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Goizueta Scholar leaves legacy of opportunity for small businesses

Emory Report | May 2, 2016

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Emory senior Brandon Walker co-founded the Emory Impact Investing Group, a nonprofit that provides loans to small businesses in economically disadvantaged areas.

As Brandon Walker prepares to graduate from Emory, he leaves a legacy of opportunity for both Goizueta Business School students and metro Atlanta businesses.

The finance major co-founded the Emory Impact Investing Group, a nonprofit that provides loans to small businesses in economically disadvantaged areas.

The nonprofit was inspired by Peter Roberts, professor of organization and management and academic director of social enterprise at Goizueta Business School, who challenged students to look for ways to implement impact investing on a local scale.

Roberts "found that the difference [between rich and poor areas] is economic opportunity, but it’s not big business,” Walker told the Emory Wheel in January. “It’s the quantity of micro businesses, businesses with four or less employees. They found that there’s a 30 percent gap between rich and poor areas.

“Our group is attacking that gap,” Walker says.

Putting education into practice

EIIG finds its entrepreneurs through Goizueta Business School’s Start:ME (Start Micro-Entrepreneur Accelerator Program), a business accelerator program which provides training for qualified micro-entrepreneurs in metro Atlanta communities to turn an idea into a business.

The investment group issued its first loan to local entrepreneur Nicole Massiah, a single mother and owner of Krumbz Bakery, a retail bakery in Atlanta’s East Lake community. Students also provided support for her business through regular meetings and strategy discussions.

“What they’ve been doing, which has been extremely beneficial, in our regular meetings is inquiring as to what goals and objectives I have,” Massiah told the Wheel.

“They’ve been instrumental in trying to help me achieve some of the goals — for instance, trying to help me provide a mechanism for our customers to order online,” she said.

While Walker’s vision for the program will exceed his time on campus, it’s only a small part of his contributions to the Emory community.

“Brandon is a true renaissance student,” says Andrea Hershatter, BBA program director and senior associate dean at Goizueta. “As a Goizueta Scholar, he entered the BBA Program on a full scholarship based on his academic and extracurricular achievements in high school. Rather than rest on those laurels, he has worked tirelessly to live up to the expectations that the designation implies.

“One defining characteristic is that Brandon goes where his heart and intellectual curiosity lead him without thought to any credentials or accolades that might follow,” she says.

A wealth of experience

But Walker definitely has the credentials. While at Emory, he interned at Morgan Stanley in New York City; Goldman Sachs in Atlanta; Google in Mountain View, California; and Travelers Insurance in Alpharetta, Georgia. Following graduation, Walker will join Boston Consulting Group as an associate — but don’t look for him to simply knock out day-to-day tasks from 9 to 5.

“I enjoy the flexibility and ambiguity associated with driving my own projects,” Walker told industry website Poets & Quants for Undergraduates when he was honored as one of the nation’s “Best and Brightest.” “My dream job would also involve working in an intimate team of very talented individuals that feel empowered to voice their opinions and speak candidly.”

Walker is good at drawing candid feedback. He also devoted time as a co-host of “The Mix” on WMRE, Emory’s student radio station.

“I particularly love the fact that at any given moment he could be helping others with a financial model, interviewing hip hop artists on the Emory radio station, or out in the community raising funds for economic development,” Hershatter says. “He does it all with an ease and an amazing attitude that makes him liked and admired by everyone with whom he comes into contact.”

Walker acknowledges that he leaves Emory with a wealth of experience.

"I’ve learned so much during my four years here,” he says. “Besides academics or extracurriculars, one of the things that I will miss the most is playing basketball with my friends at the SAAC or WoodPEC — though I might sneak back in occasionally.

“The Emory Impact Investing Group and The Mix have defined my Emory experience,"h he concludes, "and I'm most excited that something I started at Emory might have a positive influence on students for years to come."