Last Spring Smith MBA, Kallen Trachsel and her team of three other MBA student consultants helped EcoEnergyFinance (EEF) deliver clean energy to rural Pakistan. EEF provides affordable renewable energy products to the most energy-deprived regions of Pakistan through a distribution network focused on reaching marginalized, rural communities. As a revenue generating nonprofit, EEF strives to develop diverse and sustainable funding streams through product sales and grant funding.
Through the Smith Experience Social Venture Consulting Practicum, Trachsel and her team worked with EEF and Smith faculty advisor, Oliver Schlake to develop recommendations on how EEF can achieve financial sustainability.
The MBA student team dove into EEF’s financials and operations. After analyzing the company, the team realized that in order for EEF to be attractive to grantors, it needed to boost the profitability of its solar lanterns while reducing operating and overhead costs. The team shifted the scope of their project to addressing operational issues that would lead to more sustainable revenue generation. They developed recommendations for EEF’s cost structure, sales and marketing strategies, inventory management and revamped the employee compensation structure.
Trachsel and her team heavily leveraged their MBA coursework during their analysis and recommendations. They valued each initiative using corporate valuation techniques taught in their finance courses, identified on-the-ground marketing opportunities based on their market management course and used the MECE consulting framework taught by Professor Protiti Dastidar to organize their recommendations. “This was a great opportunity for us to tie together our whole first semester of core curriculum,” said Trachsel.
Trachsel and the rest of the team presented their recommendations to Shazia Khan, Executive Director of EEF. Khan was particularly impressed with the recommendation to reduce EEF’s product mix to only those products the team proved had significant profitability, as well as the recommendation to change the payment structure of EEF’s on-the-ground sales team to provide greater incentives for higher sales. Khan plans to implement both of these recommendations.
Reflecting on the experience, Trachsel remembers the challenge and ultimate payoff of re-scoping the project after the team’s initial analysis. “We set ourselves up for success rather than failure. That’s what I learned out of all this; how to set realistic expectations.”
For students interested in applying for the Social Venture Consulting Practicum, Trachsel challenges them to look beyond the easy route of giving companies exactly what they want. Instead, dig in and find the core problems. “Find the issues and don’t be scared to show the owner what’s wrong with her own company.”
Learn more and apply for Smith Experience Social Venture Consulting or CSVC’s other Spring 2014 MBA consulting opportunities by visiting our MBA Consulting Practicum page. Applications for Spring 2014 practicums are due October 31st.