Thursday was a busy day for the Essmart team. As a President’s Challenge finalist, Rob and I were fortunate to attend a lunch with Professor Muhammad Yunus. Each finalist team got to briefly describe our start-up idea, and then the floor was open for questions.
Two points that Professor Yunus made during his answers stood out to me the most. The first is that the Grameen Bank does A LOT, but they didn’t start out that way. He started by taking bite-size steps. He identified one problem, for one person, in one village, and solved that. When that worked, others came to him with the same problem. So he solved that too. Since then, the Grameen Bank has grown, and now they have many, many different business lines.
Part of me has a hard time believing that you can be successful with so many different business activities. We’ve been trying to narrow Essmart’s focus recently because we’ve received feedback that we’re trying to do to much. That being said, the Grameen Bank expanded slowly over 30 years. They did start out very focused, and Professor Yunus definitely emphasized the importance of taking small steps, of changing one life, and then thinking about scale.
Second, Professor Yunus said that he doesn’t often talk about failures. Not because he doesn’t learn from them, but because he views every failure as simply an idea to be put on the back burner. He’ll then pull out these ideas later down the road, when he’s found a more appropriate place for them, or he’s figured out a way to fix them. I’m a firm believer that we should talk about failures and lessons learned more in this field, and I found this framing of failures rather interesting.
After lunch with Professor Yunus, Taylor, Jaya and I pitched Essmart at the Boston Beta demo night. It was a fun and relaxed event. I got to practice my pitch again (you can never practice enough!), and I enjoyed watching Taylor and Jaya pitch! We’ve definitely all started to adapt some of the same phrasings when pitching. Thanks to all those that came up and supported us!