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George Mason UniversitySchool of Business

Mason MBA Program is Catalyst for Recent Grad’s New Business Venture

Written by Jennifer Anzaldi on .

DiamondWithin a month of earning his diploma, Ben Diamond launched his new business, Big and Strong, and he largely credits the Mason MBA degree, and specifically the faculty, with this success.

Big and Strong ™ is a new line of modern athletic apparel made with the highest quality, state-of-the-art materials for bigger and stronger men. Sizes XL and up is all they do.

Diamond completed his degree requirements at the end of June 2017, and his new Big and Strong website went up and apparel arrived from overseas a few weeks later. According to Diamond, the initial roll-out consisted of two athletic shorts, one pair of pants, 10 different active wear shirts, and three different baseball caps.

The idea for the company came to Diamond while he was going door-to-door with his landscaping business as an undergraduate student. He noticed bigger guys and wondered about the athletic market for them. “Think of Nike and Under Armour. Great clothes, but they didn’t make clothes to fit bigger guys, only focusing on the athletic market.” He thought, could this be an untapped market?

Fast forward five years, and Diamond found himself in Mason’s MBA program with the itch to start his own business and the idea of larger athletic-wear still floating around his mind.

“My dad and I had been kicking around ideas for years, and this one stuck.” Diamond’s dad, Michael Diamond, is his business partner. “My dad works on the nuts and bolts while I focus on the marketing.”

Diamond said a little less than a year into the MBA program, he started to expand on the idea. “We came up with the name, got a few graphic designs made, and used my marketing class to flush out the brand more. The MBA program got me thinking about business in a different way.”

This is when his MBA and his business became intertwined.

Diamond credits many of his professors for what he’s learned along the way and for the support they gave him. “Starting a business is a very nervous time so it really helped to have the support of the Mason faculty.”

Diamond realized his Mason education was helping with his career goals almost from day one with Professor Kravitz’s organizational behavior course. “I began thinking about strategy and tactics that I would employ if I was the boss, so my mindset began to change from employee to employer after exposure to managerial techniques with Professor Kravitz. “

With each class, his ideas continued to grow. But it was in Professor Jessica Hoppner’s marketing management course thatBig and Strong model he really developed his business idea. “The final was to come up with a business idea and present a marketing plan to the class in ‘Shark Tank’ format. I seized this opportunity to leverage this project to flesh out the Big and Strong brand.”

“Big and Strong went from a rough idea to a thoroughly fleshed-out brand and was extremely well-received in the Shark Tank exercise, boosting my confidence that the brand could really take hold. This project was critical.”

In Professor Jim Wolfe’s entrepreneurship course, Diamond did a feasibility study to determine if his idea could be a profitable business. Wolfe’s verdict was concurrent with Diamond’s analysis that the business had potential to be profitable in this untapped market. “Professor Wolfe validated everything that I'd been developing over the course of the previous 18 months of the MBA program. It was like a stamp of approval, which felt really good.”

Throughout the MBA program, Diamond worked in software sales. He quit his job in November to concentrate on this business full-time. With no prior retail experience, Diamond has had to learn along the way. “We’ve designed this clothing line from the ground up. Professional photo shoots, building a team, thinking of partnerships...It’s been like landing a plane on an aircraft carrier in the dark,” said Diamond.

He used his software sales experience to cold call organizations and try to form partnerships. He made a deal with USA Weightlifting and is also the exclusive vendor of the Strongman Corporation.

“The experience of going through such a rigorous program with my peers will definitely be a lasting experience,” said Diamond. In such a tough life-situation (part-time grad school, working full time) you become so reliant and lean heavily on your peers. Close and lasting relationships develop, both personal and professional.”

For Diamond, both Big and Strong™ and his MBA degree have been two years in the works, and now he hopes the hard work has paid off with both graduation and his business launch. “The Mason MBA program has been a catalyst for this business to go live. And now they’re both happening at the same time.”