How We Got Here
Before we get into the fun and exciting part of this blog we’d like to give everyone a short history lesson. Back in the fall of 2008 a Rwandan entrepreneur contacted Babson College looking for some help writing a business plan for an English language institute. A Management Consulting Field Experience team took up the challenge and two Babson students eventually traveled to Rwanda to help get the institute up and running. The institute was opened successfully and the Babson team returned home. In the fall of 2009 a team began to put together a business plan focused on creating a permanent Babson presence in Rwanda. Another MCFE team picked this idea up and traveled to Rwanda in order to perform due diligence and figure out whether an in-country partner could be found to co-sponsor the project. After meeting with a number of different ministries and organizations in Kigali the team was able to come to an agreement with the Private-Sector Federation, an organization working to represent the interests of business owners in Rwanda. In the fall of 2010 Ben Cox and Christopher Smith traveled to Rwanda to found the Babson-Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center. Over the last two years Ben and Chris have worked to increase entrepreneurial activity in Rwanda in a number of ways–Helping to coordinate and instructing at the Babson Entrepreneurial Leadership Academies, hosting Global Entrepreneurship Week/Rwanda, putting together a landscape report of organizations supporting entrepreneurs in Rwanda, and consulting for businesses here.
About a year ago, Dean Hanno asked me what my plans were after graduation. Assuming that he was just being polite and trying to ease a spring semester Senior’s anxiety about being unemployed I told him that I was pretty sure I would be heading to India in July as part of a yearlong fellowship. I was really surprised when he asked “on a scale of 1 to 10 how committed are you to that program?” No congratulations on the offer, no that sounds like an amazing opportunity, not even an I’m glad you’re already hunting for jobs. I was a little shocked but told him that I hadn’t accepted yet. When he told me that he was looking for two Seniors to take over the Babson-Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center I was even more surprised. We grabbed a coffee and within twenty minutes I was convinced. I asked who else he had approached about the opportunity and he said “you’re the first, go on out and find someone that you think you would work well with.”
Shortly after that meeting I sat down to put together a list of people I thought might want to take on the country director job. I wracked my brain several times but no matter what the list always ended up just being a single entry—Haya Alzaid. Haya had traveled all around the world while she was at Babson and still managed to be involved in just about everything Babson had to offer. She was also one of those people who are perpetually happy which is a huge bonus when the person you’re working with is also going to be your roommate. After a couple of weeks of cajoling and convincing Haya signed on.
Fast-forward to September 4th. After a whirlwind day of printing business cards, getting good conduct letters from the chief of police, and finally signing our contracts (a detail we had somehow overlooked) we arrived at Logan International around 2:30 AM. We had a packed itinerary going from Boston to D.C.; D.C. to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Addis to Entebbe, Uganda; and finally from Entebbe to Kigali, Rwanda. Thirty hours later we arrived in Kigali, bright-eyed and bushy tailed.