My Story: From Zimbabwe To A Stanford MBA

Faraimose Kutadzaushe is a second-year MBA student at Stanford

It’s tough being a chartered accountant when your country is battling an inflation rate in the billions.  At the height of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis, 100 trillion dollar bills could scarcely buy a loaf of bread – hawkers sold them as tourist novelties to turn a profit.  But for Faraimose Kutadzaushe, 29, a native of Harare, the capital city, his country’s economic meltdown and near collapse was a learning opportunity and a testament to Zimbabweans’ resilience.  

After joining a work/study accounting program with Deloitte straight out of high school, Kutadzaushe qualified as a chartered accountant in 2007.  The economic crisis came to a head in 2008 – inflation soared, imports dried up and shortages abounded.  Undaunted, Kutadzaushe was inspired by the spirit of microenterprise he observed all around him–small businesses popped up as multinationals pulled out.  He knew he wanted to be a part of rebuilding his country’s economy.

The wider economic issues took a deeply personal turn when Kutadzaushe’s father was diagnosed with chronic renal failure in 2008.  The family couldn’t pay for treatments using Zimbabwean currency.  Kutadzaushe took a consulting job with Deloitte in South Africa to earn the funds.  The experience proved a formative one that would shape his future plans.

Kutadzaushe returned to Zimbabwe in 2009 armed with connections, new business knowledge and a conviction that he could help bring basic necessities back to his country.  He teamed up with a few friends to launch Soft Touch, a toilet paper manufacturing company, in 2009.  The same year he and his family started a business importing spare auto parts. Kutadzaushe had found his niche in entrepreneurship, but he needed critical skills to really make an impact – that’s where Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business came in.  

After graduation the second-year Stanford MBA will join an investment bank on Wall Street. But long-term he aims to return to Africa and help develop the continent.  He’s already made plans to co-lead a 36-person trip to South Africa in 2014.  Dubbed Africa’s Emerging Giants, the tour will meet with leaders of multinational corporations to understand the motivations and challenges of business expansion on the continent.

His story:

One of my friends completed his MBA in the United Kingdom.  We worked together at an informational financial institution in Zimbabwe, and I realized we were operating at two different levels. He had this network of people he could contact for mentorship and fundraising.  We pretty much had the same background except for the MBA, and it made such a huge difference in the way we operated as small entrepreneurs. He constantly challenged me to start thinking about an MBA.

I also volunteered as a mentor for students at the African Leadership Academy, which was founded by a Stanford business school alum.  We got to know one another, and he invited me over to discuss his business school experience and my future plans. It was just supposed to be a coffee chat but it lasted for hours and hours. I left his place convinced that Stanford was where I wanted to do my MBA.

I applied to Harvard Business School too, but that was it.  I was interested in applying to an entrepreneurial-focused school, and that’s the sense I got from Stanford. Plus, it’s in the heart of Silicon Valley, and I felt that ecosystem would have a contagious effect on the school.

In my admissions essay I wrote about my country and my continent. I’m an Afro-optimist, by that I mean I’m really optimistic about the prospects for Africa’s future. We’ve faced some challenges as a continent, but we always seemed to find a way to continue living and moving forward.

The main theme of my essay was really about how I was motivated by the people in Zimbabwe, who kept trying to form successful businesses. Even if they failed over and over again, they would try until they hit something. Witnessing their successes and failures helped numb me to the fear of failure – that psychological barrier to entrepreneurship.

  • Aristotle Lupus

    Sorry to come 4 years later, but your opinion was speculative.
    The chap is now back in Africa and seemingly making a mark.

  • Comment free

    I agree, smart way to get in though,

  • Stormin Honesty

    Lets be honest. Wall street, was always his objective, lets just be honest, don’t BS us about caring for Africa……… How by getting paid personally and giving back to Africa……. in the imaginary future. Go back to Africa later….. Yeah right.

    I have no respect for people who are not honest enough to say it straight.
    If he wanted to learn about business, then wall street is not the place, industry is.

    Integrity is all that matters when you are on your death bed.

