Network in Action: Highlighting the power of the Kellogg alumni network
One Acre Fund flourishes under the 'Kellogg effect'
by Chris Serb '09
Andrew Youn '06 has excelled at two things in his career: helping small farmers in Africa become prosperous, and raising funds.
But the founder and executive director of One Acre Fund freely admits he doesn't know everything about the agricultural business. That's where the Kellogg network came into play.
Kellogg Career Management Center Director Roxanne Hori thought that One Acre Fund could benefit from the knowledge of some key Kellogg alumni. Hori introduced One Acre Fund board member Matthew Forti '06, a consultant with The Bridgespan Group, to Mike Anderson '75, president and CEO of The Andersons Inc., a diversified agricultural firm. Anderson, in turn, connected Youn to Steve Wilson '74, chairman, president and CEO of CF Industries Holdings, one of the world's largest manufacturers and distributors of agricultural fertilizers.
"I liked Andrew's story because he was addressing a real need from a market-based perspective," Wilson says. "Andrew and I found common ground between a publicly traded, profit-seeking enterprise and a not-for-profit humanitarian organization. The complementarity was a wonderful thing to stumble upon."
In just five years, Youn has achieved quite a track record: One Acre Fund expects to aid 50,000 farm families in Kenya and Rwanda this year. In recognition of his efforts, Youn received the prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2010. But even the most successful ventures have business issues to solve, and one of Youn's big issues involved cost controls.
One Acre Fund typically purchased its fertilizer whenever its farmers needed the material, at whatever prices the market dictated. Since many farmers sought fertilizer at the same time, demand tended to push those prices higher at exactly the wrong moment. To better time those purchases, Wilson referred Youn to Keytrade AG, a global fertilizer trading company that is 50-percent owned by CF Industries.
"Within months, we had valuable advice that saved us more than $100,000 on our 2010 fertilizer purchase," Youn says. "Fertilizer is the most important humanitarian product needed by Africa. Steve understood what we were doing right away, and simply wanted to help."
Wilson's commitment to One Acre Fund went far beyond business advice. He and his wife, Sue, recently announced an outright gift of $500,000 to Youn's organization. In addition, the Wilsons have pledged to donate up to $500,000 more in matching funds for each new contribution brought in by One Acre Fund over the coming year.
"One Acre Fund is in the very early stages of evolution, and a contribution in this range is going to help it stay on its very steep growth curve," Wilson says. "And I know Andrew well enough to know that virtually all the money will find its way to the field as opposed to being absorbed by administrative costs. Andrew deploys his funds in a highly efficient fashion."
The Wilsons' donation is just the latest example of the Kellogg network's support for One Acre Fund. Recently, Clinical Professor Harry Kraemer '79 pledged the proceeds of his new book From Values to Action to the organization, calling it a real-life example of the values outlined in the book. Others have stepped forward as well.
"The business plan was written in Professor Barry Merkin's Entrepreneurship and New Venture Formulation class. Our founding board was made of Kellogg classmates, our initial start-up grant was from board members of the Levy Center for Entrepreneurship, and we have hundreds of alumni supporters," Youn says. "The 'Kellogg effect' is difficult to quantify, and the effect goes much farther than financial contributions."