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Business Across Borders

Stern Signature Project with the Clinton Foundation Pairs MBA Students with Entrepreneurs in Haiti

Stern Signature Project_Haiti

Seeing how our efforts and expertise could help restore Haiti’s communities – particularly after the devastating earthquake of 2010 – by supporting local businesses that create local jobs was incredibly rewarding. - MBA student Cara Zimbalist

“I came to NYU Stern to pursue my interests in social enterprise and management consulting,” explains MBA student Cara Zimbalist. “So far, I haven’t been disappointed. While in my first year of the full-time MBA program, I had the opportunity to work closely with an entrepreneur in Haiti, to apply my classroom learning in strategy and to be mentored by pros in the field.”

This spring, Cara and five other Stern MBA students worked closely with local entrepreneurs in Haiti through a Stern Signature Project with the Clinton Foundation, seeking to foster long-term, sustainable economic development in the country. The students split into teams and connected with two Haitian start-ups through Digicel’s Entrepreneur-of-the-Year Program. Consultants at Strategy& (formerly Booz & Co.), also mentored the Stern MBAs.

Their challenge? Help Sonac Agricole, a seafood exporting business, develop a sound financial structure to support expansion into new markets; and build the marketing and branding plans for Veve Collection, a handbag business with ambitions to scale.

About half way into the consulting project, the students flew to Haiti, where they conducted interviews and held meetings with all of the business stakeholders. They also presented several findings, including qualitative and quantitative analyses, to their entrepreneurial clients, as well as representatives from the Clinton Foundation and Digicel, and their mentors from Strategy&.

Cara and her MBA teammates advised the handbag designer behind Veve Collection, whose designs are based on Haitian rituals and religious practices. “Our challenge was to help this designer grow her business outside of Haiti, and to do that, we employed a very traditional consulting framework and focused on marketing, product development and operations,” explains Cara.

At the end of the six-week project, the Haitian business owners came to the Clinton Foundation offices in New York to hear the students’ final presentations and recommendations. “Having seen the business operations firsthand really helped focus our recommendations so that they were both reasonable and achievable in Haiti’s current business environment,” Cara underscores.

With a background in international development and the nonprofit sector, Cara was also excited to leverage her previous work experience: “Seeing how our efforts and expertise could help restore Haiti’s communities – particularly after the devastating earthquake of 2010 – by supporting local businesses that create local jobs was incredibly rewarding.”