While driving to Boston to enroll as a Harvard MBA student, Willy Foote had what he described as an existential crisis.
Foote was driving up from Mexico, where he had spent a year traveling through rural Mexico with his wife on a business journalism fellowship, meeting with workers and leaders of local agricultural businesses. When he and his wife learned they had both been accepted to Harvard Business School, they decided to cut short the two-year trip and pack their bags for Boston.
But as their truck rumbled towards Massachusetts, Foote began to worry that if he didn't pursue his ideas to help struggling farmers while the experience was fresh, he might never do it. So he decided to ditch business school and instead founded Root Capital, an impact investing fund focused on alleviating poverty through agricultural development.
According to a report from the World Bank, agriculture "is the single most important productive sector in most low-income countries, often in terms of its share of Gross Domestic Product and almost always in terms of the number of people it employs." Foote, who founded Root Capital in 1999, understood the critical role of agriculture in developing communities and made it his mission to support businesses that fall into what he calls the "missing middle."