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Apr '14

Pivoting towards Success

knowledge-vs-experienceOne of the key reasons Aaron and I chose the GSSE program at CSU for Aaron’s MBA program was due to the hands-on structure of the program. We knew that training and knowledge would be valuable to us in whatever we did, but we know that the critical piece is the actual application of this knowledge. The GSSE program is centered on creating a venture that you develop during your first 2 semesters and then spend the summer testing and hopefully starting the business.

Aaron is finishing up his second semester and beginning in early June, he and his team will depart to Nicaragua to start one of the most crucial steps in a business: working with the customer to validate the idea and better understand their actual needs.

This has been a very long journey so far with many “pivots” (a nice way of saying “we’re changing directions, again”).  In order to understand where we are now, I want to quickly walk you through the steps we’ve taken to get here.

We started with the big picture and Aaron knew that he wanted to help alleviate material poverty by increasing people’s incomes. In our view, this is the best way to reduce poverty: Provide a means for people to make more money such that they are no longer in poverty. So far, so good.

He then had to decide what group he would target in his poverty alleviation efforts. In looking at people in poverty worldwide, a vast majority (upwards of 70%) of the poor are farmers. So, in order to have the biggest impact, this would be the group to focus our efforts on. Seems pretty straight forward, right?

Things began to get more complicated as we dived deeper into the lives of farmers. There are so many obstacles that farmers face: low education, corrupt government systems, and lack of access to infrastructure and markets. Compound this with natural disasters (droughts, floods, diseases, etc.) and the challenges seem almost insurmountable.  Almost.

As we researched more about farmers, we began to see “bright spots,” businesses and people who had found a way to overcome these obstacles and bring real solutions to millions of farmers worldwide.  The prospects were enticing and we became convinced that there was a place for us in this space and that we could be part of a solution.

With Aaron’s background in banking and finance and teammates with agricultural experience, they are focused on a venture that capitalizes on their knowledge. What developed is a micro-leasing program that I think is best described by Aaron in this 1 min. video:Growing Capital (The video was submitted as an entry into a competition to raise funds for their summer trip).

As Aaron mentions, micro-leasing is similar to micro-finance (which many of us are more familiar with), but rather than providing capital, Aaron’s venture will provide physical assets that will increase a farmer’s income.  One of the struggles facing farmers is in the acquisition of the proper tools and machines to increase their yield, which money alone does not always allow for.  In creating a lease-to-purchase agreement, we can overcome that hurdle by providing the appropriate tool that will in itself generate the income necessary to pay back the loan.

One good example of this is leasing irrigation equipment such that farmers can increase the number of harvests in a given year, (i.e. farming during the dry season when prices are highest), significantly increasing their income well beyond the initial investment.

So, this is just a brief introduction to “Growing Capital”, Aaron’s GSSE venture. They are working hard to prepare for the summer—visas, airfare (if you happen to have any extra miles weighing you down, we would be ever indebted!), lodging and farmer connections are just a few of the things keeping us up at night.  As the venture takes off, I will be sending more details about what we’re doing and how the Summer is progressing. There will be a separate website or Facebook page to follow the team in Nicaragua which I will send out to everyone as soon as it’s live!

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3 comments to “Pivoting towards Success”

  1. Shelley Says:

    You have made significant progress to date . . . May God continue to bless and uplift both you and Aaron in your endeavors!

  2. Elaine Olson Says:

    We are SO proud of you both for persevering to this workable and wonderful project. Please keep us informed and take care of yourselves as you work hard to help others. All best wishes, Aunt Elaine

  3. Elaine Olson Says:

    We are SO proud of you both for persevering to this workable and wonderful project. Please keep us informed and take care of yourselves as you work hard to help others. All best wishes, Aunt Elaine

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