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Lokvani Talks To Annamarie Ryu, Social Entrepreneur

Nirmala Garimella

Annemarie Ryu is a senior at Harvard College. She is a pre-medical student majoring in Social Anthropology with a minor in Global Health and Health Policy. Ryu grew up in Rochester, MN, and devoted her time to tennis, violin, and a variety of student organizations and community service organizations. Describing her foray into social entrepreneurship she says “When I came to college, a class I took first semester on global health entirely changed my perspective on the world and my place in it. I realized I wanted to dedicate my life to helping to expand opportunities for persons who had not been as fortunate as I. During the last few years I have become a social entrepreneur for global health and international development and have launched multiple ventures”. With that spirit she started the company , Global Village Fruits.

Describe your “Ah-Ha!” moment that shaped your decision to start this company?

 On my first day in Bangalore, India, I saw jackfruit in the streets and thought it might be an animal! I asked my brother what it was and asked if we could get some. When I first tasted jackfruit, I thought it was the best food I had ever tasted, and I immediately wondered why I had never seen it before, why it wasn't in the US. My brother and I went back to our guest room at the NGO we were collaborating with our maternal and child health project. I researched jackfruit and found out that it is superabundant in India but 75% of it just goes to waste. I realized that by setting up a venture to introduce jackfruit to the US market I could solve two problems at once.

 Tell us about the best part of your work  and working in India ?

Overall, I thoroughly enjoy the work I do for Global Village Fruits. I'd say the best part is the people I get to know and work with. I've become close to professors of agribusiness, jackfruit researchers, jackfruit farmers, and jackfruit entrepreneurs, among others, and we frequently correspond by phone and Skype when I am not in India. Probably the second best part is seeing a dream and a vision become a reality with all of our hard work over time. 

 What has been the biggest challenge?

One big challenge that contributes to all of the other challenges we have faced is the challenge of balancing Global Village Fruits with school! Global Village Fruits is a venture that could easily take much more of my time--the venture's potential is enormous--but I am also a very dedicated student with other extracurricular commitments too.

What has been the biggest reward?

I have been selected to receive awards that I know I would not have received if I had not invested so much time and effort in Global Village Fruits, but what is most satisfying is knowing each day that what has come about thus far for Global Village Fruits has been the product of a dream/vision and the hard work that I have committed to realizing this dream. It's extremely empowering and enables me to continue to raise my aspirations for what Global Village Fruits can eventually achieve.

What have you learned from this experience?

Working on Global Village Fruits has strengthened my leadership abilities enormously--directly through the work that it has entailed and indirectly through the competitions and other events I have participated in because of Global Village Fruits. Global Village Fruits has also taught me about who I am and what I want in life.

What are the qualities that an entrepreneur needs to start a company?

From my experience, it is extremely helpful to be self-reliant, analytical, highly aware, passionate, visionary, and hard-working. One needs to be able to envision and plan the company's future, assess where gaps are and what needs to be done when, and complete tasks with hard work and with the help of others who will enjoy and benefit from the collaboration.

 How/where do you see Global Fruits in next 3/5 years from now?

After graduation in May, I will be working full-time to launch Global Village Fruits to the next level. In collaboration with business advisers, I am currently structuring the 18-month plan. Within the next 3 years, I would like to have a Global Village Fruits processing facility established in India and to have at least one of our jackfruit products in national distribution in the US and in India. (I'm not telling which ones though--that' a secret!)

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