The inaugural Jacobs Fellows are poised to improve the developing world
Hadiatou Barry, Nancy Cao, and Claire Markham, MBA 17s
After attending She Leads Africa, a Nigeria-based competition for female entrepreneurs, Hadiatou Barry, MBA 17, knew she needed to take a leap and move from nurturing ideas to starting a venture.
“I was inspired by their entrepreneurial spirit,” Barry says of the young women, who had started businesses such as selling organic spice mixes and providing health care information over mobile phones.
With the ambition of helping girls in Francophone Africa acquire a better education, Barry decided to apply to business school. “I want to find the sweet spot where you improve lives but also make a profit,” she says.
For the past three years Barry, who was born in Guinea, raised in Côte d’Ivoire, and attended high school in Senegal, had been working for CARANA Corporation, backstopping and managing transformative economic growth projects in East and West Africa.
She is one of three MBA students—along with Nancy Cao and Claire Markham, MBA 17s—whose social-impact work and aspirations were recognized with a new fellowship provided by the Jacobs Foundation, a Zurich-based charitable organization promoting child and youth development. The awards are given to graduate students who have experience in service organizations and an entrepreneurial vision for social-impact work.
Cao and Markham have also built impressive international development résumés.
Cao most recently worked in Nairobi, Kenya, developing training programs for fast-growing social enterprises. She hopes to start a venture addressing workforce development, one that finds a way to improve companies’ relationships with labor and local communities in their global supply chains. “I have been wrestling with how to create viable business models that reach out to the poorest globally,” she says. “I want to improve their standard of living and income-generating ability.”
Markham also worked in Nairobi, for microfinance crowdfunding organization Kiva, where she witnessed tremendous inequities in educational access. She seeks to start a social enterprise that works with universities, employers, and social investors to facilitate money for student loans and will use her time at Berkeley Haas to find novel solutions. “I’m really interested in exploring business models to increase access to financing for higher education,” she says. “The fellowship will enable me to explore the entrepreneurial route and take required risks to improve educational access across Africa.”
The Jacobs Fellowship aims to train future social entrepreneurs who are able to easily navigate the corporate, public, and nonprofit sectors. The three fellows plan to spend their two years at Haas working with one another, professors, and classmates to devise business solutions for improving lives in the developing world. And with the resources offered by Berkeley Haas and the Jacobs Fellowship, they are poised to succeed.
“My two years in business school are the perfect incubator to flesh out and test the ideas I have for improving access to quality education in non-English speaking Africa,” says Barry, who also hopes to expose her fellow students to business opportunities in Africa. “There’s a huge momentum there to build upon.” —Mandy Erickson