Paul Rice, MBA 96
Founder, Fair Trade USA
No two ways about it: Paul Rice was an improbable candidate
for an MBA when he arrived at Berkeley Haas in 1994.
- Eleven years in Nicaragua, working with impoverished farmers.
- Less than a month’s tuition in his bank account.
- Not a lick of interest in running a Fortune 500 corporation or going to Wall Street.
But Rice had a clear purpose. He had seen Nicaraguan coffee
growers reap a ten-fold increase in the prices for their beans
by selling them under a fledgling Fair Trade logo to European
buyers. If he could build a Fair Trade movement in the United
States, American consumers could become a huge force in reducing
poverty around the world.
“It was an epiphany,” he says today. “I went from being a
devout anti-capitalist to realizing that the market is
probably the most powerful force we have for liberating poor farmers.”
First, though, he had to know about American business.
“After eleven years in Nicaragua, I felt like Rip Van Winkle,
waking up after being asleep for 20 years,” he says.
“I needed the MBA to get acculturated.”
An MBA with a Fair Trade Plan
It worked. By his second year at Berkeley Haas, Rice had a
detailed business plan – written in Jon Freeman’s entrepreneurship
class and sharpened by input from classmates and the faculty.
By 1998, he had raised start-up money and was up and running.
Today, Fair Trade USA is one the most successful and
fastest-growing social enterprises in the nation. It certified
around $1.5 billion worth of imported products last year – and not
just coffee. The Fair Trade Certified logo now adorns cocoa, tea,
flowers, fruits, honey, herbs, spices, sugar, and wine. It even appears
on body- care products and clothing. Over 750 companies in North America,
including Walmart, Starbucks, and Whole Foods, now sell Fair Trade Certified products.
Kristin Groos Richmond & Kirsten Saenz Tobey, MBA 06
Co-founders, Revolution Foods
In a tiny kitchen in Emeryville, Calif., Revolution Foods co-founders
Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, both MBA 06, worked with
four friends through the night prepping and packaging all-natural spaghetti
and meatballs, carrots, and fresh peaches.
“Six of us did everything,” Richmond said at a recent Berkeley Haas
Center for Responsible Business celebration. “We cooked the food, we
packed the food, we counted fruit, we drove the truck. We got these first
hundred, 200, 300 meals to schools so we could prove our concept, get our
company funded, and scale from there.”
Since then, the company’s mission has remained unchanged: to
provide every child a healthy meal free of artificial colors,
flavors, preservatives, or high-fructose corn syrup.
That mission is gaining traction. With a compound annual growth
rate of 125 percent, Revolution Foods is now a $70 million business,
providing jobs to 1,000 largely inner-city employees who prepare a million
meals a week (breakfast, lunch, snack, and supper) in 10 states and
Washington, D.C. About 85 percent of Revolution Foods’ meals reach
children who are in free or reduced-price meal programs.
More Haas Ingredients
For Revolution Foods’ co-founders, everything started at Haas, where
Richmond and Tobey met. “This is going to help us sign a term sheet,”
Richmond recalls Tobey telling her in Haas’ New Venture Finance class.
A New Product Development class helped them define their product and
align it with their values. In 2007, the pair won grand prize in the
school’s Global Social Venture Competition. And their first funding
from Bay Area Equity Fund also came through connections at Haas-along
with a few of its leaders.
Ben Cain, MBA 06, a classmate and friend, showed up at 3 a.m. to help
pack those first meals in Emeryville before heading to his day job at
PayPal. He’s now the company’s vice president of financial strategy and analysis.
“So when I talk about ‘It takes a village,’ that village came from our
family at Haas,” Richmond says. “I can’t say enough about that.”
By Kim Girard
Patrick Awuah, MBA 99
Founder, Ashesi University, Ghana
I held my breath and thought, “Oh dear.”
Patrick Awuah, MBA 99, is recalling a moment a decade ago when his dream
of establishing Africa’s first private secular liberal arts college-Ashesi
University-was being dashed. After months of seeking a hearing before
Ghana’s college accreditation committee, he finally was presenting his
case, and the chair was not impressed. In a country where large public
universities and an emphasis on rote learning prevail, the authorities
thought Awuah’s plan to build an Ivy League-type school was about as
realistic as opening a Disneyland in the Sahara. It didn’t help that
Awuah, 35 at the time, looked even younger.
And then, without skipping a beat, Awuah recalls, he laid out the vision
he had been developing over the previous three years. He presented the
financial plan, detailed the money he had raised, and warned that he
could not afford to burn through any more cash waiting for approval. He
pointed out where the campus would be built and explained the bigger
picture: How change could only come to Africa if it had a new generation
of entrepreneurial, ethical leaders-and that’s just what Ashesi would
produce. He discussed how computer science and business majors need to
study philosophy, why small classes are better suited to teach
technical skills, and how the new university would require community service.
Nine-hundred students are now enrolled at Ashesi, a stunning, new
100-acre campus perched on a hillside overlooking the capital city of
Accra. It has lush green lawns and palm trees, covered walkways and
light-filled classrooms, dormitories, and a library. The university also
has a balanced budget, with tuition revenue covering operations, and has
raised more than $10 million in philanthropic gifts.
Already its 420 graduates are taking on leadership roles. Within six
months of completing school, almost 100 percent of Ashesi’s graduates
are placed in jobs at international firms as well as in Ghanaian
enterprises, nonprofits, and government. While an estimated one-third
of African professionals have left Africa in the last 20 years, nearly
all of Ashesi graduates stay on the continent.
Awuah has won the Aspen Institute’s John P. McNulty Prize for
extraordinary young leaders and the Microsoft Alumni Foundation
Integral Fellow Award for making a difference in the lives of others.
By Jonathan Rabinovitz
Next: For Current Students