Introduction to My Independent Study

Hello! My name is Rachael White, and I am currently a senior at Pitt Business pursuing a Marketing major with an Accounting concentration and certificates in Leadership and Ethics, International Business, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Business Analytics. After my study abroad trip to Cape Town, South Africa in the summer of 2016, I became quite interested in the concept of the Bottom of the Pyramid as it relates to social entrepreneurship and innovation. My social entrepreneurship course in South Africa illuminated the close relationship social ventures have with the Bottom of the Pyramid. Most large companies in all industries shy away from the BOP in an effort to target the customer segments higher up the pyramid. This is largely due to the fact that the large companies tend to define their target market on an individual income level and narrow their market down to consumers with high income on an individual level. However, if companies instead looked at the total income across an entire level of the pyramid, they would realize that there is more collective wealth at the bottom of the pyramid than at the top. Since the large companies have, by and large, yet to address the collective wealth in the BOP, social ventures have developed and launched to accommodate the BOP. Consumers within the BOP have the same basic needs and desires as any other consumer market, and social entrepreneurs have recognized this and taken action to address it. As I myself have been interested in entrepreneurship for approximately seven years now, I have since become fascinated by the link between the BOP and the growth and success of innovative social ventures across the globe, specifically my own entrepreneurial venture. My fascination and interest has driven me to develop and pursue an independent research study that will allow me to research and analyze the relationship between the BOP, social entrepreneurship, and my entrepreneurial venture.

The purpose of this independent study is to look at my entrepreneurial venture, Beautiful Me, through the lens of the Bottom of the Pyramid and social entrepreneurship. More specifically, this study will analyze how Beautiful Me can engage dimensions of the Bottom of the Pyramid in the following three countries: South Africa, Germany, and Vietnam. The impact on the Bottom of the Pyramid would focus on the workforce of women making clothing in South Africa, the untapped consumer market of working women in Germany, and the textile manufacturing industry in Vietnam. The study will span the 2017-2018 academic year and would include both primary and secondary research. The primary research would include one weeklong study abroad trip to Berlin, Germany and one to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In these respective cities, I will meet with both academic and industry professionals within the scope of the research focus in that location, consumer market of professional women and the textile and manufacturing industry, respectively. In addition, I plan to connect with incubators, accelerators, and social ventures in both cities. Through interviews with these sources, I will collect primary data on the BOP, the presence and characteristics of an untapped consumer market in Germany, and the textile and manufacturing industry in Vietnam. Since I have already visited South Africa and done some preliminary research on the BOP and social entrepreneurship, my primary research regarding the workforce of women in South Africa will consist of long distance interviews with some of my contacts from the study abroad program. All of this data will culminate into an analysis of how Beautiful Me can have a greater social impact and engage with different dimensions of the Bottom of the Pyramid in different cities across the world.

The secondary research will consist of a literature review of the popular and relevant books and other readings on the Bottom of the Pyramid, particularly as it relates to the specific dimensions of the Bottom of the Pyramid that I am focusing on in each location, and its relationship to social entrepreneurship in the South Africa, Germany, and Vietnam. Such secondary research will give me a solid foundation for the primary research to be performed on sight in the designated locations.

I am very excited to work on this research on the ground in Berlin to expand my knowledge in this research area, expand my professional network, and experience the culture of the beautiful city of Berlin. Stay tuned as I share my research experience as it sets in motion here in Berlin this week!