Laura Trust, MBA ‘96, wanted two things back in 1998: to go into business for herself and to find a decent bagel. She and her soon-to-be-husband, Alan Litchman, SM ‘95, MBA ‘96, were living in Hong Kong, where Western food was plentiful with that one exception. They established a holding company, found a Chinese partner, and came back to the United States to learn the business.
But the couple’s plans took an unexpected turn after they met the owner of Finagle a Bagel, which then had five stores in the Boston area. Trust and Litchman decided to buy the company.
“We knew we could always bring it back to Hong Kong at some time in the future,” Trust says. Four days after acquiring the company, Trust and Litchman were wed. Ten years later, both their household and their business have grown considerably. The couple has three children–seven, three, and nearly one–and 20 Finagle a Bagel stores in the greater Boston area.
Both Trust and Litchman grew up in Massachusetts. They met in a study group their first day at the Sloan School of Management. After they graduated, Trust went to work for her father, Martin Trust, SM ‘58, who owned Mast Industries, a garment and components manufacturing business. The job took her to Hong Kong, where Litchman, who initially worked in the real-estate industry, eventually joined her. Neither felt comfortable in the corporate world. They wanted to run their own business–one that involved a tangible product. The food industry seemed as good as any. Finagle a Bagel was a small but decent brand, and they thought they could build it into something big. Today, they are preparing to franchise the business.
Trust says she and Litchman have called upon their Sloan School education throughout the process of buying and expanding their business.
“The Sloan School helped tremendously,” she says. “I get to use everything that I learned at MIT: HR, operations, finance, business law–I had no idea how many times a business gets sued. I think about case studies, or something a professor said, or discussions we might have had. I needed exposure to all of those things in order to be successful in what we’re doing now.”