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Merrimack’s Entrepreneurial Lab sparks inspiration from fashion-forward, environmentally-focused students
It is no surprise that a hardworking student —like alumna Amanda Gilman ’09 — would land her dream job after graduation. Gilman, who studied finance during her time at Merrimack, knew that internships were crucial to gaining corporate exposure that would lead her on the right career path. Over the course of her time as a student, Gilman had three internships, one of which led to her first job offer at Eaton Vance.
After her first year at Eaton Vance, Gilman said she was ready for a more analytical role and eventually landed a job at Sandler O’Neill in New York after connecting with fellow Merrimack Alumnus Ray Chandonnet ’87.
At Sandler O’Neill, Gilman said she was able to come up the curve fast with a flat corporate culture, and she often thought about where these new skills and experiences might take her long term. “As much as I could learn from others in the industry, I kept coming back to this desire to build a company from something that I was passionate about,” said Gilman.
As Gilman continued to build her career, she became more and more compelled to challenge herself and experience personal growth. Like so many great ideas and business ventures, Gilman’s passion was initially sparked by a simple daily problem she faced: finding the perfect snack to keep on her desk or grab on the way to client meetings.
Gilman’s search for the perfect on-the-go snack – one with a great texture and clean ingredient list – felt impossible. Because of this, she eventually started making her own healthy treats.
“My bite-sized energy snacks were soft, made with simple but nutrient-dense, balanced ingredients, and just the perfect portion to hold you over until your next meal,” said Gilman. “Soon, the whole trading floor was stopping by my desk to grab a bite and I knew I was onto something.”
Gilman found excitement in the idea of creating a company that was built on a great product, she said. After extensive research, she was able to turn her dream into a reality. She left her position at Sandler O’Neill to launch AMG Snacks in 2019. Since then, Gilman has dedicated herself to building the company and brand.
“From accounting to deliveries and everything in between, I touch it all,” Gilman said. “It can be a love-hate relationship, starting your own business. It is a serious challenge and forces me out of my comfort zone, but I have learned and been exposed to so many new things, and launching AMG has given me a whole new perspective.”
Becoming an entrepreneur has been the most challenging experience she has faced, but she trusted her gut and relied on influential people in her life for support. “I have chosen mentors and advisors that I trust to help me navigate those situations. I really lean on people close to me to talk through situations and help me arrive at the best decision possible”.
Gilman reflected on the ways her experience at Merrimack has impacted her professional development, and how she took advantage of all the College had to offer. She took classes taught by professors with real-world experience in the Girard School of Business, and worked closely with the O’Brien Center for Career Development to craft a strong resume. She was also able to work on campus as a peer tutor in the business writing center.
Many of her experiences at Merrimack – studying abroad, working campus jobs, volunteering and being an active member of the investment club – laid a strong foundation for what was yet to come in her life and career. All of these early experiences as a student were powerful building blocks in her career – teamwork, organization and experiential learning never seem to fade away.
Thanks to hard work and dedication, AMG Snacks are now available for purchase both online and at Whole Foods markets. As the company grows, Gilman is eager to grow alongside it and continue her lifelong learning.
“You have to appreciate all the accomplishments along the way and hope that there will always be new ones ahead,” Gilman said. “My advice to current Merrimack students: expose yourself to as much as possible. If you follow what you enjoy, whether a specific skill set or industry, you will be more excited about your job and the work you do, and the work you do will be better for it.”