Leading a consumer brand had always been part of the plan for Mackie Swan, MBA '22. She just didn't expect it to happen right at the start of her final year at the Oregon Executive MBA in Portland.
As Swan tells it, her move to the top role at WOO More Play was a stroke of serendipity. Although the Los Angeles-based manufacturer of natural and organic women's sexual wellness products had already achieved a certain level of success, its founders were looking for a leader who could scale the brand.
“WOO's founders were looking for somebody who had experience in the category but who was also willing to roll up their sleeves and get the work done—as you have to do with a growing startup. So it was a great fit for what the business needed and also where I was in my own career trajectory," said Swan.
Along with her get-it-done approach, Swan brought valuable and specific experience to WOO, having worked for several years as a vice president of marketing and sales in the sexual wellness industry.
“Frankly, as soon as I met WOO's founders, I realized that we were going to be able to do some really good work together," said Swan.
Swan started as WOO's CEO in November 2021, less than two months after beginning her final year in the executive MBA program. Taking on the top role at a new company is always demanding. Doing this while simultaneously pursuing an MBA through a rigorous academic program intensified the challenge—while also providing unexpected benefits for Swan.
“The pressure from going through an MBA program can actually be advantageous when you're taking on something new. You're already challenging yourself. You're already trying to step up and grow into a bigger role. So I think that the two things went together really nicely," said Swan.
Along with its academic challenges, the Oregon Executive MBA provided two other sources of support for Swan. One was Amanda Fontenot, the program's academic and career advisor, who introduced Swan to recent graduates who were also c-level executives. Swan said that the community of other c-level leaders and Oregon Executive MBA alumni provided a support system while she transitioned to the new role.
Swan's capstone advisor Scott Grout was also a key resource, serving as a sounding board and mentor through her first months leading the company.
“Scott went so far above and beyond being just an advisor for my capstone project. He was so amazing in helping me navigate different challenges," said Swan. “He's continued to offer support and advice even after my time in the program ended."
Nearly three months out from her graduation in June 2022, Swan is staying busy. WOO More Play is actively recruiting a head of growth to oversee its performance marketing initiatives, and the brand continues to expand its product line which is already sold in leading retailers like Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Revolve and more.
In July, the women's magazine Marie Claire included the company's signature Coconut Love Oil on its “All-Time Best Lubes", and Swan's team just launched Nightcap, a card game for couples, designed for starting intimate conversations.
Clearly, the sky's the limit for Swan and the flourishing startup she leads.