More than 100,000 people live in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement located in southwestern Uganda. A group of rural villages, the settlement hosts refugees hailing from many countries across Africa.
In the pandemic’s early days, Nakivale residents needed basic COVID-19 education about social distancing and hygiene. Getting that message out, however, would not be easy. Enter Arist, a text message learning platform founded by Babson entrepreneurs, one of whom is Maxine Anderson ’22, an advocate for the accessibility of education.
Nakivale may be a place where broadband internet access is far from universal and where shouting into a loudspeaker from a moving car is one of the best ways to spread a message, but many of its residents have access to mobile phones. Anderson felt pride as Arist teamed up with aid organizations and started delivering critical informational texts about the virus. “This is why our platform is so important,” Anderson says. “It can make education more accessible.”
As a Babson student, Anderson lives an entrepreneurial life, co-founding not only Arist but also Project W, a community of creative and innovative women from Babson, Olin, and Wellesley colleges. All of this activity makes for busy days, but as she pursues her passion for education, she is making an impact in places far from Babson Park. “It’s tiring, but it’s worth it to me,” she says. “It’s important.”
Problems That Needed Addressing
Anderson grew up in the Tampa Bay, Florida, area, but traveled across the country to attend high school in Oregon. She originally thought she would be an artist when she grew older, but her plans shifted as she performed community service, tutoring elementary students from the rural and economically depressed areas near her high school.
Anderson heard stories from students of siblings who were kicked out of the house for drug problems. Other students wouldn’t show up for weeks because their families had lost their homes. “I realized it was a whole different world I hadn’t experienced because I was lucky to have a more privileged life,” she says. “People face a whole lot of other problems beyond getting good grades.”
Anderson developed a tutoring curriculum that went beyond teaching math and reading. It focused on personal development, on goal setting and time management. That curriculum gave Anderson her first experience with entrepreneurship. “I saw problems in education that I wanted to address,” she says. “I started working on that curriculum and realized I liked creating something from scratch. That was the first thing I had built.”
“Her deep passion for education shines through in everything she does.”
Michael Ioffe ’21, co-founder of Arist
After Anderson graduated from high school, she took a gap year. For five months, she remained in Oregon to continue tutoring, and then she worked for a human rights group, helping with public service announcements in Costa Rica, Scotland, and Argentina.
When she came to Babson, she wanted to continue working in education, and joining eTower, she soon met Michael Ioffe ’21 and Ryan Laverty ’20, who already were working on Arist. “The idea was exciting to me,” says Anderson, who serves as Arist’s vice president of operations. “I thought it was a great opportunity to help run a company.”
Her fellow co-founders, Ioffe and Laverty, feel fortunate to have her on the team. “Her deep passion for education shines through in everything she does,” Ioffe says. “In a startup, everything is moving quickly and critical needs often arise out of left field, and Maxine is a jack-of-all-trades that can handle literally anything.”
The Perfect School
Since its founding in 2018, Arist has seen tremendous growth. In October, the company announced it had raised $1.9 million in seed funding, which will allow it to hire more staff. In addition to Arist, though, Anderson also is the co-founder and director of Project W. Anderson wanted to create a place for women innovators and leaders to come together and pursue their projects in a collaborative environment.
“It’s a place where they can be heard and feel understood,” she says. “It’s a community where they can accomplish their professional goals and innovate and create their ideas.”
In all her accomplishments, Anderson is thankful for the support she has received from the Babson community, whether that’s eTower (“You are around entrepreneurship nerds,” she says.) or the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, where she is a scholar (“CWEL made Babson feel like home to me.”) She even has heard from many Babson alumni, who have offered their help with Arist and Project W.
“I love Babson,” Anderson says. “It is the perfect school for me.”
Posted in Entrepreneurship of All Kinds