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ESADE MBA Entrepreneurs Launch Start-Up To Tackle Social Enterprise

For four ESADE MBAs, entrepreneurship with a touch of social good is the perfect career path. Eduardo Costa is a serial entrepreneur - and his next start-up challenge is social enterprise in Brazil.

Tue Jan 28 2014

Deep in a remote region of Brazil, in the tiny village of Jua, you may find four ESADE Business School MBAs hoping to tackle the 5,000 inhabitants' social and economic issues through new-found business knowledge.
Well, for Eduardo Costa, it is not so new-found. He is something of a serial entrepreneur; with two previous start-ups to his name and an entrenched family value of small business. But the ESADE groups' co-founder, Brazilian by birth, is certainly hoping that his MBA will give their social enterprise start-up a kick. 
Afterall, it brought Eduardo and his three like-minded classmates - Julia Arno, Jimmy de Koning and Mohamed Rachid - together to launch a new type of business.
Other business schools may be considered factories for financiers and management consultants, but ESADE, Eduardo says, also gives you the tools to let you choose your own path - and develop an "entrepreneurial mind-set". 
So when the four entrepreneurs banded together to launch The Meaningful Institute, a split between a consulting and personal development/coaching business, they were hoping to tackle some pretty big problems with a relatively small idea.
They hope to help young people (aged 20-30) with a three-week program that will be a mix of personal and business development, focusing on soft and hard skills - with a touch of social immersion. They will run these three-week programs in different areas of Brazil, starting with Jua. 
"It's a poor village with a lot of issues," says Eduardo. "So the people on our program will use these business tools to try and come up with solutions to solve some of the problems in the community. There is a culture [in Brazil] with a lot of potential to develop business, and it's an interesting area to get into."
It's certainly not your traditional start-up idea, Eduardo agrees. The ESADE four came up with the idea while working on a consulting project during their MBA - although separate to the curriculum.
And their "outcome" was the idea to launch The Meaningful Institute, as well as another "educational platform" which is still in the works. Eduardo insists they can't reveal anymore.
If his closely-guarded idea is anything like the previous businesses he has launched, then I've no doubt it will be a success. Even before beginning an MBA, he co-founded two businesses from scratch, one a technology solutions company in Rio de Janeiro and the other an online business that he gave up to begin an MBA program.
He may have begun life in a telecoms company, but after two years he decided a corporate career wasn't for him. Eduardo takes inspiration from his parents, both of whom are entrepreneurs. His father used to trade clothing in Brazil.
"I was always involved in their business conversations over lunch or dinner. And I liked it," Eduardo says. "My family background was the start of my decision [to become an entrepreneur]. 
"I like the aspect of freedom; being able to take decisions which, sometimes in big companies, is not so easy. Decisions come from top to bottom in those situations."
Eduardo developed his first business with two of his university professors back in Brazil. They developed fiber-optic sensors - "a very tech-based start-up" - and after five years, sold the company on.  Another three years in an "executive" career was enough to convince him that entrepreneurship was the only way to go. 
In 2011 he co-founded another start-up, an internet business. "All the experience of my previous venture made me believe it was possible to keep doing this with other companies: creating a company from scratch, developing it, and selling it on a few years later," he explains. 
But after just four months, he moved to Barcelona to begin an MBA at ESADE - one of the highest MBA Ranking schools in Spain. "I thought the MBA would be the perfect environment to not just benefit from knowledge, but to find partners for a new business idea," Eduardo continues. 
"ESADE has the entrepreneurial mind-set which is something I was looking for and on top of that, it's a school that fosters social business. Above all, I wanted to find peers that would allow me to start-up a social business in an international environment."
And he did just that, launching The Meaningful Institute with classmates Julia, Jim and Mohammed last year. The ESADE MBA has "definitely" helped them get the business off the ground. "We're trying to do something a little different as entrepreneurs," Eduardo adds. 
"Most MBAs that have an idea follow a set-path: create a project, develop it, look at partners and then raise funds.  But what we did was create a team first, and then look for an idea to do."
Business school gives students many different things, but it seems for these four entrepreneurs, the most valuable asset was forming a team that can tackle social enterprise. 
Although less so in recent years, it something of a rarity to find businesses that want to be profitable and achieve social good at the same time. 
But the residents of Jua are in for a surprise when Eduardo and co show up with their band of business professionals eager to tackle the town's problems.
It seems entrepreneurship can take many forms.