Michelle Lee
Michelle Lee
Home Region

Chicago, IL

Undergrad Education

Dartmouth College, Human Geography, 2013

Previous Experience

Jane the Bakery, Freckle Education, Bain & Co.

HBS Activities

Section President

“To scale food businesses, you face fundamental business issues.”

After obtaining a degree from Dartmouth College and completing three years of consulting with Bain & Company and then a couple more in Education Tech, Michelle Lee took the next, not-so-obvious step: she baked cupcakes.

"I've always been a huge baker," she says, and when the enthusiastic beneficiaries of her talent encouraged her to start selling, she decided to give it a shot, launching a home bakery project called Treat House Bakery to bring the goodies from her kitchen to her circle of family, friends and fans.

But her plans were anything but half-baked. "Always interested in social impact issues," Michelle joined Bain to "learn tangible business skills" and "explore the intersection of social impact and the for-profit world." Subsequent work as the 7th hire at Freckle Education (formerly Front Row), a SaaS startup that helps K-12 teachers differentiate learning for their students, showed Michelle "how a company builds from the ground up. I learned what I really love is the early stages of a company where you're figuring out the unknown, testing out different strategies, and creatively scaling products and processes."

Tapping entrepreneurial resources

As her passion for sharing her treats grew through running Treat House Bakery and working part-time at a couple bakeries, Michelle realized she wanted to make the move into the food service industry. To help her pivot, she wanted an MBA. "When I looked at the companies I admired, I noticed a lot of scaled businesses had leaders with MBAs at the helm," she says.

"In the short term, I want to help scale an established business, but eventually build one of my own," says Michelle. HBS proved the right fit. "It's bulking up its entrepreneurial resources, for example, the iLab and the Rock Center have ‘Entrepreneurs in Residence' who offer one-on-one office hours." Most importantly for Michelle, she loves being around so many passionate critical thinkers who can help provide feedback and a sounding board on her business idea.

Michelle "loves the case method. You get to study so many different companies and industries, and you learn from your peers – the interactions between section mates are incredible." Her section experience has been so rewarding she took on the office of section president. "I hadn't planned on it; I've never been a big "student government" person. But from week one of RC year, I just really, genuinely liked the inclusive feel of my section, and decided these were the people I want to be close to. I hoped a section leadership role would give me the chance to help foster a rewarding Section I experience for every #iordie section member."

In her HBS admissions essay, she wrote about an HBS alum (and former CEO of Panera), Ron Shaich, whose fund Act III Holdings has invited her to intern this summer. There, Michelle will "help with restaurant operations and analytics. When the offer came through, I was thrilled! It brings my ambitions full circle."

Michelle will explore the food business even more deeply in her EC year, when she plans to take a course on restaurant businesses, and perhaps explore an independent project or two focused on food entrepreneurship.

"I love that I can make the HBS experience my own," says Michelle. "Ultimately, we're all so busy because we want to be. It's incredible to have so much opportunity to do choose what I want to do with my time and mental/emotional energy."