for entrepreneurship and make valuable connections. Okebie had a strong finance and management foundation in the logistics industry, and Boland trained as a chartered accountant with KPMG Ireland, followed by a career working for a large multinational company, managing billions in annual logistics spend.
“It was an excellent experience from start to finish, where we were blessed to meet long-term friends and find great business partners,” Okebie said.
The two engaged in experiential learning as part of the Center for Alternative Investments and through an innovative Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA) program taught by Klaas Baks, professor in the practice of finance and the center’s executive director. These classes were supported by the teachings, industry experience and influence of Goizueta Adjunct Lecturer David Panton, managing partner at SPAC Opportunity Partners LP.
“The Entrepreneurial Private Equity course truly inspired us from day one,” Okebie added. “We were introduced to people who had been successful in the unique world of entrepreneurial private equity. It showed us that our dream was a real possibility, and that buying a business was statistically a better approach than trying to start your own business.”
The program – including classes such as Entrepreneurship, Mergers & Acquisitions, and Strategy – provided the road map to success they needed, as well as underscored the importance of choosing the right advisors and deal partners.
In fact, it was after one of these classes that Okebie and Boland got together to discuss their collective desire to acquire and manage a business. Okebie was inspired in part by his own experience of having started, grown, and sold an asset-based logistics business. And for Boland, who was inspired by a family of entrepreneurs in his native Ireland, business ownership was a path he had to pursue to stay true to his dream.
“A lot of people talked about it, but Onu was willing to put time and money into making our firm a reality,” Boland said.
Both Okebie and Boland learned from the EMBA program the benefit of diverse perspectives and experiences and wanted to leverage their uniquely different skillsets for a new joint venture.
Aligning Strategy for Success
As the saying goes, timing is everything. In 2017, Okebie and Boland officially launched Reserv Equity Partners while still enrolled in the EMBA program, spending countless hours working to stand up the firm.
After some near misses in recent years, the duo recently landed their first acquisition that matches perfectly with the company’s niche strategy: they acquired a full-service freight brokerage based in Charlotte, NC.
This acquisition was important to the Reserv team because it aligned closely to their investment thesis which is to target firms in the lower middle market ($5 to 50 million), a space in which many large private equity firms typically don’t participate.
“The seller inherited the business from his dad in the early 1990s and has grown it into a great business with a loyal customer base, which provided the stability we were looking for in a transaction,” Okebie said. “In addition, the processes in place at the company, while effective, presented opportunities for efficiencies through digitization and technology.”
Planning for Future Growth
Following the successful acquisition, both are now fully committed to growing their new business together. Okebie will serve as CEO managing the day-to-day operations along with the current management team. Boland will serve as CFO and business development lead, digitizing the finance and accounting functions and identifying further add-on opportunities to support inorganic growth. The team will conduct a “full court press” on sales and marketing to attract new customers and leverage their networks to bring in talent.
“We want to take our firm from zero to 60 as fast as we can, growing our business organically through additional marketing along with identifying potential add-on companies that fit our model,” Okebie said.
Acquiring the right company at the right time is validation, they say, that they made the right decision when they launched Reserv Equity with a strong foundation to build upon.
“It has been intense but exhilarating,” Okebie said. “From sourcing deals to due diligence, there is nothing like creating an investment thesis and executing on it.”
Boland agrees, noting that every day can bring about a new set of challenges that require a wider range of skills and immediate attention, in comparison to functional roles common in corporate America.
For others considering following a similar path, both have a bit of advice: Be passionate about your chosen path and be prepared for some ups and downs. “It’s been an incredible journey so far,” Boland said. “It’s pretty intense, but I’m so glad we did it.”
Goizueta continues to elevate its commitment to fostering entrepreneurship and innovation through the activities and scholarly work of The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.