Tag: Entrepreneurship



Last month, the Impact Investing Symposium returned to Olin. In it’s second year, the Symposium brought together professionals in finance, foundations, social justice, and government to discuss the potential for impact investing in St. Louis. What a turnout: 180 attendees across industries and experience of impact investing.

The afternoon began with a keynote interview with Nicole Hudson, exploring the work of the Ferguson Commission and what types of projects are ripe for investment in St. Louis. The Ferguson Commission was crucial in advancing a community understanding, response, action plan and forward steps after the shooting of Michael Brown in North St. Louis. Like all community action, the initiative needed tangible measures for impact as well as buy-in from an entire community, across backgrounds and city/county lines.

The necessity for common language and common ground is paramount for impact investing: we need voices of the under-served, perspectives of the financiers, and mediators who can find the common goals. That’s what makes the Impact Investing Symposium unique. It’s a rarity to get folks of these industries in the same room, having a conversation, exchanging dialogue, looking forward.

This year’s panel expanded on a discussion of last year: why impact investing is imminent. Mike Eggleston shared community survey results from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis while David Desai-Ramirez articulated ways for individuals and institutions to take direct action in impact investing: speak with a conduit social enterprise like IFF or Justine PETERSEN. Symposium veteran Tim Coffin shared the traditional finance mechanisms in place for investing with impact and Heather Cameron contributed macro level understandings of community impact. Jake Barnett, mediator, delivered a final parting challenge: “integrity is the proximity of one’s values to their actions.”

The conversation on changing mindsets and redefining “return” will continue – but the Symposium is ready for it’s next iteration: what are actionable steps? How can Olin be at the forefront of impact investing? Where should St. Louis focus it’s resources, intellect, and innovation?

We left the Symposium with the following directive: what projects can we support as individuals, investors, and community members? Have ideas? Be in touch – we’re ready to move forward: impactinvest@wustl.edu.

The Impact Investing Symposium was founded, organized and implemented by socially-minded Olin MBA students. We intend to keep this mission alive at Olin: bridging finance and social impact. To support this initiative or make further inquiry regarding potential future sponsorship, please contact impactinvest@wustl.edu. This event was sponsored by U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation and hosted by Net Impact, the Weston Career Center, and Olin Business School.




This is the second post in a two-part series. Read part 1 here

One thing we witnessed throughout our meetings was how the people of central Africa work tirelessly to carve out a living within a complex market (we literally saw people selling beside the road at 2 a.m.). We also saw how they developed an impressive business sense through experimentation and determination. They taught us a lot.

The sitatunga or marshbuck is a swamp-dwelling antelope found throughout central Africa, centering on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. - Wikipedia

The sitatunga or marshbuck is a swamp-dwelling antelope found throughout central Africa, centering on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. – Wikipedia

Despite the long days of site visits and nightly debriefings, it never felt like work. For one, absorbing the culture and sights of a new country was a thrill for all of us. We had plenty of fun as we crossed the country for different meetings. We couldn’t help but soak up the gorgeous scenery of forested mountains, tea fields, Serenghetti-like plains and even a sign that marked the equator. In fact, we basically had a DIY safari as we saw baboons, antelope, sitatunga, a rhino, and elephants! And after our enlightening work week we relaxed with our clients at a jazz club featuring amazing live music every Friday. But not even that late night could temper the adrenaline on our last morning in Uganda as we crossed off something that should be on everyone’s bucket list: white water rafting the Nile!

When we recover from both the plantains and the rapids and reconvene in St. Louis, our Center for Experiential Learning consulting team will be armed with a better understanding of Mavuno’s operations and the plantain industry which they intend to enter. We can’t begin to convey all the things we learned from our international business crash course in beautiful Uganda and with our amazing clients, but one lesson stands out.

Whether in the halls of WashU or a farm in western Uganda, business can serve as a tool to break down some of the world’s toughest problems and lift entire communities.

We are honored to have the opportunity to use our developing MBA skill sets to contribute to the work Mavuno is doing and lift up people of eastern Congo.

Guest blogger: Cole Donelson, MBA ’18 Team Lead for Mavuno

CATEGORY: Global, Student Life



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.




ITEN, the IT Entrepreneur Network, has been a catalyst of the St. Louis region’s IT startup ecosystem since its founding in 2008. ITEN cultivates startups from the idea stage to successful business platforms. ITEN’s success in developing startups has long been rooted in mentorship: successful entrepreneurs and business people have played a role in guiding new companies through their early stages. The mentorship process has been successful in sprouting a network of interconnected entrepreneurs and resources. With the focus on keeping talented entrepreneurs in the St. Louis area, ITEN offers long-term engagement with the entrepreneur which includes numerous opportunities for education and personal growth.

Our team has met with Francis Chmelir, the executive director of ITEN, to discuss how to best move ITEN forward in a changing technological environment.

iten_logo-copyThe fundamental goals of ITEN remain intact from its initiation: connect talented entrepreneurs with each other and with mentors; educate entrepreneurs in how to best navigate early-stage business; and facilitate entrepreneurs’ relationship with St. Louis in a way that incentivizes talent to stay local.

Our team’s plan of attack will cover three general areas; together we will address ITEN’s current concerns and ensure ITEN’s continued success in the St. Louis startup ecosystem.

  • First, we will investigate ITEN’s corporate engagement initiative. In doing this, we will assess the availability of specific partnerships that ITEN can tap into, along with participation incentives for both entrepreneurs and mentors.
  • Next, we will assess the potential for local collaboration on data management and administration. Ideally, we would like to figure out a way to streamline all of St. Louis startup data to facilitate collaboration between groups.
  • Lastly, we will perform a high-level analysis of ecosystems in other similarly-situated cities. We hope to learn from the ITENs of other cities to inform our path forward to assist ITEN as best we can.

We look forward to working closely with Francis throughout the semester and uncovering ways ITEN can continue to reach its full potential in St. Louis!

Our CELect team includes: Danny Kraus (JD ‘17), Andrew Polansky (JD/MBA ‘18), Alana Siegel (JD/MBA ‘17), and Michael Washington (JD ‘ 18).




Radhika Ghai Aggarwal, MBA 2002, Chief Business Officer and Co-founder, Shopclues, is featured as one of five “women-led startups smashing the glass ceiling in India,” in a column by Suparna Dutt D’Cunha, a contributor to Forbes.

“She’s the first Indian woman to break into the unicorn club. Valued at over $1 billion, Shopclues is one of India’s home-grown e-commerce stars. Started in 2011, along with Sanjay Sethi (CEO), ShopClues becomes the ninth startup to join India’s unicorn club by raising about $150 million from Singapore government’s GIC and its existing investors Tiger Global and Nexus Venture Partners last year. What started with a team of 10 is now a 1,000-strong organisation.

“Prior to starting Shopclues, Aggarwal, a management graduate from Washington University, worked for diverse sectors including retail, e-commerce, fashion and lifestyle with companies such as Nordstrom and Goldman Sachs in the U.S. She looks after branding, marketing, acquisitions, sales, hiring and product mix at ShopClues.

“There has never has been a better time than now to do any kind of business in India,” said Aggarwal. The e-tailer has about 350,000 small and medium sellers on the platform, and 14 million registered users.

“But, do people still stereotype the woman entrepreneur? ‘It’s not as much about stereotyping. The challenges are the same in entrepreneurship, man or woman. The only challenge is that because there are so few of us, people end up asking questions like, ‘How do you ensure work-life balance?’ You need a support system at home and work as your responsibilities grow.'”

Link to Forbes article.

CATEGORY: Career, Global