“HBS focuses on multiple bottom lines.”

A self-proclaimed “global citizen,” Fola Folowosele found the transition from Nigeria to Williams College full of surprises. “It was my first intense winter,” Fola says. “You think you’re prepared, but…then you experience it. I’d run from my dorm room to my classes. Playing soccer outside was tough.” And it wasn’t just the weather: “I thought it would be much more technologically advanced. Living in a town with just one street light was quite a shock.”

Yet Fola’s Williams years awakened an appetite for travel, a “wanderlust” that took him from a semester abroad in London to a career move to Central America, with an energy company, despite the fact that “I didn’t know Spanish and I knew nothing about the energy industry!” He quickly mastered both – and learned something more. “I saw how business could be a tool for favorably impacting communities,” Fola says. His employer, Globeleq Mesoamerica Energy, helped land owners obtain titles before the company leased property from them and gave them a fair share of the revenue generated from the wind turbines on their property. “To me, that was a strong signal on how to work and lead positively.”

Growing cultures

After Mesoamerica, Fola started a social enterprise with funding from MTN, a telecommunications company in Africa thatuses football (soccer) scholarships to “create a student athlete culture across the continent, beginning with Nigeria. I want kids to have the opportunities I had. The program isn’t just for scholarship winners – it’s really there to encourage kids to work hard academically and enjoy sports.”

Learning how to apply business principles to drive social impact was part of Fola’s motivation to attend HBS. “This is an institution,” Fola says, “that focuses on multiple bottom lines.” One of these is cultural impact. In his FIELD 2 trip to Chongqing, Fola experienced yet another example of the power of cultural outreach. “Our client, Owen Education, asked us to expand their ESL business in China. While Owen focused on real fluency, their competitors concentrated on a tactical education that simply helped students pass their exams. Our customer research gave us an idea. We found that similar to most foreign students, many Chinese kids struggled to fit into the social culture of American universities, so we recommended that Owen shift its focus from just teaching English to teaching their students how to fit in with American culture.”