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Benjamin Gakinya

'12 MBA in Entrepreneurial Leadership, Bachelor in Management

Managing Director - Plaza Event Center at Parkade Center Columbia, Missouri

Benjamin Gakinya

The MBA program was, above all, timely. Every course coincided with the challenges I was facing in creating my business plan and marketing strategy.

Stroll into the Parkade Center in Columbia, Missouri on a weekday and you’ll see a bustling office/retail complex that works hard from 9 to 5, then turns the lights off and goes home. Enter the place on a weekend, however, and you could find anything from a wedding reception with all the trimmings to an arts event or a trade show. 

The Plaza Event Center at Parkade, an ingenious plan for growing revenue by leasing out the Parkade Center’s common area for private events, is the brainchild of William Woods alumnus Benjamin Gakinya, ’12. It’s the product of Ben’s formidable work ethic and passion for culture, nurtured by an international life that brought him to Missouri from his native Kenya with several years spent in India along the way.

Ben’s plan flourished when it was selected by fellow students as a business plan development project in the William Woods MBA in Entrepreneurial Leadership program. Things moved along so well that Ben was able to launch the Plaza Event Center midway through the course.

Proactive thinking

Ben attributes the Plaza Event Center’s successful launch, in part, to the proactive thinking he received from his faculty and classmates. “What I found helpful was that when I was in front of the class pitching this idea, they would ask specific questions that made me think of things that I hadn’t thought of. They helped me anticipate problems and fix them.”

One on one support

Also helpful was the practical experience of the faculty. “Depending on what class you were taking, they were already engaged in a career in that field,” Ben says. “These folks are veterans in marketing, finance, and operations.” He adds that the class size and commitment of William Woods faculty also helped accelerate the project. “In a traditional university, the student-faculty relationship is pretty sterile. With William Woods, the class size was smaller, so we were able to connect one on one. We got direct feedback that you wouldn’t get in a large classroom setting.”

Work/life balance

Finally, for Ben, with a growing family, the convenient evening classes were an equally important factor. “As a working professional, the scheduling really helped with time budgeting. Meeting with my cohort outside of class hours allowed me to balance my personal and professional life.”

Having come a long way, both in miles traveled and hours spent at William Woods, Ben Gakinya is hardly slowing down. With newly-earned entrepreneurial skills, he sees the transformation of the Plaza Event Center as one more step in an amazing journey to come.