Ryou Nagai started his social enterprise after an MBA at France’s EDHEC Business School. His aim: to raise the living standards of poor people in emerging markets.
Launched in August this year, BMP Japan works as the sales arm of cocoa and mango producers in remote corners of the world, improving the quality of their products and opening access to new, global markets.
Ryou’s aim is to develop a network of producers and buyers in Japan and Europe and, in the next couple of years, generate at least one million euros ($1.2 million) in revenue for farmers throughout the developing world. Already, he’s brought €40,000 ($47,000) in revenue to cacao producers in Togo.
A serial entrepreneur from Japan, Ryou led a fair-trade coffee project in Timor-Leste, or East Timor, in Southeast Asia before business school. Through the EDHEC MBA’s entrepreneurship track, he worked through the entire process of developing his new business—from idea conception to launch.
Now, he’s looking expand his business into Europe with the help of two ex-MBA colleagues he met at EDHEC.
Why did you decide to start your own social enterprise?
When I was based in Timor-Leste to lead an NGO’s program, I noticed that most of the obstacles that are hindering the poor to escape from poverty are gaps; a gap between farmers and the market, a gap between bank and the poor, a gap between unemployed youths and vocational training centers, a gap between insurers and the bread-winners.
My interest in starting a social venture has evolved ever since and I decided to launch after the MBA.
What do you hope to achieve?
Our mission is to create a world where even the most destitute people in the most remote areas of the planet can achieve well-being.
Five years from now, we see ourselves becoming a social business conglomerate with a much wider scope of business, including development and sales of affordable financial products, support of local SMEs, assistance to vocational training centers, and improvement of logistics networks in local communities, to achieve our mission.
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own business?
It’s never too early to start speaking to your MBA colleagues or business people you meet during the MBA about your business ideas. The time you spend as an MBA student is a precious time to develop your business plan because you are surrounded by business professionals—it’s an extraordinary environment.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at EDHEC?
I believe joining the EDHEC MBA is a good option for those who want to start their own business. The entrepreneurship track ends with you pitching your business plan to real angel investors.
EDHEC’s internationally diverse community also sounded and proved to be a very beneficial environment. Learning together with 90 students from 39 different countries was something that I may not have had the benefit to experience if I had chosen to study at another MBA program.
How have you profited from your MBA experience?
EDHEC Business School has given me the skills and the confidence to start my own social venture.
Before joining the MBA, I’d never had an experience of managing or leading a business entity. Learning to understand the concept of healthy financial statements, data analytics, and other technical management skills, was a huge challenge for me. But now, I understand what it takes to make a good business leader.
Moreover, meeting all my MBA colleagues was very inspiring. If I hadn’t attended EDHEC, I wouldn’t have met my business partners who will run the Dutch branch of my business with me, and my ambition to expand the business to Europe would not have been viable at such an early stage.