How Catalant is Helping MBA Students Fight COVID-19

How Catalant is Helping MBA Students Fight COVID-19

June 10, 2020
Written by

Davin Wilfrid

Published on

June 10, 2020

As businesses worldwide grappled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, two Harvard Business School MBA candidates hatched a plan to help. Their fellow candidates had a range of experience in the business world. If they could connect their peers to businesses in need, they could provide real value at a time it was needed most. 

Within a day of rolling out the MBAs Fight COVID-19 idea, says Sarika Mendu, they had over 70 volunteers. 

“We were blown away by the response and continue to be,” says Mendu. “They weren’t just saying they wanted to be involved — they were telling us why it was important, and that it was what they really cared about.”

In short order, Mendu and co-founder Amina Edwards had set up a website for the program and started to receive requests for pro-bono assistance from a wide range of businesses and nonprofits. Requests included a manufacturing company that needed help standing up a new process for creating meltblown cloth, the material behind N95 masks, to a domestic violence task force providing resources to people in need. 

Mendu and Edwards soon realized that the spreadsheets they were using to match candidates to projects was not ideal. 

“It was becoming increasingly clear that this was not a scalable option,” says Edwards. 

The pair connected with Catalant co-founders Rob Biederman and Pat Petitti (the two graduated from HBS in 2014) and within a few weeks were using the Catalant platform to match the right people to the right work. 

Catalant’s built-in skills matching and recommendation engine made it much easier for Mendu and Edwards to find candidates who might be interested in a particular project. And the transparency and ease of use of Catalant helps students find projects that suit their own interests. 

“That’s really exciting to see, because it means people are getting to work on projects that they’re passionate about. That’s really unique among other COVID relief efforts and something we’re particularly excited about,” says Edwards. 

Students have already completed dozens of projects, from helping a hospital system forecast its need for personal protective equipment (PPE) to working with city and state governments on public health planning. 

“A lot of times project sponsors are surprised that students are interested in the kinds of projects posted, but I think that’s one of the benefits of having MBA talent. You have students coming in with three to seven years of experience, so they’ve done things across the board,” says Mendu. 

While Mendu and Edwards both graduated this spring, they continue to partner with Catalant to offer help to organizations in need. The MBAs Fight COVID-19 program has expanded to include a dozen MBA programs, including Georgetown, Yale, Dartmouth, Boston University and the IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. 

“We are so grateful to the Catalant team,” says Edwards. “We could not have done this without you, and we’re looking forward to our continued partnership.”

Want to get involved? Check out the MBAs Fight COVID-19 website for volunteer opportunities and more information. 

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