Dario Maglione

Country of origin: Italy

Management Consultant, Pcubed

How does an aerospace engineer reinvent himself as a cross-border entrepreneur, trading Italian wine for Chinese electric bikes? The route that aeronautical engineer Dario Maglione chose was the Lancaster University Management School full-time MBA.

Dario had worked for Italy's national Aerospace Research Centre and tyre manufacturer Bridgestone, but he'd always wanted to start his own business. He chose one of the UK's top MBA programs to thow himself into the challenges of developing a business plan, pitching to investors, and building a global network. 

Dario, 29, is set to graduate later this year and feels satisfied with the level of progress he’s made on a business geared towards strengthening the distribution of local products between Italy, India and China.

We spoke to Dario about how his plans are unfolding, including his experience of working with the CEO of global advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, and competing at the prestigious 2012 Rice Business Plan Competition, USA.

When did you get the entrepreneurial bug?
I have a BSc and an MSc in Aeronautical Engineering but I always had the idea to do something for myself. While I was working in Rome, I took a course for people who want to build start-ups. It taught me how to build business plans and how to source funds. The course was funded by the regional government and initially there were funds available for new businesses, but as the economic situation deteriorated in Italy the funds were withdrawn. But I still wanted to start something of my own!

Some people tackle entrepreneurship without any formal business knowledge. Why did you go for an MBA?
I came to Lancaster to develop my personal network and skills. I feel that to be a good entrepreneur, you need the right combination of business knowledge, innovative ideas and a good character. The business school does not guarantee your success but the environment can provide you with some of these tools. You also have the chance to test out your ideas with minimal risks.

I chose Lancaster because I wanted to study in an English-speaking country to improve my English. I’m funding myself so I needed to be sure that I was getting good quality for the price and I think Lancaster is the best in these types of rankings.

Can you tell us a bit about the business plan you presented at the Rice Competition?
The plan was for a start-up developing a new technology that could perform pre-natal testing. The advantage of the product was that it would be cheaper and more reliable than what was present in the market. We were selected from over a thousand applications from around the world. It was a great experience to convey our idea to the judges because our competitors were all very smart and focused.

As we worked on the business plan we discovered that the product would need more time and money to be launched successfully so we advised the founder to drop the idea unless he could secure at least £200,000 in funding or relocate to somewhere with lower development costs such as India. He flew back to India and is in the process of seeking funds through the Indian government. 

Can you tell us a bit about your import-export business?
For the moment, I’ve been focusing on understanding and refining what I can trade. I’ve built a lot of contacts in India and China through the Lancaster MBA. From speaking with people in my network, I realized that there are so many products that are not available in these countries that can be sourced from the others. Things like Indian crafts would make good sales in Europe, so will electric bikes from China, and fine wines from Europe to China and India.

What's the most significant thing you've gained from the MBA thus far?
Growing as a person because of all the diversity I’ve been exposed to. At Lancaster we are forced to work with teams and sometimes all the consensus-building gives you a headache! It's difficult pushing each other's limits. Not everyone is great with politics, some people are difficult and of course there are a million obstacles because of cultural differences but I’ve seen the differences in myself.

This year we’ve been working with the CEO of global advertising giant Saatchi and Saatchi, Kevin Roberts, on our Mindful Manager stream. Kevin is on a mission to inspire us and we get feedback from him after presentations and tasks. He also really helped me in the preparation for the Rice Competition.

This feature by Ifeatu Nnaobi was originally published by BusinessBecause on 11 June 2011. We are grateful to BusinessBecause for permission to reprint it here.