Competition Provides Hands-on Lesson on Impact Investing

Babson students at an impact investing competition.

Hweedo Chang MBA’23 had long been interested in impact investing, so when he learned about a program that teaches MBA students about investing in socially-conscious startups while competing with colleges across the country, entering the program became a personal goal.

Chang even mentioned the competition, the Turner MIINT, in his Babson College MBA application essay.

“It’s kind of funny how everything came back full circle,” Chang said. He and a group of like-minded Babson students, with the support of Babson’s Institute for Social Innovation, spent the past year competing in the rigorous program.

The Turner MIINT, hosted by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, was originally called the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT). Chang and his team were the first Babson students to take part in the contest, joining more than 600 MBA participants from business schools around the globe to compete for a $50,000 grand prize to invest in the winning team’s startup.

“It was a real honor to be able to bring that to Babson,” Chang said. “I hope that everyone who participated in this last year got a lot of value out of it.”

He learned about the competition, which is co-produced by the Bridges Impact Foundation, while researching socially-focused MBA programs. His interest came as demand for the private impact market has surged, growing 63% from 2019 to 2022, according to a recent study by the Global Impact Investment Network.

“I wrote in my essay that I hoped to connect with (Babson’s Institute for Social Innovation Executive Director) Cheryl Kiser and gather impact investors within Babson to enter,” Chang said. “It was really about gaining hands-on, practical experience.”

Hands On

Chang met his eventual team co-lead Martha Buckley MBA’23 due to their shared interests in sustainability and social innovation. The two were discussing the Turner MIINT toward the end of their first year when they both started taking the idea of entering more seriously.

“We both had this, ‘I wonder what it would take,’ moment, where we were thinking about what we needed to do to make it happen,” Buckley said. “We decided to put together a formal proposal, do the legwork and see what happens.”

Babson students at an impact investment competition in Philidelphia.
Hweedo Chang MBA’23 (front) and the Babson team after competing in the Turner MIINT competition in Philadelphia.

Once they got support from Kiser, they spent June rounding up potential team members, filing applications, and preparing for the rigorous competition that kicked off in October with a crash course in impact investing.

“There are eight core modules within the program that essentially walk us through, from start to finish, the impact investment cycle,” Buckley said, adding that current impact investors taught the modules.

Each team develops an investment thesis, then goes on to source potential investments, conduct due diligence, and ultimately craft an investment memo to pitch their chosen startup. Despite coming in as newcomers, Chang and Buckley were able to work together easily—a pivotal asset during the whirlwind process.

“When we had to develop our impact thesis, we had both decided independently that the food and agriculture space was the impacted area where we wanted to focus our investment,” Buckley said.

Other critical assets included Kiser, Sara Minard, and others at the institute, who helped the team navigate the process while connecting them with key mentors and advisors who have participated in or judged the contest.

“We were really lucky when it came to the people who helped coach us and advise us,” Chang said. “Something that I didn’t really anticipate during the application process was the importance of finding the right people. Cheryl was definitely a champion for us, but having Martha join as my co-pilot was essential to implement this program into Babson.”

‘Diving in Blind’

The competition turned out to be far more intensive—and rewarding—than Chang or Buckley expected.

“Because this was Babson’s inaugural year, we didn’t have other students who had gone through the program that we could reach out to for advice,” Buckley said. “It was kind of like diving in blind, with no idea of what the year was going to be like.”

Even with help from mentors, team members did much of the work themselves. They exhaustively sourced, vetted, and agreed on a business called Snacktivist in Idaho, which sells a line of regenerative, plant-based baking mixes crafted to be healthy and gluten-free while still delivering on taste.

“You get to know the entrepreneur really closely,” Buckley said. “We felt a true sense of responsibility to put our best foot forward for them, because we wanted them to win that investment.”

Chang, Buckley, and the Babson team put together a 27-page investment memo, and eventually made it to the finals to deliver a 10-minute presentation deck to judges in Philadelphia. Though they didn’t win the investment, the payoff is the real-life experience combined with networking opportunities with current impact investors.

“The opportunity to gain this kind of hands-on experience and to have tangible skills by the end of the program is something that I’m really happy about,” Chang said. “It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a tough program, but the value you get out of it is proportional to the amount of work and energy and time you put into it.”

“The opportunity to gain this kind of hands-on experience and to have tangible skills by the end of the program is something that I’m really happy about.”
Hweedo Chang MBA'23

Not only did he complete a key goal that he had declared at the beginning of his Babson MBA program, but he and Buckley helped spark interest in a new tradition.

“We’re in the process of talking with the Babson administrators about what the future of this program may look like,” Chang said. The Turner MIINT is so rigorous that many colleges and universities have their own curriculum to help students prepare.

“Exactly what a course or program would look like is still to be determined, but there’s a lot of interest from the first-year MBA community,” Chang said.

Buckley, who got a job in impact investing at a Cambridge firm called Sunwealth, encouraged anyone interested in the Turner MIINT competition or impact investing to give it a try.

“It’s really intense, it was really exciting, and it was an incredible opportunity,” Buckley said. “I’m just so grateful that we had Babson and the Institute’s support from the get-go.”

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