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WashU’s The Source profiles a few of the entrepreneurs and innovators who also happen to be graduating this month and three Olin students are among those featured. All of these students have launched businesses and developed innovative technologies that are improving human health, addressing global issues and helping investors achieve their goals.

We’ve been following these students since they arrived at Olin and chronicling their success here on the blog and in Olin Business Magazine. We can’t wait to see what they do next! Congratulations to all!!

Mary-Brent Brown

Mary Brent Brown (second from left), cuts the candy ribbon at the Bear-y Sweet Shoppe opening with co-founders: Jessica Landzberg, Kaiyley Dreyfus, and Shea Gouldd.

B.S. Healthcare management, Olin Business School

Co-founder, Bear-y Sweet Shoppe and Kids Wanna Help

Responding to pent-up student demand for gummy worms, Brown co-founded the South 40 candy store  Bear-y Sweet Shoppe with fellow Olin seniors Jessica Landzberg and Shea Gouldd, and Kailey Dreyfus, who graduated in 2016. Brown also is still active in Kids Wanna Help, the nonprofit she started at age 12 to promote fundraising among young people.

Markey Culver

Markey Culver teaches intro to baking bread class in Rwanda.

MBA, Olin Business School

Founder: The Women’s Bakery

Through her social enterprise, The Women’s Bakery, Culver has created economic opportunities for women in Rwanda and Tanzania by training them to build, operate, manage and sustain their own bakeries. Related blog post.


Andrew Glantz

Jacob Mohrman , BSBA’16, (left), and Andrew Glantz of GIftAMeal app were featured in Olin Business Magazine 2016.

B.A., Leadership and Strategic Management, Olin Business School

Founder & CEO: GiftAMeal

Glantz founded mobile app GiftAMeal in 2014 as a way to fight hunger and promote St. Louis restaurants. GiftAMeal has since expanded to Chicago and Detroit and has provided 50,000 meals to those in need. Users simply snap and post of photo of their meal, and GiftAMeal funds a meal through a partner food bank.

Read more Class Acts of 2017 here.

Guest Blogger: Diane Toroian Keaggy, WashU’s The Source

Our last day with The Women’s Bakery started off a little bit differently than the rest of our week in Rwanda. Instead of waking up and looking out over Kigali, we woke up to the sun rising over the hazy Congo, just barely visible across the beautiful Lake Kivu.

RELATED: Building bakeries and a new business model in Rwanda

Lake kivu

We made our way out to the Western Province the day before, climbing over a mile in altitude and watching the fauna become increasingly mountainous and green. This area of the country sees much more rain, which we learned first-hand in the village of Bumba while visiting one of three TWB bakeries in Rwanda. We experienced a massive downpour that came in quickly as we met with Ernest, a member of the cooperative that owns this particular bakery.

IMG_0555Ernest was one of the many people that we met throughout the week who is involved with The Women’s Bakery at all levels of the value chain. In addition to Ernest, we met with three other field partners, both men and women, who are helping to run their bakeries with their co-ops. We also had the chance to meet with and watch the women themselves in action.

In addition to visiting the bakeries, we were able to meet with partners of TWB. Atikus is a microfinancier who is working to make loans available to the women who go through the training program. And SMGF is a firm that is taking steps to become a hiring partner that will invest in building a bakery in the future. And finally, we spent a lot of time with the TWB team themselves, trying to figure out how to best help them.

IMG_0571As we met with all of these people throughout the week, we regrouped whenever and wherever we could as a team to unpack everything we had been hearing. These ad hoc meetings happened at restaurants, in our hotel, and in the car as we moved around the country. And now our task, as we sat in the lodge overlooking the water, was to bring all of the information together and figure out how to move forward.

We sketched out possible solutions to multiple challenges and debated the merits of each. We did a brainstorming exercise that was used in creating Apple products and addressing the financial crisis to bring out issues we may have missed. And when all was said and done, we were ready to present our preliminary thoughts and plans for the rest of the semester to the TWB team. It had been a long and tiring week, much of it spent in very close quarters, but it was all worth it to see the enthusiasm on the TWB team’s faces as we presented and celebrated over one final dinner.

Guest blogger: Erin Ilic, MBA ’17 

Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) is committed to creating innovative learning opportunities that result in meaningful impact in the business and nonprofit communities.

A few years ago, Markey Culver (MBA ’17) was working and living in Bushoga, a rural village deep within Rwanda as a Peace Corps volunteer. In the midst of a country where extreme poverty and primitive living conditions are the norm, Culver was inspired by the power of business. “Business, I believed, could be harnessed as a tool to tackle social problems, namely malnutrition, lack of economic opportunity, and social inequality. Bread became my medium for opportunity creation and good business.”

CulverIn 2013, Culver started The Women’s Bakery (TWB), a social enterprise providing East African women with basic business and vocational skills. By the time Culver began her MBA, she had already launched two independently operating bakeries in Tanzania and was in the process of opening a third in Kigali, Rwanda. She came to Olin to learn the nuts and bolts of running a business and how to turn her startup into a sustainable business. Culver applied to the CEL to engage a team of her peers as business consultants.

