One Acre Fund is 10 years old, but our story is about Matthew Forti, who met One Acre Fund founder Andrew Youn when they were getting their MBAs at Northwestern’s Kellogg School, and joined the organization nearly a decade later.
Forti witnessed the development of One Acre Fund from the beginning, when Youn went on a trip from South Africa to Kenya and blogged extensively about the small farmers he met and befriended. As soon as Youn returned to Kellogg, he began developing a way to assist the farmers, who struggled to support themselves. In February 2006, he moved to Kenya and founded One Acre Fund, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit that loans money to small rural farmers, and trains them in farming techniques. In ten years, the number of farmers participating in One Acre Fund had surged from 38 to 305,000.
And all the while, Forti watched from the U.S., working nights and weekends to help them keep up with their immense growth. In 2013, he says he realized his relationship with One Acre Fund “had become a deep part of my being,” and he joined the organization full-time as a managing director in it’s U.S. office.
Now, he’s looking ahead to the next ten years, where political insecurity and climate change will be major challenges. But they plan to continue developing close relationships with the populations they serve, basing leadership within the rural communities, and they hope to pitch their model to governments and private industry.
Probably no one would leave Bain & Co. to open a mom-and-pop noodle shop. But at least one did hoping an MBA could help him build a noodle empire. Yuichiro Okutsu (Wharton ‘16) emphasizes that he was very happy at Bain & Co. He loved his job, and in fact, says he always tries to convince “Bainies” to stay at Bain. “But then, at the bottom of my heart,” he says. “I always wanted to start up a business myself.”
The idea for a noodle empire first came to him in 2012. He was in Shanghai, taking a year off from Bain to learn Chinese. While there, he starting thinking about industries that would thrive in Shanghai. One was noodles.
So he went to Wharton, and participated in the Wharton Semester in San Francisco program. While there, he studied entrepreneurship and was able to work with a Tokyo-based noodle chef who happened to be launching his first SF location. In exchange for assisting the chef with his business operations, Okutsu hoped the chef would help him with his recipes.
After graduating from Wharton, Okutsu says he returned to Shanghai, to begin looking for his first location. To make as money much as he did at Bain, he says he’ll probably have to open three stores. His goal is 30. “My base will be in Shanghai, but I’d like to expand,” he says. “It’ll be the first city, but not the last.”