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Noteworthy: Student teams advise entrepreneurs in Africa

Cornell students from the spinach and lavender SMART teams, both led by Ed Mabaya, meet with Spinach King Lufefe Nomjana (right) outside his Cape Town café.
(Credit: Global Cornell)


Entrepreneurs in developing economies face unique marketing challenges when growing their businesses. The Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Team (SMART) program at Cornell, now in its 15th year, has a long history of helping burgeoning entrepreneurs successfully expand their operations. Part of the Emerging Markets Program in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, SMART sends compact teams of undergraduate and graduate students to consult with small businesses around the globe.

This article from Global Cornell follows SMART students advising entrepreneurs in Africa, including a charismatic baker from the Khayelitsha township outside Cape Town who makes gluten-free spinach bread and farmers in Kenya who are developing high-protein porridge products.

Key takeaways about SMART:

SMART brings together students from across disciplines at Cornell to form advisory teams with a broad set of knowledge.

“All of us had completely different fields and areas of knowledge,” says Ryan Shen, an MPA student in the College of Human Ecology’s Cornell Institute for Public Affairs. “We had people from agriculture, business, public policy—so we were able to learn from each other and think about problems in new ways.”

SMART teams meet and work on site with their international partners for two intensive weeks during winter session.

In 2017, SMART worked with four African partners as well as entrepreneurs in Colombia and the southern United States.

Winter session is followed by a spring SMART course, where students complete their analysis and develop publishable case studies about their clients’ business solutions.

Many team members continue to consult with their international partners on a pro bono basis, even after they graduate.

SMART chooses businesses that are improving the communities in which they operate.

“We look for businesses doing something transformative for the community,” says Edward Mabaya, assistant director of the Emerging Markets Program and director of SMART.

Read the entire Global Cornell article to learn more about how students from Cornell’s SMART program are helping entrepreneurs in Africa expand their businesses.

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