The Trials and Tribulations of Working Internationally: Sometimes Just Getting There is a Victory

6/27/17 – This blog post is written by GSSE MBA venture team Asante Sana. Team members Keni, Matt, and Evan are dedicated to improving rural electrification in Uganda. First things first though, as the team encounters challenges typical of working internationally…

Team Asante Sana in Uganda

Team Asante Sana in Uganda: Evan, Keni, and Matt

Only 8% of Uganda’s rural population has access to electricity, which means that Uganda is in need of a solution. In order to develop our business plans and help this population we must first gain contextual knowledge of the area. Our goal is to use human centered design to develop a solution for the people we intend to serve.

At the time of this post we had just arrived in Uganda, so our first and foremost concern is gaining contextual knowledge. We are staying at a retreat center owned and operated by our partner, the Global Livingston Institute (GLI). GLI uses their facility as a platform for their development activities. We are one of many teams of researchers staying on site: there are also students here researching agriculture, water/sanitation, and women’s health. All projects implemented by GLI must be sustainable and must add value to the community.

Qatar Airport statue

Qatar Airport statue

Of course the first challenge we encountered was just getting here. We spent 44 hours traveling to the retreat center, including 4 plane flights, one car ride, one border crossing, and a boat ride across Lake Bunyonyi at 1AM. We learned that Qatar has amazing falafel, although we are slightly concerned about the large statue of a teddy bear in the airport. We also learned that sometimes planes make stops to pick up other customers on the way to their actual destination. Our flights were rerouted half a dozen times before our trip. Matt and Evan would still really like to find their bags.

As crazy as our trip was, we are grateful to be in Uganda and be able to work towards finding solutions for rural electrification. We are excited to be working with our partner in the field. We are especially excited about market day tomorrow. Maybe the boys can buy some clothes to tide them over until their bags arrive.

Lake Bunyonyi from the Entusi Retreat Center in Uganda

Lake Bunyonyi from the Entusi Retreat Center in Uganda

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Altitude and Alpaca: Follow Fair Fibers’ Peruvian Adventure

6/23/17 – This post is written by students in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program on the Fair Fibers team. These students – Callie, Herry, and Lucas – are in Peru for the summer investigating the alpaca supply chain.

Fair Fibers in the Peruvian Altiplano

Fair Fibers in the Peruvian Altiplano

Fair Fibers is excited to be in Peru this summer! Our plan? To investigate the unequal wealth distribution within the alpaca fiber supply chain. On average, an alpaca farmer will make $2.50 USD per kilogram of alpaca fiber sold. This same amount of fiber is sold in the Western market for over $175 USD. This is because the fiber changes hands up to 20 times before reaching the consumer. Each intermediary in the process takes a cut and this leaves farmers with low wages and no bargaining power.

Fair Fiber has visited each part of the supply chain from fiber to finished good. We have conducted several in-depth interviews, including with:

  • The director of COOPECAN (a Peruvian cooperative of alpaca farmers with almost 2,000 members)
  • the CEO of Suritex (a processes of alpaca fiber that’s dedicated to social and environmental impact)
  • the director of Peru Opportunity Fund (a social impact investor funded by the Clinton Foundation), and
  • the director of the Ministry of Product of Lima who is kickstarting a sustainable alpaca fiber production program.
Fair Fibers presenting at universities in Lima

Fair Fibers presenting at universities in Lima

In addition to these conversations, we have given two presentations at universities in Lima on our business model proposal and in-country research. What have we found? There is available supply of fairly-traded and ethically-produced fiber for the US market. Farmers are already working on building capacity and Fair Fiber can help accelerate this plan into a reality.

Our favorite part so far was visiting a weaving community in Patacancha, Peru. These women live at an altitude of 4,800 meters (over 15,000 feet!) and raise, sheer, and weave clothing and textiles made from alpaca. We got to try our hand at the weaving process and quickly learned how difficult it is. We spent 3 days living with, learning from, and connecting with this community whose livelihood relies on selling to the western market. We hope to collaborate with them in the future for production.

Fair Fibers visiting weavers in the altiplano of Peru

Fair Fibers visiting weavers in the altiplano of Peru

What’s next on our journey? We are going directly to the source to visit the alpaca farmers (alpagueros) in the altiplano of Peru. We have farm visits scheduled and can’t wait to meet some new fur-friends. Then, we’ll head to the processing facilities that also have fair trade certifications to look at how the fiber is transformed into clothing and accessories for western markets. From all of these visits, we plan to build the foundation to create a sustainable for-profit business as a solution to this challenge.

Follow our adventures this summer at or on instagram @fairfiber.

