Pivoting from consulting to VC with Jasmyn Howell

Jasmyn Howell in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina in June 2021. Courtesy of Denise Williams.

Jasmyn Howell is an MBA candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. She’s part of the 2021 Blueprint Investor Track. You can reach her at jasmynh@wharton.upenn.edu.

Tell us about you.

I’m originally from Westchester, New York, but moved to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for high school. For college, I attended Spelman College, a historically Black and all women’s college located in Atlanta, Georgia where I majored in economics.

During college, I became interested in healthcare when I started volunteering with the Atlanta Mobile Market, a nonprofit social enterprise based in Atlanta. The mission is to provide nutrition education and improve access to healthy and affordable foods in low access areas in Atlanta. From this volunteer experience, I learned that the lack of access to fresh and affordable food plays a significant role in the poor health outcomes of many black and brown communities.

After graduating from Spelman College, I joined Deloitte Consulting LLP where I was able to continue to explore my interests in healthcare. Consulting has given me a strong healthcare foundation and has allowed me to learn about the challenges health payers and providers face in improving the quality and cost of care.

After a few years in management consulting, I realized I wanted to shift my focus to supporting founders that are using technology to make healthcare more just and equitable. I was drawn to Wharton’s MBA program due to its strength in entrepreneurship, tech, and healthcare.

I learned of the Dorm Room Fund and Blueprint Investor Track from a rising second year MBA student at Wharton. Being new to venture capital, Blueprint has allowed me to build my VC skillset from a diverse set of guest speakers. However, my favorite part of Blueprint is being able to build a community of minded peers that plan to diversify and make an impact in VC.

One of my biggest takeaways from Blueprint so far is that there is a space for all of us in VC. It’s easy to get discouraged if you don’t fit the common profile of an investor, however, I’m learning that investors come from a wide range of backgrounds from former founders to political strategists to leaders in sales and marketing. What’s most important in VC is to hone in on your skillset and be willing to share your unique perspective.

How was your time at Spelman College, a historically black institution?

I was first drawn to Spelman College due to its emphasis on tailoring to the experience of being both black and a woman. As I learned more about Spelman, I was inspired by their commitment to develop creative leaders that will create positive social change.

A common misconception is that HBCUs lack diversity. I believe diversity is broader than just race. At Spelman, I met women that were from all over the world, spoke a variety of languages, and came from different socioeconomic backgrounds. My favorite memories at Spelman were sitting in the cafeteria and having friendly debates with my peers on different topics. We have a wide range of experiences and different ideas on how to make an impact on the world.

What I also enjoyed about my Spelman experience is the emphasis on community. Whether it was studying for an upcoming test or preparing for internship interviews, there was so much support from peers and faculty members. Spelman alumnae also embody these values by often returning to campus to speak on panels and serve as mentors to current students.

Jasmyn Howell, second to the left, and Azurai Thompson during Spelman College graduation in May 2016. Courtesy of Denise Williams.

What do you think about consulting vs. VC?

Consulting allowed me to develop a strong foundation in the business of healthcare, gain exposure to a variety of healthcare clients, and touch different functions (e.g., strategy, marketing, finance). Although I plan to pivot to VC, I believe my healthcare experiences from consulting will be an asset when interacting with founders.

My advice to college students is to explore their interests through internships. If your schedule allows, pursue semester internships in addition to summer internships so you can try a variety of industries. This helps you start to narrow down industries you might want to pursue full time.

Tell us about your tennis hobby.

I’ve been playing competitive tennis since I was about 7 years old. It’s actually the reason why my family ended up moving to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. I trained at a tennis academy and had a very rigorous training schedule six days a week.

Tennis is such a mental game. You train with a coach during practice but during matches, you have to rely on yourself. Every match requires you to be focused, strategic, and mentally tough. After high school, I ended up playing competitively at Spelman College and even served as captain.

Although I only play recreationally now, I’m grateful because tennis taught me so many life lessons and gave me great friendships!

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This article first appeared on the DRF blog.

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