Isenberg MBA Team Excels in National Competition

June 25, 2013




On April 26, a team including two Isenberg MBA students vied against 11 business school counterparts in the finals of the 2013 International Impact Investing Challenge (I3C), at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. Organized by Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, the Challenge is a pitch competition that asks participants to design investment vehicles and sustainable strategies to solve environmental and societal challenges. To reach the finals, the Isenberg team of Maria Fernandez '14 MBA, Anna Ivanova '13 MPPA, and Spirit Joseph '13 MBA crafted a prospectus for their project--the Food Forward Impact Fund-that earned finalist status among 60 submitted proposals.  


According to the students, the Impact Fund seeks to combat the phenomenon of "food deserts" in America (initially the Eastern Seaboard) by improving access, especially among the poor, to healthful food. To that end, the fund would invest in community-supported agriculture, mobile food units, and community organizations and entrepreneurs who facilitate administrative services promoting access and education. Separate investment layers in the $10 million, 5-year fund would target philanthropic investors, socially focused investors and program related investment partners, and institutional investors-the last yielding market-level returns.


"It was a fantastic learning experience," recalls Fernandez, then a first-year Isenberg MBA student. "The process was rigorous; for the finals, we had to distill weeks of research and thinking into a ten-minute presentation. We received enormously valuable feedback from the judges--all investment pros." The team, she added, also gained valuable insights from a Challenge-appointed mentor, who specialized in investments for nonprofit organizations. "For the judges, we had to back up everything with numbers. They asked to see our spread sheets and the instruments that we used to think about different assumptions and outcomes."


The experience, added Fernandez, was empowering for the Isenberg team and the School's MBA program. "We felt confident competing against teams from Yale, Northwestern, the London Business School, and Duke," she emphasized. "After all, we all came from strong professional backgrounds and an excellent program. We felt good about getting the word out about Isenberg. That's something we need to more on a national scale."