MBA & Entrepreneurship - Matt Denny

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Success means something different to everyone. To some, success means ascending to the highest rung on the corporate ladder. To others, it means forging your own way. But when you're pursuing your MBA, you need to be open to changing your definition. Your degree program may set you on a path of discovery that doesn't always lead to the place you expect.

Matt Denny, a member of the Neeley School of Business’ class of 2005, has always known he’s “not good at sitting still.” Matt majored in advertising at the University of Texas, and parlayed that degree into a position with a prominent Dallas-based firm. But he soon found that the typical career path left him at a loss as to what to do with his restlessness.

“I was sitting in a cube working for the Dallas division of a giant corporation and I realized I just wasn’t happy,” he says. “I thought there had to be more to life than this. One day I just decided to resign and began studying for the GMAT.”

Although Matt knew he wanted to earn an MBA, he hadn’t decided where to apply or what he might actually do with his degree. A close friend and TCU alumnus, P.D. Shabay, encouraged Matt to reach out to the Neeley’s admissions staff.

“God bless [Graduate Admissions Director] Peggy Conway because she took a chance on me,” says Matt. Admitting that his application wasn’t the strongest by typical standards, “But I guess she saw something in me from an entrepreneurial perspective.”

That risk paid off for TCU and for Matt.

While at TCU, Matt proved to be an excellent student. He was named to the Top 25 MBAs in the State of Texas in 2005 and managed to secure an internship with Alcon Pharmaceuticals’ American headquarters in Fort Worth. Again, though, Matt felt called to something different.

“In 2009 a little company called ISTA, based in Irvine, California, offered me a position similar to the one I had in the allergy group at Alcon but with a lot more responsibility and autonomy. I took it. My life changed from there. ISTA’s management encouraged me to make mistakes and learn from them, and through their guidance, I became not just a better businessman, but a better human being,” Matt says. “Our success was such that we were able to sell ISTA to Bausch and Lomb in 2012 for $500 million.”

What Matt chose to do next in his career was a surprise even to him. With the proceeds of the ISTA sale, Matt decided to open his own winery, Becklyn Cellars. This decision was born in part out of happenstance.

“Working in the pharmaceutical industry, I traveled about 125 days a year for the better part of a decade. There were a lot of dinner meetings associated with the job. At some point, I thought I might as well know something about wine, so I started reading everything I could get my hands on,” he says.

But Matt quickly transformed his curiosity into a passion. “Needless to say, I fell in love with both wine and Napa Valley. And I learned how winemaking blends farming, craftsmanship and solid business skills. In just five years, we’ve established ourselves as one of the hottest up-and-coming cult Cabernet producers in the region.” 

Despite the demands of operating Becklyn Cellars, Matt still works in an executive capacity at Merck. He admits that he’s still learning how to be a full-time entrepreneur. Matt credits his TCU MBA experience for helping him to take the initiative he needed to follow his imagination and ambition.

“TCU and the professors at the Neeley School of Business really think outside the box to help each student as an individual in their respective professions,” he says. “Regardless of the industry you are in, the TCU MBA will help you see the business world in a different light.”    

Learn more about the award-winning TCU MBA program and how our Entrepreneurship Center can help you make the most of what you do best by visiting the Neeley School of Business School website.

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