Nimisha Ganesh is a Class of 2021 MBA graduate from Harvard Business School and the Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer of GenUnity, a civic leadership startup. Prior to HBS, she worked at Goldman Sachs and Kitamba, a U.S.-based social impact consulting firm.

Why did you apply to HBS?

I wanted a general management skillset that transcended sectors – private, non-profit, and public. Our most urgent social issues require a multi-faceted approach that spans these sectors because those with the financial and other resources to address these issues are not necessarily those with expertise to solve them. As a result, we need to build pathways to align resources more effectively and achieve more just outcomes. All this can be facilitated by those who can work at the intersection of these sectors and are able to navigate and align incentives across the three – “tri-sector athletes” as Matt Segneri, now director of the Harvard Innovation Labs and formerly the Director of the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative, had described them. HBS seemed like the perfect place to learn how to become one!

What is the Scaling Minority Businesses course? Why did you take it?

Following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others, I felt my own unlearning journey had been accelerated, and I wanted to better understand why there are barriers that prevent marginalized communities from equitably accessing the tools and benefits of capitalism. Scaling Minority Businesses was a new field course offering taught by Professors Archie Jones, Henry McGee, and Jeff Bussgang and developed during the summer of 2020 in partnership with fellow classmates Allie O’Shea, Mickias Hailu, and Shani Carter. This course supported students to explore why racial inequity in business exists and work on real-world projects with Black and Latinx-led businesses in Greater Boston – a proximate learning experience that seemed like exactly the opportunity I was seeking.

The course itself consisted of a mix of lectures, a live case, panels, and project work. The curriculum spanned a variety of topics – from an exploration of history and the economic landscape to the role of procurement and barriers to accessing financial capital – and each class featured prominent guests and leaders in these fields. We heard from researcher Andre Perry (Brooking Institute and author of Know Your Price) on the myths surrounding racial injustice and how Black property has been systematically de-valued. Other guests included Segun Idowu (CEO of the Black Economic Council), Professor Michael Porter, Lolita Taub (Co-Founder and General Partners at The Community Fund), Kimberly Marshall (Launch with Goldman Sachs), and Sharon Patterson (President & CEO of the Billion Dollar Roundtable).

What was your experience taking the course? Did anything surprise you?

Scaling Minority Businesses was one of my favorite courses and I am truly honored to have had the opportunity to be part of the first class. Stephanie Myles (fellow classmate, rockstar activist, and now dear friend!) and I were teamed up to support Cruz Companies, the largest Black-owned business in Massachusetts, with developing a five-year strategic plan for their property management division. Over the course of six weeks, we met with various leaders and staff members to unpack the systemic barriers to their growth and create an actionable framework to support their expansion in the low-income and mixed affordable housing space.

Learning about racial injustice in a classroom and meeting with those who are experiencing and working on the issue are two different things. This class had the perfect balance of both and was a rare opportunity to have meaningful conversations and, for me, explore what allyship as a future business leader can look like.

What else would you want future HBS students to know about this course and HBS in general?

Bryan Stevenson (founder of the Equal Justice Initiative) spoke to my first year (RC) class at HBS and one of his key lessons for us was to “get proximate” to those in our communities and empathize with their lived experiences. This course is an incredible opportunity to begin to do that and learn in a proximate way - I could not recommend highly enough.

More broadly, HBS is an opportunity to reflect deeply on how you can use this privilege and your skills towards addressing racial and social injustice, wherever you are. We all have a role to play in the world we create.