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Online CMBA Alumna Milena Lizarazo Achieves Dream of Business Ownership

Milena Lizarazo with her family at FIU graduation

Milena with her family at graduation

As the daughter of a business owner, Colombia native Milena Lizarazo knew from a young age that someday she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and own her own company.

Someday has arrived.

Lizarazo, who graduated with a Corporate Master of Business Administration from Florida International University in 2016 that she earned online, is one of three owners of 901 Trading LLC, a company that sells kitchen products on Amazon.

“It’s a very interesting concept, which we started right after graduation,” she said. “The CMBA inspired me to do that. My dad [Augusto] had a big software development company and managed a lot of people. He was a businessman. He also inspired me.”

After she earned bachelor’s degrees in business administration and human resources management, Lizarazo returned to school after a 13-year absence.

“I wanted to get an MBA, but I was always so busy with work it was hard to really have the time,” she said. “That’s why I decided to enroll in the program at FIU. It was convenient in the sense I could manage my time.

“I always made sure I had time for class and to take my exams. I wanted to have the option to be at home, in the office, travelling or wherever and to be able to study, to do what I wanted to do. That’s why the program was perfect for me. I finally found something that fit my needs at the time.”

From the Big Apple…

Lizarazo graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Universidad de La Sabana in 1998. Two years later, she moved to the United States to continue her higher education at Baruch College in New York City.

“My goal was to go to school,” she said. “When I got into the program at Baruch College, I quickly found a job and ended up staying there for many years — longer than expected. When I first got here, it was all about studying more. I also wanted my English to be on a professional level. That was my intention. I just ended up here forever.”

Lizarazo worked as director of financial services for Mel S. Harris and Associates in New York for more than eight years.

While on a trip to Miami, where she planned to move and earn a Florida Real Estate Sales Associate License, she encountered some condominium owners who were in search of a new management company. She came up with a plan, contacted the owners and was hired as CEO of South Beach Vacation by the Sea. Suddenly, her dream of owning a company was a reality.

“When you go to business school, you have options,” she said. “It’s like a big umbrella of all possibilities. Marketing, strategy, managing, financial … everything is compiled in business. I’ve always managed people, trained and prepared people and done strategy.”

Lizarazo said the CMBA curriculum helped prepare enhance her business acumen and formulate a stronger model for 901 Trading.

“It created a big concept about discipline, working on your own and working online,” she said. “My business is online. You realize that: one, it’s the future and, two, if you’re able to do this on your own, you’re able to do anything.”

… to the Magic City

Several reasons led Lizarazo to enroll at FIU after some extensive research on MBA programs.

“First, it was convenient,” she said. “FIU is in Miami, where I was, which works for me. Second the program is very good. I wanted to do the Executive MBA, but when I saw the CMBA was even more flexible for me, I went for it. Flexibility ultimately got me into the program.”

Although it was tough, she was able to balance the 30 hours per week she spent on school and her demanding schedule.

“I can’t tell you how hard it was,” Lizarazo said. “It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I had many sleepless nights. I had a lot of homework, a lot of studying and a lot of things to do, but it was worth it. My friends and family thought I was crazy because I was going back after all of these years. I decided it was never too late and just went back.”

Lizarazo, who has an 11-year-old son, said her two favorite courses were MAR 6805: Marketing Management in the Global Environment and FIN 6446: Competitive Strategy.

“It was amazing,” she said of the marketing management course. “It’s all about general marketing and technology and how those things are very important. I fell in love with the program and with Competitive Strategy, which was the first class I took. It was taught by Professor [Manuel] Lasaga. I think that’s key. He tortured us with so much reading and studying. It was awesome. I loved it. It was so much work, but it gave you a good idea of what you were getting into because it never changed.”

Lizarazo graduated from FIU as a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma Society from which she received “Best in Business” recognition. She was also honored as a Worlds Ahead Student by FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. Worlds Ahead recognition is for students with “strong leadership qualities, a desire to change lives and a record of academic achievement.”

“I got a special seat next to the doctorates,” she said. “My family was there. It was a very nice honor the president gave to me. My father was an industrial engineer. My mom was an accountant. My brother is a civil engineer. Everybody in my family has graduated from college. Most of them live in the United States now.”

Now that she has achieved her goal of entrepreneurship, Lizarazo intends to help make 901 Trading a massive success with the help of the knowledge she gained in the online CMBA program. She believes the degree is well worth the effort for anybody interested in broadening their business horizons.

“They need to know there’s a lot of work involved,” she said. “If they really want to succeed, there is a lot of reading and a lot to do, but it’s so gratifying. It’s incredible. It really is a great program.”

Learn more about the FIU online Corporate MBA program.


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