Aaron Schwartz’s Time With Berkeley Board Fellows

Alumni Spotlight: Aaron Schwartz, MBA 10, Co-founder and CEO of Modify Watches
Board Member at Larkin Street Youth Services

ImageAaron Schwartz, Berkeley Board Fellow 2008, Co-founder and CEO of Modify Watches

Aaron Schwartz, Berkeley Board Fellow 2008

In the Fall of 2008 I applied to be a Board Fellow as a first year MBA. Board Fellows sounded like an excellent way to see the inner-workings of a non-profit. I understood that setting a mission, raising funds, and executing were critical to any Board – but that was the extent of my knowledge and I certainly didn’t understand how any of that was done.

An Apprehensive Start

I was incredibly fortunate to be placed with the board of Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco. Larkin Street provides everything from housing and food to healthcare and counseling for at-risk and homeless youth. I was only a few years older than some of the youth in Larkin Street, and was extremely excited with the placement. I walked into the first meeting to meet the board members from Delloitte, Bain, First Republic and more. Needless to say, as an MBA candidate, I was intimidated by the group.

What I quickly learned is that the success of Larkin Street was not simply due to their excellent leadership team; their talent is augmented by an incredibly hard-working Board. (Though believe me, the entire Larkin Street organization is filled with exceptional and passionate folks).

I was involved with one board committee, and was nearly overwhelmed with the work. And, um, I want to reiterate that I was an MBA student and not a manager of a $10m+ P&L like so many of the Board members.

Continued Community Involvement

After finishing the Board Fellows role in 2009 I had stayed in touch with some Board Members and continued to support Larkin Street. Last year I was asked if I would be interested in serving on the Board. My answer was: “YES.” After numerous interviews over the span of a few months, I joined the Board in the summer of 2012. Outside of my startup, I have not spent more time on anything since!

I am fortunate to be able to serve for an organization about which I care deeply. But I am more fortunate that I was able to participate in Board Fellows and learn the attributes of a high-performing Board. I now understand that while attendance and fundraising are important, strategic thinking, partnership, and hard work are what make a Board – and the non-profit it serves – successful.

His Day Job at Modify Industries

Co-Founders of Modify WatchesModify Industries, Inc., designs interchangeable custom watches known as Modify Watches. Aaron loves working on startup ideas and has spent innumerable (happy) hours advising friends and former students on how to grow their entrepreneurial ideas. He founded his three-person watch company in 2010 with an unusual slogan: “We’re not craftsmen, we’re just good listeners” — listeners to customers, that is. A proponent of exceptional personalized service and listening to the community, Modify engages local organizations and fans to help create and name watches. His corporate client list includes Facebook, Google, [adult swim], Cal, the Pac-12 and more. www.modifywatches.com

This post is the Alumni Spotlight for the Fall 2013 Social Impact Report (originally posted by Aaron Schwartz on 5/24/13).

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