Sheila Choi

May 26, 2010

By Justin Tang

When it came to looking for work, Sheila Choi ('08) was never the stereotypical MBA student. While her peers and classmates feverishly sent out resumes and attended career fairs in search for their summer internship and post-graduation employment, Choi remained focused on a career plan she laid out before she even entered Anderson. 

After receiving her B.A. at UC Berkeley, she worked for ABC News and Disney while pursuing her passion for animals as a volunteer at pet adoption fairs. For most, that would be enough, striking a balance between a promising career and an enjoyable, worthwhile hobby. But that hobby ultimately revealed an unpleasant reality -- the problem of pet overpopulation was far worse in Southern California than she originally believed. She knew being a part-time volunteer would not suffice.

Choi founded The Fuzzy Pet Foundation (TFPF) in 2005. TFPF is a pet welfare group whose goal is to end pet overpopulation by doing three things:

  • Rescue and rehabilitation
  • Aggressive spay and neuter
  • Education that includes community fairs and outreach events.

The organization focuses on going to fairs and schools to promote pet responsibility and holding adoption events to move dogs out of animal shelters. Now that she had a fully operating organization, she needed the business, organization, and leadership skills to lead TFPF and inspire her volunteers.

She enrolled in Anderson's MBA program in 2006. "I needed a better strategy to run the organization. I wanted to market TFPF creatively and treat it like a small business, and Anderson offered the great entrepreneurship curriculum that I was looking for," Choi said.

As an Anderson student, Choi found herself inspired by classes that directly related to how to run an organization like TFPF. For example, she took classes on business development, where groups of students strategized on how to start a business. "By teaming up with students to create a startup company, I learned the key factors to start a business from scratch. The people and the class helped me think outside of the box," said Choi. These classes provided her the education to do price analysis projects and polish her business proficiency, all skills that would be critical to the success of TFPF. 

But not everything she learned at Anderson occurred in the classroom. Choi gratefully recalled, "Anderson really helped my networking. I learned how to relate to people from different industries and cultures, and it taught me that you must be resilient out there." She found many Anderson students who were fascinated with her work, so much so that some volunteer with the organization today. An Anderson alumnus does pro bono accounting for TFPF, and a few Anderson employees created the organization's website for her.

Since earning her MBA, she spends the majority of her time managing TFPF and continuing her advocacy work. A typical day will might consist of grant writing and networking socials that range from corporate events to an outing on the golf course. "I don't just network people, I network with rescue colleagues to move dogs out of shelters, and I network with organizations from different states," Choi said. 

The organization received international media attention with its most famous case, Scooby-Roo, who was an abandoned puppy born with only two hind legs. After Choi heard about the dog in Los Angeles, she sent out mass newsletters asking for help to purchase a set of wheels that would act as the dog's front legs. Scooby-Roo garnered the attention of Demi Moore, Shannon Elizabeth, Michael Jackson's children, and Alyssa Milano, the dog's "godmother." Through the help of these celebrities, Choi was able to raise funds to build custom wheels for Scooby-Roo.

Currently, Choi is a Master's student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (she commutes to Boston for coursework), where she will receive the policy education necessary to bring the problem of pet overpopulation to the national level. Her main goal is to launch large-scale spay and neuter trucks that will provide services effectively and cost-free. Additionally, Choi will be releasing a Scooby-Roo children's book shortly to teach children about pet responsibility.

"Making money doesn't always bring you happiness. I am the most happy when I am reaching out to the needy and following my passion," Choi explained. It is clear that Choi has taken these words to heart and shown many others the joy in following one's passions.

About UCLA Anderson School of Management
UCLA Anderson School of Management, established in 1935, is regarded among the leading business schools in the world. UCLA Anderson faculty members are renowned for their teaching excellence and research in advancing management thinking. Each year, UCLA Anderson provides management education to more than 1,800 students enrolled in MBA, Fully-Employed MBA, Executive MBA, UCLA-NUS Global Executive MBA, Master of Financial Engineering, and doctoral programs, and to more than 2,000 professional managers through executive education programs. Combining highly selective admissions, varied and innovative learning programs, and a world-wide network of 36,000 alumni, UCLA Anderson develops and prepares global leaders.

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