At age 15, Marsha Zebley didn’t know she’d follow a career path into M&A; she wanted to ride horses.
Growing up in Unionville, Pennsylvania, and spending winters in Virginia and South Carolina, Zebley became passionate about horseback riding and wanted to pursue a career as an equestrian. A few years later, at the University of Vermont, her studies led her in a different direction and she graduated with a degree in Latin American Studies.
It was her fluent Spanish speaking abilities that secured Zebley a position at J.G. Wentworth, the parent company of JGWPT Holdings LLC. She had no prior experience in finance, but the firm needed bilingual associates, so it agreed to train Zebley.
“I rode my horse at 6am every day before work,” Zebley recalls, and she struck up a friendship with the owner of the stables where she kept her horse. He, in turn, introduced her to Steven Graham, the founder of Philadelphia-based private investment firm Graham Partners, who offered her a two-year analyst position at his firm.
“I got really, really lucky, and I had to take advantage of the opportunity,” Zebley admits, adding that “It’s important to understand the power of relationships. It’s not only what you know, but who you know,” she says. “And that’s what I do now—cultivate relationships,” she adds.
Currently a business development associate at OFS Management, a subsidiary of OFS Capital Corp. (Nasdaq: OFS), networking is central to Zebley’s work. Her responsibilities at the lending firm include sourcing and evaluating middle market investment opportunities, and executing business development initiatives for the eastern half of the U.S. She maintains a presence at industry conferences and spends time working with ACG Philadelphia on its programming and women’s events committees.
A prominent industry presence, Zebley’s knack for bringing people together has her on the fast track, and much of this is due to the personal connections she’s cultivated. “By and large, I feel like I’m friends with everyone that I work with,” she allows, and her advice to other women seeking a career in private equity is to focus on building genuine relationships.
And does her gender play a role in all of this?
“There are pros and cons to work in a male-dominated industry,” Zebley concedes. “I have to work twice as hard to prove myself and capitalize on opportunities.”
Zebley received her B.A. from the University of Vermont.