Women's bakery with flourSocial impact projects driven by student passions such as The Women’s Bakery have been supported by generous alumni sponsors like Jack Wareham (MBA ’68). Wareham, who serves on Olin’s National Council, along with his wife, Lois, believeeducation and research are the most important areas for their philanthropic mission, which is modeled after the well-known adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

“The Women’s Bakery proposal exemplified the kind of innovative learning experience and potential for impact that defines the Practicum program,” said Ron King, Olin’s Academic Director of the Center for Experiential Learning and Myron Northrop Professor of Accounting. “We are very thankful to Jack and Lois Wareham for a generous gift that covered the expenses and fee for this unique project.”

Over spring break, Culver and the consulting team traveled to Rwanda to see TWB in action. Her Practicum team included three first-year MBA classmates with strong backgrounds in financial service and consulting, and a second-year MBA CEL Graduate Fellow.

During the visit, the team met 15 graduates from TWB’s training program and attended the grand opening of a bakery in the village of Remera. “The women are eager to start making bread and selling it in the next few days,” the Practicum team blogged from Africa. Womens baker grads“Many of these women walk one hour each way just to get to work, and most of them bring their children with them—evidence of how committed they are to becoming entrepreneurs and real breadwinners!” Each bakery creates three to 10 jobs for otherwise unemployed women who care for an average of four children each. Culver claims that the women in TWB’s program have the opportunity to double their incomes after working only a few months.

“Our team was asked to develop a strategy to replicate TWB’s model throughout rural Africa,” explained team member Mark Smid (MBA’17). “We looked at different ownership and management structures, evaluating from a cost perspective what was actually viable in terms of how much training they could provide, how many people they could hire, and how much funding they would need.”

The Practicum team made two major recommendations to TWB:

  • Control more of the value chain, specifically the hiring organizations and oversight of each bakery.
  • Add a third phase to the training program that focuses on the successful commercial side of business operations.
Olin Practicum team with members of The Women's Bakery team.

Olin Practicum team with members of The Women’s Bakery team.

“The Practicum team’s efforts and deliverables exceeded my expectations,” said Culver in an email from Rwanda this summer. “Their recommendations were informed and thoughtful, and our team is currently reviewing/updating the ‘Phase Three’ recommendation for implementation at our next big training, scheduled to begin in October.”

For Courtney Lee (MBA ’17), whose work experience was in traditional financial services, consulting with the social enterprise has permanently altered her views. “It’s opened my eyes to how business can be done successfully, differently. It provides a perspective I can apply to case studies and in any career I pursue after business school.”

The Women’s Bakery Practicum experience, like dozens of other CEL projects each year,reinforces what alumnus Jack Wareham said when asked why his Philanthropy Mission funded the project. Most of us learn best by doing, rather than watching or reading. There is no better learning alternative than experience.”

Watch video by clicking on image at top of page or here.

This article was originally published in Olin Business Magazine, 2016.

Markey Culver, MBA’17, and The Women’s Bakery, her East African venture to empower women with business and baking skills to run their own bakeries is featured on the new website, “We See Genius”. The site focuses on social enterprises that want to change the world and was created by John Byrne, the founder of the business school site, “Poets & Quants”.

Link to the site to read the article.

Related blog post.

Photo: Markey Culver, left, at the The Women’s Bakery in Kigali, Rwanda.

“Africa”, as a concept, may evoke thoughts of starving children, uncomfortable living conditions, or social depravity. Within my own subconscious mind, and I believe the minds of most Americans, Africa represents the continent with too few natural resources to keep pace with the modernization of the rest of the world. As an emerging market, I had no clue of the natural wonders and significant benefit it will someday offer globalization beyond an additional middle class to purchase western goods.

Guest Blogger: Micah Northcutt was a member of the CEL Practicum team working with The Women’s Bakery consulting project in Rwanda.

After leaving Kigali with a complete about-face as to the global potential of the Rwandan work-force, the team chose to spend a week touring Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa.

Africa-MapOn previous adventures, I toured the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls, I ate my way through most of Europe, and swam in the waters of the Caribbean. However, never had I felt the mist 100 meters above Victoria Falls. Never in my life had I slept on a safari in an open field as the world’s largest land animal passed a few feet behind my tent and the king of the jungle roared in the distance. On the southernmost tip of Africa I swam with the Great Whites, drank wine that rivals the grapes of Italy, and consumed some of the best seafood of my life.

It is true that (currently) visiting Africa requires some discomfort. Air conditioning is sparse, bottled water is typically required, and the mosquitoes can get pretty annoying. However, the thought that the African market is emerging purely as a beneficiary of the western world is silly. The touristic experiences following our work in Rwanda actually enlightened me to the personal benefit I as a global citizen will receive as Rwanda and the rest of Africa enter the modern markets. By helping to improve nutrition and the economic base within Africa, I am helping to open the doors of Africa to my children and grandchildren.

Africa is not a helpless continent of dirt and poverty. It is a jungle of natural wonders waiting to be embraced by the global markets. Work is required, but the entire world will benefit.

Related blog posts:

Why I created The Women’s Bakery

A visit to rural Rwanda