  • CDC

    an AIG quant talking about credibility, Sure! As credible as the models you do…. Some people have to pay their loans before doing what they truly want. Not everybody do their MBAs with daddys money. Give the man a break

  • Praetorian Guard

    Nice one Moseku

  • Well done Cuz…You have always inspired and motivated others… May that continue to be so. God Bless.

  • mai yevedzo

    Well done Fari. We are all routing for you………..better is not good enough the best is yet to come.

  • Pradip

    Its a great story! Out of the heart! Thats how you inspire others and your people……. try and make the world a better better place to live in! I do not know you and I am not from your continent but it surely inspired me to look forward to a optimistic future for my people in my home state and to do something that is worth in life!
    Wish you Success!!!!

  • Matilda

    Well done and keep up the great work Mose, its your destiny.

  • GG

    For those saying he’s lost his credibility by going to work in Wall Street etc, here’s another perspective. I have tons of African friends who did the investment banking/consulting thing for a few years and then returned to Africa. There a number of reasons for this :1) pay off loans/save capital/scholarship requirements 2)get good experience/branding 3)international students have very limited job options beyond consulting/finance as these are the only companies willing to hire and sponsor international students especially in this downturn.

  • onwell

    well done Mose wish you had gone there during those b-ball years u still could have made it into th NBA (proudly ignation)

  • tchizaza

    Set the world ablaze man! God be with you, proudly Ignatian

  • EBG

    highly inspirational. all the best in your endeavors. Yes we also can

  • Terrence

    “I am because we are”!!! Well said. You are and always have been the most intelligent and humble person I know. Mose I am so proud of you. May God continue to bless you brother.

  • Chaza

    always holding the touch high, Mose. Keep going. Well played

  • Eva Gumbie

    “dzinza rese rotutuma, budiriro yako ndeyeduwo!” Tears fill my eyes, I am so proud of you Fari & very inspired. You are destined for greatness.

  • Thabiso

    Well done Mose!!

  • Cosh

    Thank you Mose for representing Zim with pride and passion. We really feel inspired by what you are doing and keep on the fire burning. Cosh!

  • Farai Mbumbwa

    Well done Mose, your story is very inspiring. You always seemed to have a great future all those years ago in high school. Wishing you all the best going forward,

  • Inspired! he was my prefect in school. keep it up!

  • Nasiche

    Sky, I agree with you on your previous post on the examples you gave in India. Unfortunately I find your reference to “homosexuals and bratty behavior etc” to be disrespectful and out of bad taste. I am in one of these institutions and I also interned at Mck. I can tell you that your presumptuousness cannot be anywhere further from the truth. Apart from that, I am uncomfortable with people who feel comfortable judging other people they don’t know.

  • Wally

    Great article, great story. Way to go!

  • Donald T

    Farai…good for you bro!!! Wish you all the best!!!!

  • Kumbirai

    I was Mose’s junior at St Ignatius College in Harare. Dominated academics, dominated sport! Looked up to you then as I do now. Keep holding up the torch Mose. Chartered Accountant, Chartered Financial Analyst, MBA. You are representing Zimbabwe man! This jst e beginning 4 u brother! Ignem Mittite In Terram!!

  • sky

    The problem with the elite firms and schools is the culture bred by some of the disgusting daddys lil princess boys…..i keep repeating their behaviour is obnoxious….most of them are homosexual …they over compensate for that with their bratty behaviour …they get into the elite wall st firms and do what it takes to make as much money as possible in as lil time as they can…they buy their way into the elite ivy league schools..spend 300k on some silly history degree and walk into a mckinsey or a goldman and then come back to HBS and stanford in 2 years….theyre not innovative..they have never had to face any challenging situation in their lives..they look down upon people from top notch public universities…they lack basic decency and a moral compass….they are the ones who have effectively ruined the reputation of these institutes….the elite firms have a split culture within them….its this gang versus the other meritocratic gang…..