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Finding our roots and growing our branches in Antigua: Selva Ventures’ first days in Guatemala

6/16/17 – Selva Ventures is a GSSE MBA venture team working to understand the problem of deforestation in Guatemala. We are working with two organizations: Fort Collins based Trees, Water & People and a Guatemalan organization called Utz Ché

1.6 billion people around the world rely on forests for food, fresh water, clothing, shelter, traditional medicines, and oxygen. Additionally, forests are absolutely integral to maintaining atmospheric and ecological stability. Unfortunately, forests are being lost at a rate of 50 thousand square miles per year; equivalent to 48 football field per minute.

Yes, you read that correctly. Our global forests are being lost at a rate of 48 football fields each and every minute!

Not only is this completely unacceptable, it is also avoidable. And because we need forests to breathe (minor details, right?), Selva Ventures will be conducting ethnographic research in five rural Guatemalan communities this summer to investigate sustainable solutions to this problem.

Right now, Megan and Lindsey are brushing up on Spanish by taking classes and living with a host family for full-on Spanish immersion. Claudio is keeping himself busy networking and searching for an interpreter to accompany us to these communities this summer. Michelle Sultan, a GSSE alum has also taken us under her wing by showing us around Antigua and introducing us to some very special parts of the city– especially those where you can find healthy farm to table food. Click here to read about what Michelle worked on during her practicum work in Guatemala a few years ago.

We are very excited to hit the road and head into the communities in a few days. After Spanish lessons finish up, we have meetings scheduled with Utz Ché to kick off our research. The first community we will visit is La Bendición in Escuintla. We will provide updates as we continue our research. We are looking forward to an adventurous and exploratory summer.

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Design Thinking to Save the Pollinators: a Bee-utiful Summer Practicum

Montana6/1/17 – This blog post is written by Montana Williams, a student in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA who is embarking on the summer practicum experience with his teammates Haroon Abasy, Sam Doll, and David Enden, for their venture, StrHive LLC.

In her book, The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd illustrates the most important lesson a novice beekeeper can learn: “Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.” After spending a school year familiarizing ourselves with the art and science of beekeeping, we couldn’t agree more. That’s why my venture team is working to understand the challenge of pollinator loss in the United States. These assiduous little ladies and other insect pollinators contribute an estimated $29 billion to farm income in the US alone (Ramanujan, 2016). That’s a lot of money! Putting economics aside, we need these pollinators to help diversify our food supply and keep our natural and urban ecosystems flourishing. Just imagine a world without 75 percent of our flora. You can’t? Yeah, we don’t want to either.

My team and I recognize that we cannot rely on government and policy change alone to help save pollinators; we must utilize the innovation and talent of business to incentivize change. We are currently working with multiple organizations and individuals within the three key stakeholder groups surrounding honey bee health in the US—conservation groups, beekeepers, and farmers—to learn where business might make the greatest impact in mitigating this challenge. According to the Xerces Society, there are four main factors responsible for pollinator loss: the loss and fragmentation of habitat, the degradation of remaining habitat, pesticide poisoning, and the spread of diseases and parasites (Hoffman et al, 2011). Though pesticides and varroa mites seem to be blamed as the leading culprits in honey bee decline, habitat fragmentation and degradation are much more deleterious. Therefore, my team and I are focusing our efforts on finding business solutions to increasing honey bee and native pollinator populations in heavily fragmented ecosystems, such as urban and suburban neighborhoods or farmland.

Utilizing market research and design thinking techniques acquired during the school year we plan to immerse ourselves further in the world of pollinators to gain a better understanding of each key stakeholder group and how we might best design a business model to help mitigate the challenge. During our research, we found California to be in the greatest need of these services, which is why we will be spending the month of June traveling through the central valley of our nation’s golden coast. We will be speaking with farmers, beekeepers, conservation groups, municipalities, and homeowners within the central valley to help familiarize ourselves with the area and gain some insight into how we might best assist these stakeholder groups.

Staying true to the design thinking and lean startup methods we were taught this past year, we have released a MVP, or minimum viable product, to address pollinator loss in northern Colorado. This MVP is simply a swanky term for three honeybee hives we will be installing and maintaining for three lucky pilot clients. During this process, we are hoping to experience the art and science of beekeeping first-hand while simultaneously gaining a better understanding of the cost structure and revenue streams associated with the beekeeping business.

Please stay tuned for an update on what we learned from our California travels!

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Out in the World: Bringing Alumni Back to the Classroom

5/17/16 – In the last week of class for the semester, Dr. Susan Golicic invited three GSSE MBA alumni to come talk to her Supply Chain classes. We love hosting our alumni to come back to campus – the hard part is choosing which alumni, since they are all so great!

