Monday, March 4, 2013

Hult Prize recap...or MamaCarts, Onward!

One Million Dollars.  Food Insecurity. Urban Slums. Go.

MamaCarts Co-Founders

This is essentially what my brain has been wrapped around since early January.  Last October, some fellow GSSE-MBA-ers and myself headed to Baltimore for the Net Impact conference.  I posted pictures of trashcans overflowing with disposable coffee cups and sat through panels of food industry professionals dropping the company line on GMOs and the profit constraints of offering healthful foods.  I walked away from that weekend knowing that I wasn’t satisfied with any of the information I’d heard on public/private entity progress in reducing food insecurity. 

A few friends and I sat through a breakfast session on the Hult Prize, a competition put on by Hult business school.  All we saw being presented, through our early morning, caffeine-deprived haze, was development-as-usual BIG NUMBERS (solve hunger for 200 million people), and a million dollar grand prize.  The teams that won in previous years certainly had ambitious goals and sexy technology; and provided the necessary “big impact” numbers to wow the judges; as well as boasted collective resumes akin to a mini United Nations.  However, a few of us sat there and thought, “Maybe flair isn’t the answer?”  Maybe it’s simply leveraging the things that already exist and helping to make the connection.

Brainstorming our hearts out!
This was a direct challenge from President Clinton and a problem we had all seen first hand:  Food insecurity, which we directly correlated with malnutrition.  For 8-weeks, we had re-hashed the case, contacted potential partners, sought out 1st person research from Kibera Slum, and landed on a model we believe to have scale, profitability, AND strengthens communities.  Shout out to Paul Hudnut, “Do Something. That Matters. With Soul.”  Because why would you do anything else?
Skyping Lindsay in from Peru
Fast-forward 4-months and a team of 3 very dynamic women and myself were in San Francisco presenting our model, with our own flavor of flair.  We’d been chewing on the idea of broken supply chains for a while and knew we needed to integrate as many local resources as possible.  We have each worked in food systems in different parts of the world, and despite the fact that we are 4 white girls from Colorado, we know our stuff and have seen what doesn’t work, and more importantly, what does.

With our amazing Hult Ambassador.  She found us band-aids, staplers, and hugged us after it was over. We called her our fairy godmother.
Getting briefed.

Like most things in life that make you a better person, this is about the journey, not the destination.  Diving deeper into food systems reminded each of us why we went abroad to work in the first place.  We are now the proud co-founders of MamaCarts, a microfranchise, for-profit model that makes healthful food aspirational AND affordable.  

Palm Trees and ALIVE things!  Welcome sights and smells  during a Colorado winter.
43 teams competed in San Francisco, from almost every continent.  It was incredibly validating to know our sustainable MBA program put us in a position to compete with the best of them.  Off-the-record feedback from a judge afterwards was really encouraging, if bittersweet when we found out we almost made it to the final four.  Almost.  This was a very big deal, our judges were from Wal-Mart, Gap, IDEO design firm, and Saatchi & Saatchi.  Final take-away: We had a blast preparing for this and are moving forward with MamaCarts!

Finally, a very heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported us and helped the team get to San Fran.  We were incredibly humbled and overwhelmed at the number of people who showed up when it mattered.

Fairly certain I could get used to this

This is my post and not meant to represent the opinion of my other co-founders.  But don't worry, there will be an official blog post up soon on :)