Mendoza School of Business

Notre Dame MBA team wins BYU Social Entrepreneurship Competition

Published: March 30, 2012 / Author: Carol Elliott

A team of four Notre Dame MBA students took first place in
the Innovation in Social Entrepreneurship Case Competition, an event that
challenged graduate students from top b-schools to solve a live strategic issue
faced by innovative social organizations.

The second annual event, held March 21-23, was hosted by
Brigham Young University and the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance. Participating
schools included BYU, Cornell University, George Washington University,
University of Colorado and William & Mary.

“The case exposed us to a common problem facing nonprofits,
which is how to increase the impact they are having with the limited resources
that they have available,” said Andrea Caldwell, who along with fellow
first-year MBA students Charles Florance, Patrick Murphy and James Falbe, made
up the University of Notre Dame team. “We gained insight into the fact that the
entrepreneurial spirit still exists in both developed and developing countries,
even when traditional entrepreneurial models aren’t successful because there is
less access to capital and less tolerance for risk.”

The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship at the Mendoza College
sponsored the Notre Dame team and helped the students prepare for the case. Caldwell
said each team member devoted 20-plus hours to research and preparation in the
week leading up to the competition.

“We all have an interest in entrepreneurship, social
responsibility and international development,” she said. “Before coming to
business school, we were in various fields – military, consulting, non-profit
and education. But we all recognized the opportunity to use our careers in
business to contribute to social progress. In the words of the Mendoza College,
we all Ask More of Business.”

“We are delighted with the students’ success in this
competition,” said Melissa Paulsen, program manager at the Gigot Center. “But
even more significant was the enthusiasm of our MBA students for social
entrepreneurship. They are a great example of how business can impact societal
problems for the better.”

The teams were asked to generate new strategies to expand
innovative social models and to present the most effective way for
organizations to employ those models. The MBA student teams had one week to
review the case, based on a real problem within Community Enterprise Solutions
(CES), a company that educates local entrepreneurs by operating according to
the MicroConsignment Model (MCM).  

MCM operates differently than microcredit or
microfranchising in that CES “consigns” products to entrepreneurs
(mostly women), who then travel to remote villages to sell the goods, which
include life-changing products such as eyeglasses, stoves and water filtration
systems. The entrepreneurs do not pay for the products until they sell them,
which removes a major barrier that could keep them from pursuing the

The Notre Dame team proposed a framework for approaching
growth that included a fellowship program to bring in both graduate level and
corporate talent, and building a toolkit through which any company can learn
how to implement the model.  

“Hats off to the team from Notre Dame,” said Greg Van Kirk, CES co-founder and one of the competition judges. “Their contributions
far exceeded my expectations. They provided me and our team with both
insightful analysis on our current strategy as well as practical, creative and
actionable next steps to scale up the impact of the MicroConsignment Model


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