“The three alums discussed what life was like in the working world after getting an MBA from CSU. They started with introductions and briefly discussing how Supply Chain Management has impacted them in their current positions. They answered various questions from the students on their careers, their life, the balance between the two, and what they learned in the program that contributed to all of this. The students really appreciated hearing from them – many replied that it motivated them, helped them appreciate what they are going through, gave them hope, and one even replied it was their best session of the spring semester!” – Dr. Susan Golicic

Where they are now:
Colorado State University Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA alumni Christie Zimmerman
Christie Zimmerman

GSSE MBA Cohort 5

GSSE Team: Siembra Orgánica , helping connect Bolivian quinoa farmers to local sources of organic fertilizer.

Current Position: Product Standards Manager at Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage


Colorado State University Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise alumni Greg Goble
Greg Goble

GSSE MBA Cohort 5

GSSE Team: Noya Fibers, enabling Mongolian cashmere goat herders to properly graze their endangered grasslands and connecting them to high end cashmere markets.

Current Position: Lifecycle Specialist at Otterbox, and CEO of Noya Fibers


Global Social Sustainable Enterprise MBA alumni Andrew Kumar | Colorado State University
Andy Kumar

GSSE MBA Cohort 6

GSSE Team: LimaLinks, to enhance market information for farmers in Zambia.

Current Position: Product Manager at Envirofit International

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GSSE MBA Students Win Business Design Competition

Did you catch the news? Even Business Wire and Yahoo Finance picked up the story about how our GSSE students won $10k in a business design competition to figure out how to get millennials to save for healthcare and retirement. Their participation in the event along with their victory confirms two things:

  1. GSSE MBA students go above and beyond – this wasn’t part of their coursework, and the competition took place during the busiest 8 weeks of the program thus far; and
  2. The degree’s focus on social and sustainable enterprise, as well as the venture creation pedagogy, enabled these students to compete at the highest level against traditional MBA students. In other words, GSSE is kind of like an MBA+.

Learn more about the competition and the winning team via this CSU article and the Denver Post article. Congratulations to Charlie, Hannah, Meghan, and Montana – team Business for Good – on your well-deserved win!


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GSSE Venture Prepares to Scale Up Solar Business in Peru

12/21/16 – The Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program has been educating entrepreneurs since 2007 at Colorado State University. In our very first cohort, a team of students started PowerMundo, which continues distributing off-grid clean energy products in Peru. GSSE alumni Michael Callahan is the CEO of PowerMundo, and was interviewed in this article about their recent recognition and support from the Development Innovation Ventures program at USAID. Congratulations, PowerMundo!


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Alumni Spotlight: Get to Know Charitha from Cohort 4


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A Deep Dive into the Waste Problem in the Galapagos


GSSE students Justin and Senna conducted field work in the Galapagos.

10/3/16 – This blog post was written by students in the GSSE MBA who conducted field work in the Galapagos in regards to overconsumption, waste management, and environmental conservation.

The Galápagos Islands have been globally recognized for their high levels of biodiversity and endemism (species found nowhere else on earth). Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection was famously inspired here and in 2001 the islands were declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.  This fame has led to an explosion of tourism industry growth over the past 50 years.  In the late 1960s, the islands received approximately 2,000 visitors per year.  As of 2007, this number had increased to more than 160,000 per year. The economic benefits of the tourism industry have also led to a boom in resident population growth from 4,000 in 1970 to over 25,000 today.

In response to the negative effects of the increasing human footprint in the Galápagos, UNESCO added the archipelago to the list of “At Risk” World Heritage Sites in 2007. In the same year, the President of Ecuador issued an Emergency Decree declaring the conservation and environmental management of the Galápagos ecosystem a national priority.  Among the many challenges the islands face are the upward-shifting trends in consumption patterns and per capita waste generation from both residents and tourists.  Simply put, creating “green” waste management practices on a chain of small volcanic islands 600 miles from the mainland is not an easy task.


Senna touring a cardboard recycling facility in the Galapagos.

To fully dive into exploring this problem, we partnered with Intercultural Outreach Initiative (IOI), a US-based NGO with a small campus in Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island.  Isabela is the largest of the Galápagos islands but has one of the smallest populations (~2,500), with most of the island being reserved for the Galápagos National Park.  Past research and development projects conducted by the World Wildlife Fund and Toyota provided the foundation for our research and we were very fortunate to receive guidance and onsite waste management tours from key WWF and local municipality resources in the Galápagos.