  • Nasiche

    AlexBarca, Did your crystal ball tell you he is not going back to Africa? I am Ugandan and I am studying a masters in USA. My father has a company I want to join in the future in Kampala. I am going to work at a US consulting company after my masters.
    So I guess by telling you this, you must feel you already know me well
    enough to say you also question my love for Africa? I also guess you
    also think you know me well enough to say I have no plans to develop
    myself and my network further so that I can be more effective with new
    found knowledge when I return to my home? Going to work for McKinsey/Goldman/Google
    does not make you any less an African who loves his/her continent. Some
    of the most successful Africans have returned with capital and new
    ideas. Look at examples given by Sky for India. Its easy for you to
    discount this because you may not know of these cases except for your
    Russian friend. Unless if you can see into the future that people who
    come to get educated in USA/Europe and work here will not be useful to
    their home continent’s future, I disagree with what you say. When you
    say “he lied to get accepted”, I see you ignore that he
    started companies and employs people in Zimbabwe already? I see this
    means nothing to you. I’m sure this was a big factor why Stanford
    accepted him.

  • sky

    I guess its because you need to build credibility. Successful countries run on successful instituitions. So if zimbabwe has to become successful in the future its gonna need a succesful supreme court,an effective police system, etc etc. Now by working at a goldman or a citibank he will be exposed to successful instituition – even if its a for profit organization- …
    But people do go back….there are people who go back to their homelands and work for them. and they take their credibility with them. I can speak for my country , india and tell you there are many many people who go back and contribute in a positive manner…whether its in social service, entreprenuerial ventures or in politics and government..of the top of my head i can list names such as P chidambaram(harvard business – now cabinet minister), ramesh ramanathan(Yale SOM – citibank to extremely successful NGO), jerry Rao (Booth – citibank to founder of Mphasis whihc hires 1000’s of employees)
    .also even if someone does not go back …you can still act as a brand ambassador for your country …..tomorrow solely based on his recommendation goldman might open up a tower in downtown harare….the I banking job is just a start…

  • Well done! Beyond the skies there is no limit…zim representing

  • Ardie

    Keep going hard partner. That’s wassup.

  • AlexBarca

    Indeed, this is a very inspiring story. But at the same time, I don’t understand why someone would write about his future in Africa and how will make an impact there, if he just wants to land a Wall Street job. I have exactly the same example with my colleague, an HBS alumna, who wrote in her HBS application essays how deeply she loved, let’s say, Russia and how she’d like to contribute to development of the country. A few years after graduation when she was offered an opportunity to go back to her homeland and work in the regional office there, but not surprisingly, she said “no way I go back to this country again”… I understand that sometimes you have to lie to get a better paid job, to get into a highly-ranked MBA program… Overall, it raises many questions on mba admissions process and how cynically people can use their life stories to get in. If Mose had written from the very beginning that he ultimately would like to become an IB-banker at Goldman Sachs, it would’ve been be the same inspiring, but also very honest story than what it is now.

  • Sky

    Why would you say that….so what you re tryin to say is alll wall street banks are non credible…and all bankers are corrupt….i mean not some bankers are ….everyone is ????? …..grow up man…this is an inspiring story….because in a place like america when you’re a foreigner your country of origin is highly attached to your identity by americans…its not easy…and many americans love to stereotype because they have a hard time connecting at human level…..columbia = coke , india = IT , china = whatever etc etc…..its not easy..even for a stanford mba its not easy to stand out and work amongst daddys lil frat boy princesses who’ve done their undergrads at ivies and then walked into wall street with art history degrees…they are the people who’se credibility you can possibly judge….not someone who is a self made man….

  • Genevive Baker

    All this at the age of 28? Amazing. AIG_Quant is a Joker. Is that all you have to say about this story? Honestly? its true haters got to hate. Way to go Kutadzaushe

  • cliff mack

    It’s always inspiring to see you grow Farai. you have done us proud and the platform you have will propel you to the next level.

  • Mr African Consultant

    I joined the same work study program at Deloitte.As an African MBA candidate his story is an inspiration for me too!

  • Gazah

    I know Mose personally as a very good friend and colleague and we share a somewhat similar background and I believe he is destined for greater things. Keep up the good work!

  • Abraham Parker

    This is such an inspiring story Mose. I wish you all the best with everything!! I’m glad to count you as a friend.

  • Tam

    Really great story!!!! #inspiring.

  • AIG_Quant

    lost all his credibility after he got a job for a Wall Street bank