One Student’s Quest to Transform Africa

Jacob Fohtung

Make no mistake. Jacob Fohtung MBA’19, MS’20 wants to change the world.

Fohtung’s path is one driven by the entrepreneurial mindset, fueled by curiosity, and inspired by the connections he has made along the way.

How is he changing the world? To start, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, resident is traveling to emerging markets to do research for his startup, Jamani Corporate Group. And, he has enrolled in his second graduate degree program at Babson College.

But, what drove Fohtung to pursue two degrees in the first place? The answer lies somewhere between big ideas and small steps.

That big idea? Transforming Africa.

“My ultimate dream is to create the right network and the right resources to transform the continent of Africa,” said Fohtung.

To do that, he needed to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

“I was very interested in entrepreneurship, and I knew that if I get an MBA, it would help me understand the mindset of an entrepreneur,” he said.

“Babson’s No. 1 ranking stood out to me,” said Fohtung, “and when I went for my interview, I felt that connection immediately and said to myself, ‘This is the place I have to be.’ ”

Fohtung enrolled in the Babson MBA in 2017. Soon after, his vision began to take shape.

Developing Connections

To help make his vision a reality, he immediately tapped into the many resources available to Babson—especially the faculty and staff

“I took a Managing Portfolios class taught by Professor Jasmina Hasanhodzic,” said Fohtung, “Not only did she understand the numbers, but she was an expert in the financial field.”

In addition, a team member from the Schlesinger Fund for Global Healthcare Entrepreneurship helped him journey to Uganda, where Fohtung met his current business partner. And, Assistant Professor Wiljeana Glover helped him secure a fellowship while in Uganda.

As things started to fall into place, Fohtung sought further help from Cindy Klein, whose role at The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Butler Launch Pad, is to manage the mentoring of student entrepreneurs. “Cindy is well-connected and gives you the right framework on how to think of things,” said Fohtung.

He next linked up with Rachel Greenberger, adjunct lecturer and director of Food Sol. “Rachel helped show me how to evolve something meaningful. And, she’s more than a mentor—she’s an advocate for what I am doing,” said Fohtung.

Starting an Ecosystem

Those connections, combined with lessons from his coursework, enabled him to begin to apply valuable insights directly to his business idea. “Through the Babson MBA, I learned to think big and start small—to start out with something attainable and build the platform first.”

In 2018, with the help of Babson Entrepreneurship Associate Professor Phil Kim, Fohtung started Jamani Corp.—a conglomerate of platforms that aims to build emerging markets.

“Jamani is the Swahili word for good friend,” said Fohtung. “In business, we need partners, and you need to be a good friend to get things done.”

For Fohtung, getting things done means being on the ground. “I go into emerging markets and interview investors and entrepreneurs to find out about opportunities and gain insights on the ground,” he said. “The idea is to do the research, do the stories—build a thesis first. After that, we will move into consultation and ultimately investing. Right now, we’re gradually building an ecosystem via this staging process that can potentially lead to sustainable investments that benefit local entrepreneurs and their communities in Africa.”

From MBA to MSF

Since Jamani Corporate Group combines business, entrepreneurship, and finance, Fohtung decided to enroll in Babson’s Master of Science in Finance program directly after finishing his MBA.

“In 2018, I had made the connections in my classes, and I had developed the mindset of an entrepreneur,” said Fohtung. “I knew it was a good time to get it done and go straight into my second degree.”

This summer, Jacob is doing research for Jamani Corporate Group in Thailand, Vietnam, and South Korea while preparing to jump back into the classroom this fall.

“One of my favorite things about Babson was talking to my classmates about what we were doing, and the connections we made. When I was visiting Peru, I connected with the brother of one of my classmates, who helped me start building my research project. It became clear to me, in that moment, that I can do what I wanted to do.”

Fohtung knows that the entrepreneurial mindset is not a concept—it’s something you learn, develop, implement, and nurture. And, that mindset gets him closer to his goals.

Posted in Entrepreneurs of All Kinds

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