In Your Own Words – Mathilde K. Jakobsen, entrepreneur
Entrepreneur and CBS alumna Mathilde Kjærgaard Jakobsen has, among other initiatives, made shortening the food supply chain from producer to marketplace into a viable business. (Photo: Fresh.Land)
What were you like when you studied at CBS?
I was a very determined student at CBS. Even before high school, I knew that I wanted to study International Business (IB) at CBS. I wanted to start my own company and live abroad, and the IB programme was the perfect stepping-stone for that.
I had to catch-up on my English skills. Initially, I was not used to taking exams in English. Sifting through volumes of books at the library expanded my vocabulary, and as my confidence increased, so did my performance.
My fellow students were bright, and competition was tough. As an IB student you are part of a group of ‘elite students’, for better or worse. The standards were high and the shared ‘performance drive’ was stimulating. But it was tough with so much competition.
I dreamt of being accepted into GLOBE, a parallel programme that each year allows 10 IB students to do a double exchange programme in Hong Kong and the US. I was not accepted into the programme. However, this didn’t stop me from going abroad. I created my own double exchange in Hong Kong and Singapore. It was there I met my partner and kick-started my career with a permanent position at Maersk after my Bachelor’s degree.
How did you get your first job after graduating from CBS?
My first full-time job after graduating from my Bachelor’s was for Maersk in Singapore as Project Manager. I had finished my studies half a year ahead of time, so I was able to take on an internship in Maersk, which turned into a full-time position.
I was then hired by BOP Hub, a platform that helps socioeconomic companies – and here, I made contact with the innovative company Ruby Cup, founded by three CBS students. That inspired me to start my own social and sustainable company someday.
My first full-time job after my Master’s degree was as International Project Manager for Coloplast in Humlebæk. I had written my Master’s thesis for Coloplast in Latin America and was headhunted for the position. In this position, my motivation was once again to make a difference – a difference for people with a low quality of life because of severe chronic disease. My colleagues at Coloplast shared a compelling mission – to help chronic patients live a normal life. That made me realize the importance of a shared mission.
I had global responsibility for a product line and could be creative in campaign concepts and product launches. In many ways, it was a dream job, and I had been trusted with a great area of responsibility. However, I also aspired to have a more direct impact on the projects I was working on. Coloplast was a fantastic place to grow, but at times felt like a big ship turning – it took many people to agree and make things move. I got excited with the prospects of being on a speed boat where decisions would be nimble and agile.
Which moments in your career have been defining – and how?
The decision to go on exchange in Singapore was crucial to where I am today. Here, I met my partner Filipe Leal with whom I have started several companies. We complement each other well; Filipe brings the structure and strategic mind, while I bring the heart, creativity and a strong bias for action. Together, we founded three companies, in different stages: Fresh.Land, consultingprep.com, and latest andelshotel.dk.
Taking the plunge and becoming an entrepreneur was the biggest decision we have made yet. It came as a shock to our family and friends when Filipe quit his job in McKinsey and I quit mine in Coloplast. For several years we had the idea of shortening the food supply chain. It was now or never – we owed it to ourselves to give it our best try.
Our start was extremely pragmatic. We had to make a case for delivering fruit much faster than the conventional industry, so we built a street food bike to prove that there was demand. This allowed us to sell the concept to the main supermarket chains.
Almost three years later, we are delivering approximately 200 tons fruit a month to private consumers, catering, and retail. We have five employees in Denmark and Portugal, and expect to double the team size this year. We can do this for a living but our ambition goes far beyond that, namely to be the leading global platform for sales of fresh fruit.
What is the most valuable experience you gained at CBS that you still use in your daily work?
CBS gave me a ‘tool kit’ that I can deploy in many situations – for example I learnt how to analyze a business idea, pitch it, and establish a team among other skills.
I have been especially happy about the flexibility CBS gave me as a student – that I could do a Master’s degree while working full time on another continent and through that acquire a lot of work experience.
CBS taught me to handle many things at once. That comes in handy in the sometimes chaotic everyday life in a startup. The IB-programme also brought with me a good sense of discipline in my work.
Have you maintained a relation to CBS since you graduated?
Yes, in spite of being abroad most of the time, I come to CBS on a regular basis as part of the IB Advisory Board and as guest lecturer. Furthermore, our companies Fresh-Land and consultingprep.com engage with CBS:
We organise workshops for about management consulting and problem solving for CBS MBA and IB students. We are also part of various start-up and career events where we recruit CBS students. The ones we have hired have been among our top performers. Besides a strong academic background, they bring in a critical sense and eagerness to learn that makes them thrive in an environment like ours.
I hope that my story can inspire other CBS students to make important career choices, set goals, be persistent, and make their dream come true regardless of the path they choose: entrepreneurship, a graduate programme, consulting, or something completely different.