The European Union, AECID, WWF, Toyota, and other organizations have all made substantial investments and efforts to address the waste management crisis in the Galápagos.  However, a great deal of work remains to be done.  Facilities, equipment, and processes have all been designed and built, but ongoing maintenance and supply chain constraints often bring progress to a halt.  For instance, during our stay and for the past six months prior, although residents are actively separating their waste into organic, recyclable, and non-organic color-coded containers, both recyclables and non-organic waste is currently being dumped into a single unsealed landfill (which is on fire) since the only compacting machine they have is not functioning. The garbage trucks have bald tires, cracked windshields, broken speedometers, and no spare parts for their extensive bumpy city routes with an eight mile trek up into the highlands where the waste facilities are located.


The burning landfill in the Galapagos.

In addition to the interviews with WWF, Galápagos National Park, and the local municipality employees, we were able to meet with many local business owners to learn more about the challenges they face.  We rode along in the recycling truck for a full day’s run, logging GPS route data throughout the trip for cost and operational efficiency analysis.  After learning about the waste management situation on Isabela we were also shown around the recycling center on Santa Cruz in Puerto Ayora, which services a much larger population.


Evidence of the substantial waste problem in the Galapagos.

In addition to the maintenance and operational challenges, geographic and supply chain issues create strong barriers to green waste management.  On paper, all of the recyclable material should be separated, compacted, and transported to the docks for transport to be sold in the mainland Ecuadorian cities of Guayaqil and Quito.  However, the distance from the recycling facilities to the docks creates substantial overhead, and there is no port on the island, so all cargo must be carried out on one small water taxi at a time to the cargo ships which only arrive once every two weeks.  Additional human economic factors further reduce the revenue generated from these efforts, making a sustainable financial model all the more challenging.

Now that we understand the problem better, we are looking for solutions which will empower onsite waste processing of up-cyclable materials in island environments which have geographically deadlocked waste streams such as Isabela.  Our research has shown that PET plastic bottles offer the highest potential value and are fueled by a constant source of tourist water bottles and local disposable containers.  As we continue our efforts we plan to use the well-understood Isabela island environment as an initial pilot case for a much larger impact solution.

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Impact in Indonesia: Leveraging the Debt for Conservation program

9/30/16 – This post is the second by the team working on agroforestry initiatives in Indonesia this summer for the GSSE MBA field work. Their startup, Mama Bumi, is identifying opportunities in niche industries where they can have an impact. You can read their first post here.


Team Mama Bumi exploring a bamboo farm in Indonesia.

One of the major themes of the first semester of the GSSE program is realizing that the global issues we are studying are not easily solved nor understood. They are interwoven into the fabric of communities and many times don’t have a simple or quick fix. These are wicked problems – just like the issues of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia.

Therefore before our team left for our summer venture field work, we conducted primary and secondary research through Skype interviews and information online about the problems we were to tackle in Indonesia. We needed to attempt to understand what types of issues exist with solving this problem and subsequently how to best tackle it. Indonesia is increasingly becoming one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions in the world due to the demand for palm oil. This demand can be mainly attributed to developed countries who import it and use it in a plethora of consumables. For example, it can be found in shampoo, soap, processed foods and even ice cream. One of the conclusions of this secondary research was that reducing or stopping the production of palm oil in Indonesia was not an optimal venture for a GSSE team to embark on. Palm oil is one of the largest exports for Indonesia, and therefore the government is in conflict about halting production versus conserving their land.

Since Indonesia has experienced increasing scrutiny in the public eye around this issue, the US government implemented a ‘debt for conservation’ program where they would forgive about $80M in debt provided the money gets put towards conservation efforts in the country. This is where our venture, Mama Bumi, comes in. Our partner organization, the Kehati Foundation, is an Indonesian organization that has over 1000 grantees working to improve biodiversity and conservation within the country’s borders. Many of the grantee organizations that we interviewed were born out of the ‘debt for conservation’ legislation that was passed. Our team decided to focus on the positive impact and alternative uses of the land that were being conducted within the country. Over the course of our research, we saw many different products that were promoting positive and sustainable lifestyles from the local communities. One of the major products being grown sustainably is coffee, as we discussed in our first blog post. But our team was excited to find other sustainable products that promote land conservation such as honey, bamboo shoots, rattan products like handbags, tribal weavings, natural dyes, sea salts, essential oils, and coconut products. We all saw potential with many of these products for markets in the US as there is a drive towards buying sustainable products that aren’t harming the environment.

Our research and work doesn’t stop there, however. Our next task is to develop a supply chain for these sustainable products in the US. In our final semester, we will be building out a business plan, including identifying distribution channels and markets for selling these products.

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