Note: The Harvard Social Enterprise Conference features “Pitch for Change” — an elevator pitch contest for people with an idea for a new social venture. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be featuring interviews with last year’s Pitch for Change participants.
Today’s Pitch for Change conversation is with Mohamed Ali Niang of Malo Traders. This enterprise seeks to alleviate poverty, combat food insecurity, and eradicate malnutrition in Mali. Their strategy is to minimize the post-harvest losses of small-scale farmers, increasing profits of harvests by creating an efficient rice value chain, and fortifying rice with micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, zinc, and folic acid.
Where were you a student when you were participated in Pitch for Change?
I was a student at Fox School of Business Management (Temple University)
What are you doing now?
We are still working on getting the venture of the ground. Salif (Co-founder) and I are semi-finalists for the Echoing Green fellowship and should find out whether we made it to the next round in March. I am also an Unreasonable Institute Finalist – I am seeking sponsorships so that I can become a Fellow this summer. You can visit my profile at and support our cause by donating at the Unreasonable Marketplace and spreading the word to people who are passionate about fighting poverty and nutritional insecurity. My life is still wrapped up in Malo Traders.
What was the best part of participating in Pitch for Change?
My favorite part was the final presentation in the auditorium full of people. That opportunity was followed by getting a chance to get feedback and comments on our venture, which were really valuable.
What was the most difficult or challenging part of participating?
The most difficult part for our team was conveying our full message and vision in a 60 second pitch for the first round. You really have to boil it down to your core value proposition. To be effective, your pitch has to be as lean as possible but at the same time be sufficiently compelling for judges to vote in your favor.
If you could go back in time, what would you change about your Pitch?
I would have my made my second pitch more straight forward. I think it would have been helpful to limit our presentation to the problem/opportunity, our solution/business model, our social impact and why our team is best fit to get done job done.
What’s the current status of the social enterprise you pitched?
Malo Traders was incorporated as a limited liability corporation (LLC) in September 2010. We continue to build our Board of Advisors, participate in social entrepreneurship competitions and conferences, and reach out to potential investors.
During the summer of 2010, we interned for the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) and were tasked with studying the viability of UltraRice® in Mali and Senegal in particular. Our final report was based primarily on interviews with 37 key stakeholders (government agencies, international organizations, local NGOs, international NGOs, and businesses) in Bamako, Mali and Dakar, Senegal.
What advice would you offer this year’s Pitch for Change participants?
I would recommend that this year’s participants come to the Conference fully prepared. This will alow them to take their in Cambridge time to get to know other participants and Conference attendees. I would advise them to remember to have fun and take full advantage of the conference’s programming, as well as the plethora of interesting attendees.
Randy Paynter, Care2′s CEO, will be speaking at this year’s Harvard Social Enterprise Conference. Register here to attend.
Photo credit: via Flickr by paulshaffner