As a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda, Markey Culver (MBA 17) baked her first loaf of bread. That simple act inspired a social enterprise that is changing women’s’ lives in eastern Africa.

The Women’s Bakery in Rwanda and Tanzania empowers women by giving them financial independence and greater access to education.

When the local Rwandan women saw Culver’s freshly baked bread, they wanted to learn how to make it to feed their children. Culver and the women developed recipes for high-protein bread using peanut oil and incorporating vegetables like carrots and beets to provide high levels of nutrition. After completing her Peace Corps service, Culver returned to Rwanda to help them open a bakery.

The Women’s Bakery prioritizes social entrepreneurship over profit, and elevates disadvantaged women by training them to succeed in the job market. Seventy percent of the bakery’s employees are illiterate, single mothers, or otherwise unemployed. There are currently six bakeries, located in Rwanda and Tanzania, with plans to expand into Uganda.

Culver incorporated her experiences founding the Women’s Bakery into her MBA studies at Washington University’s Olin Business School. She also developed two semester-long practicum courses where MBAs went to Rwanda to study The Women’s Bakery business model and help the company grow. Culver’s Olin classwork in industry analysis taught her about strategic planning and the importance of competitive advantage, knowledge she’ll put to good use as she continues to expand The Women’s Bakery project.

Read more at Poets and Quants and St. Louis Public Radio.