Student, teacher, marketing strongman

Posted on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Taro Abarbanel-Uemura (BCom ’13, MBA ’17)

Taro Abarbanel-Uemura (BCom ’13, MBA ’17)

By Brandon Gillet

In just a few short years, Telfer School alumnus Taro Abarbanel-Uemura has built a business from the ground up, earned an MBA and landed a job teaching at his alma mater.

He traces some of the impetus for these achievements to the professors who advised him not to start a business straight out of school.

And he’s especially grateful, in hindsight, to the prof who assessed a team project and suggested to him that he simply wasn’t very good at strategy.

“It hurt a bit, but it certainly became a driver,” Abarbanel-Uemura says. “If someone tells you that you can’t do something, that shouldn’t stop you.”

He got right to work after completing his bachelor of commerce degree and spent a year and a half building Fortified Marketing, which tailors strategies for companies based on the nature of their industry and product.

His approach involves a great deal of background preparation so he can ask clients the right questions at an initial meeting. Sometimes he needs to learn a whole new industry to help clients achieve their goals.

Full circle

After getting his marketing agency off the ground, Abarbanel-Uemura returned to Telfer to complete a one-year intensive MBA. The program included an optional two-week stint in France, where he attended lectures at École supérieure de commerce Troyes in the Champagne region, as well as seminars offered by IBM France, Ford France and the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris.

His MBA gave him the opportunity to teach the subject he was once told he wasn’t very good at — he now teaches the capstone marketing strategy course to fourth-year BCom students.

“So it’s very much full circle — being a student and then coming back to teach,” he says. “I’m really grateful for that opportunity.”

With experiential learning such an important part of his own story, he tries to impress on his students the value of doing CO-OP or other work placements. With industry moving so quickly, especially with technology setting the pace, he sees real world experience as vital.

As for his own future, he intends to keep his company going. “But teaching is also a passion of mine,” says Abarbanel-Uemura, who acknowledges the challenge of splitting his time so many ways.

In addition, he’s been asked to craft the “case” for the marketing competition in the national MBA Games, to be held in Ottawa in January 2018. His team took part in the 2017 competition, held in Nanaimo, B.C., helping Telfer win second prize overall in academics.

Abarbanel-Uemura has also been asked to be a judge at the the John Molson School of Business International Case Competition at Concordia University, the largest in the world, early next year.

In the meantime, he conducts marketing workshops in the Ottawa area for small businesses and is starting another business with a partner. “I’m a bit of a serial entrepreneur,” he concedes.


Excerpt from Taro Abarbanel-Ueumura's valedictory speech at uOttawa’s Fall 2017 Convocation

A man speaking behind a podium

Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80.” 

Gandhi said, “Learn as if you are to live forever.”

 “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss wrote that.

 “Learn continually. There’s always ‘one more thing’ to learn.” – Steve Jobs

 “You don’t need to be in university forever, to be a student for life.” 

I just made that last one up – but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true! …

Graduates, I challenge you to keep your insatiable thirst for learning and apply it to your work, to your career, apply it to whatever you are passionate about.

Apply it to your relationships and getting to know people – learn from their stories and experience. …

Continue to fuel that hunger that you have for knowledge and apply it to the rest of your life, for the rest of your life. Because the world will be a better place if you keep an open mind and continue to learn.

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