A glowing victory at HEC case competition

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Published: 21Sep2018
Paola Perez-Aleman

MONTREAL, Quebec. On the evening of the HEC Social Business Creation competition, McGill start-up Kajou delivered, coming home with the First place prize of $15,000 for their business venture. Their business makes apple juice – with the apple of the cashew tree.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), roughly one-third of food produced in the world for human consumption every year is wasted. Kajou is reducing food waste, tackling the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of zero hunger, and supporting cashew farmers and their communities in Côte d’Ivoire increase and diversify their revenues by processing the cashew apple, a widely underused resource, creating a range of food products like cashew apple juice and cashew flour.

The HEC Montréal Social Business Creation competition boasts several prizes of $57,500 in total. The annual competition is open to university students at all levels, and all disciplines to offer an enriching learning experience in the social economy. Kajou withstood three rounds of intense competition to ultimately win first place.

Along the way, McGill Professors Paola Perez-Aleman, Alexander Khalil, and Nii Addy in the Desautels Faculty of Management, as well as Margaret Forrest in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES) are among those that supported Kajou with mentorship and training. The Kajou project was developed in the MBA course, Strategic Management for Developing Countries, taught by Professor Paola Perez-Aleman, and Creating a Small Business taught by Professor Alexander Khalil.

A finalist for the Food and Agribusiness Convergent Innovation Prize during the 2018 Dobson Cup, Kajou also took advantage of training opportunities in the run up to the HEC Social Business Creation competition finals. These included workshops provided by the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics and the McGill  Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship, in collaboration with the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program at FAES. Kajou was also one of eight finalists shortlisted across Canadian universities in the 2018 World Vision Social Innovation Challenge.

Kajou integrated multidisciplinary know-how, from management, agriculture, and international development in building an agri-food social business in the international context. The team includes two Desautels MBA students/alumni (Ismael Fanny from Côte d'Ivoire and Santiago Monroy from Colombia), FAES PhD student (Ella Ellis, a Queen Elizabeth Scholar from Ghana), an undergraduate International Development Studies (IDS) student (Sara Al Sharif from Bahrain), and MBA student/Transformational Senior Product Manager at Scotiabank (Thales Chainho from Brazil).

Kajou is redefining how Côte d’Ivoire simultaneously improves the livelihoods of farmers and approaches food waste, and they are looking for partners to further develop their venture. If you want to join the change Kajou is making in Côte d’Ivoire, you can get involved by: offering funding, and/or mentorship in marketing, product innovation, and business strategy expertise. If interested, contact Kajou at ismael [at] kajougroup.com.

— By JUSTINE TUPE, McGill Centre for Convergence of Health and Economics (MCCHE) Research Assistant

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