By Guest Blogger: Rasheed Badawi, MBA Student
Tonya McNeal-Weary, MBA 2009
I had the wonderful opportunity to interview an exceptional leader, Tonya McNeal-Weary, an accomplished entrepreneur. She has founded and currently runs two organizations: the Michigan Association for Female Entrepreneurs (nonprofit), and IBS, a global consulting company. I only wish I could include more of the knowledge and experiences she had to offer.
Interview with Tonya:
How did Walsh College help/influence you?
“I think the greatest influence was really the professors because they had real-world experience. They were professors who were actually working in the industry before they were teaching. So having these professors with that knowledge and industry experience really helped in planting that foundation for me, my new career, and the direction I was going.”
What were you changing your career from?
“I was in the insurance business. I had my own independent insurance agency, and with the turn of the economy I wanted to go into something a little different. I wanted something that wasn’t really focused in one particular area. When you’re in insurance, business is regulated so you have to have your licenses and that limited me to working within certain boundaries here in Michigan. So I wanted to diversify a little bit and decided to go into consultancy. However, at the time I didn’t know what area of consulting I wanted to get into. One of my professors, Lee Meadows, was a consultant and he had his own consulting company, so he really helped me with insight about the business. Simply talking to professor Meadows, getting that real world advice from someone in the industry, was extremely helpful.”
What made you want to become a consultant?
“I had also started another company which was the Michigan Association for Female Entrepreneurs. I was working with and supporting other women in business, helping female entrepreneurs start their business. I was already consulting in a sense – therefore I just decided to take that a little further and start a consulting company.”
Can you talk a little about your journey, specifically reaching to where you are right now offering consulting services to international businesses?
“When I began my MBA at Walsh, I was a finance major. In 2007, Walsh announced they were preparing a trip to China; it was with the international business program. I thought ‘Wow, that sounds interesting.’ I’ve never been overseas; the only thing I knew about internationally was Canada. I asked if I was able to go even though I was a finance student. An advisor told me, ‘Sure, it was open for all students and would count as an elective.’ I went to China. When I came back I changed my major to international business, and that’s how it all started. That’s when I really discovered what area of consultancy I wanted to get into: International business.” Learn more about Walsh's study abroad European Union Business Course.
What struggles did you go through during your MBA at Walsh College?
“The only challenge, honestly, that I had was dealing with the school and life balance. And I think the same goes for a lot of adult students that go to college. I was doing my insurance business, I have a husband, kids at home and then going to school. However, I will say that Walsh helped with that challenge in that they have flexibility in their class schedules, they offer classes in the evenings where I was able to run my business in the daytime, as well as offering online courses.”
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
“The one thing I would touch on as far as leadership is being authentic, staying true to yourself and who you are. A lot of times you get into these leadership roles, but people try to change you into something else. So I would say be an authentic leader, stay true to you, who you are and lead the way your heart leads you.
I can definitely say Walsh was a really good experience for me. I love Walsh. And now I’m still involved because Blackstone LaunchPad is helping me with my business, and I have a mentor. I’m staying involved and engaged, even after graduation.”
Please join Walsh College in applauding Tonya McNeal-Weary in her continued successes by adding your comments below.
To nominate an alumnus to applaud, contact Duc Abrahamson, Alumni & Student Relations Manager at (248) 823-1298.