Maria Wich-Vila, Founder of ApplicantLab

Maria Wich-Vila, Founder of ApplicantLab

In today’s episode of Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs Around the World, we introduce Entrepreneur and Harvard MBA Maria Wich-Vila, founder of ApplicantLab. Each one of us has enough potential to succeed all we need is a helping hand that shows the right direction. Maria sees herself as that helping hand for students and professionals looking to get admissions in top MBA and business colleges around the world.

Getting into an MBA program can help people advance in their careers and make more impact in the world. Unfortunately, getting in to top MBA programs is extremely complicated: there are lots of things aspiring applicants should do, and should not do.

“Admissions Consultants” help guide MBA applicants through this process to maximize their chance of getting accepted. While of course no one can guarantee acceptance to a business school, an admissions consultant can help someone boost their chances by discovering the nuances of how to best apply.

The problem is that most admissions consultants charge a lot of money. The better a consultant is, the more money they usually charge. Since Maria is a graduate of Harvard Business School and started consulting others on MBA applications in 2003, others in the market with her vast experience could probably charge $400 or $500 per hour.

However, Maria did not want to do that. She came from humble beginnings and wanted to give people top advice at a price that many people around the world could afford. She wanted to create a digital admissions consultant.

ApplicantLab : Admissions Consulting Digitalized

Wich-Vila wanted her offering to go far beyond merely a set of online videos, or a simple e-book. She wanted to try to replicate deeper elements of the experience, such as brainstorming exercises and developing a brand strategy.

“Look, I’ll admit: it took me a very long time to digitize admissions consulting to a level I was happy with, a level that was thoughtful, truly useful, and didn’t feel basic. I used up all of my savings from over the previous decade to try to find software designers and coders who could build what I wanted.  I’d get feedback from users and then have to pivot the product pretty dramatically. Twice in the process, I ran out of money and had to do business consulting in order to afford to keep going. There were times when it was really tempting to throw in the towel and just open up a standard expensive admission consulting company,” she acknowledges.

ApplicantLab : The Struggle Was Worth It

After years of trial and error, iterations and enhancements, ApplicantLab has turned out to be a software platform that does exactly what she imagined. Through interactive quizzes, brainstorming exercises, to-do lists, and hundreds of incredibly useful (but also entertaining!) instructional videos,Wich-Vila brings MBA applicants through every single phase of the application journey—at a tiny fraction of the cost of what a traditional consultant would charge. Providing this full plethora of resources for just $349, which is less than what Maria could be charging for just one hour of her time, ApplicantLab is worth it – in fact, it’s more than worth it!

Advice for upcoming Women Entrepreneurs  

“First,” Wich-Vila says, “You need to believe in yourself, even if it feels a little impossible. Dig up stories of other women who have been able to start with nothing and then, through resourcefulness and determination, build it from there. Realize that if they could do it, you can do it too!” “That having been said,” she continued, “Make sure that you’ve thought through how you’ll support yourself financially while you’re getting started. Realize that it will probably take much longer than you initially hoped. If you have an alternate source of income, for example, through side-gigs, then you can weather that storm.”

“My biggest piece of advice for all women – aspiring entrepreneur or not — who may just be starting their careers is to ask the question, ‘How can I help?’ If you’re still in college, look around and ask yourself how you could make your campus or a charity better, say by running a club or by doing community service.

If you’re at work, start by asking people around you how you might be able to help them, and then see if you can expand to trying to help people beyond your immediate sphere. It’ll benefit you in three ways: first, you’ll start building valuable political capital and a strong ‘brand’ for yourself within your company. Secondly, you’ll be learning a lot and can then take on more responsibility earlier. Last but not least, as the sages since the dawn of time have told us: helping other people feels great!”

She is rightfully proud of what she has created, ApplicantLab has helped MBA aspirants around the world access advice that would have otherwise cost them thousands and thousands of dollars. As she has helped candidates from almost every country in the world, including from many impoverished countries, change their lives via an MBA, this is why we have named her an “Inspiring Woman Entrepreneur Around the World”.

On behalf of women around the world whose lives have been changed thanks to ApplicantLab, we thank Maria for persevering through her trials and tribulations: it was all worth it for ApplicantLab to grow into what it is now and help so many deserving people achieve their dreams.

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