Ayesha Vera-Yu is CEO of ARK Solves, an organisation that invests in rural communities in developing countries to secure their food. The founder was originally a banker when she decided to become a social entrepreneur.
Ayesha Vera-Yu is CEO & Co-Founder of ARK Solves. The founder was originally a banker when she decided to become a social entrepreneur and farmer. Ayesha and ARK invest in rural communities in developing countries who want to be food secure and self-sufficient. She dreams of sharing the Feed Back programme with the rest of the world, starting with the Global South – where most of the 2 billion people suffering from hunger live. In the next few years, the goal is for her and the team to directly support five times as many communities as they do now. Why particularly her first rap experience is one of her lasting memories, you can find out in the interview with her.
What problem do you solve with your project/company? Why exactly does it need your solution?
At ARK, we are solving hunger for good and creating self-sustaining futures with farmers and fisherfolk in the developing world. I work with them because they are the people who feed the world, yet they are struggling to feed their families. ARK Feed Back is a community-wide vegetable exchange. It inspires families to farm their food needs in their backyards and to produce excess to share in the exchange with their neighbours and sell to nearby villages and towns.
What did you do before you started the current project/company?
I was a Wall Street banker. I know… But I am using the experience and the intel I gained to break down systems that don’t work and to rebuild a world that will be fair and equitable.
What or who motivated you to become a social entrepreneur?
My parents. I grew up in a family where I had “rich” cousins and “poor” cousins. My parents have shown me the example of loving and treating everyone as human beings and the same way – no matter if they lived in houses with marble floors or bamboo slats. They also modelled for me a practice of sharing and bringing people forward alongside us.
Which of your successes do you remember most?
Rapping. I never thought I could do it! Three years ago, a community leader in Traciano, a village in Capiz, Philippines shared his thoughts on Feed Back. On Zoom with us and in front of his council, he sang/rapped a poem he wrote about why he loves Feed Back and how it was the first time in decades that they had no hunger season in his village. Without even thinking and following his beat, I shared with him my love, appreciation and awe of what they have achieved and how proud we are of them.
Were there any moments that were particularly challenging and what did you learn from them?
In the past 2.5 years, we have secured hundreds and thousands of lives. Scaling fast is intense and I personally feel out of time. The two hardest things are keeping family & friends #1, and making sure that our team members have balance in their lives while also kicking ass and delivering amazing impact. I have to be disciplined with my sacred personal time dedicated to my health and my family and friends. This I do for myself and to be an example for the team.
„As do-gooders, let’s make sure when solving a problem we don’t make certain people into “beneficiaries”. Let’s make sure we ALL are agents of change, especially those who are living with the problem. Because they have ideas that will be better than ours since they are living with the problem and will be THE real agents of change.“
— Ayesha Vera-Yu, CEO of ARK Solves
Where should the journey go in the future and what are the next big goals?
We want to share Feed Back with the rest of the world starting with the Global South where most of the 2 billion people who experience hunger for an entire season live. We have a PlayBook, a do-it-yourself guide, to enable communities who want to be food secure for life to do it on their own. We also now have a new support structure that will enable us to support up to 45 communities in one go in 2024 and a path to 120 communities thereafter. This is 2x and 5x what we are doing today.
What do you wish you had known before launching your project/company? What advice would you give to others along the way?
That change is scary therefore it takes patience and many trials and errors. I wished that someone told me to do a fitness regime at the beginning because it is about endurance and not a sprint.
What podcast do you listen to regularly? What book is an absolute must-read for you personally?
I love books! This is a hard question. Right now, I am telling my friends to read these: Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass because it shares with us our beautiful and loving past where we all loved and cared for each other and nature, and how a sharing economy works! Albert Samaha’s Concepcion because it reminds me of my majestic and innovative ancestry. It shows me how to find the depths of our empathy even in the middle of anger or rage.
What are your tips for doing good in everyday life? And where do you perhaps find it rather difficult to live sustainably?
I am very mindful of my plastic use. Many times, I just carry my purchase home without a bag. I save and prioritize food grown by organic farmers. Synthetic fertilizers account for about a quarter of the environmental degradation in the world and cause people to be hungry and pushed to desperate measures like burning forests. Travelling – when you get on planes or rent cars whether for work or pleasure. It’s still hard not to use gas. In NYC, I use the subway system as much as possible.
Which organization or start-up impresses you the most and is a true role model for you?
ARK. Just check us out at arksolves.org. We are looking for like-minded co’s and role models. Please send them our way.
Complete this sentence: The world needs more…
…hugs. Giving a hug is the most visceral, overt and real way of sharing your love and understanding. It is a way for you to make the other person feel good, seen and cared for. You are also drawing their love, understanding and energy as they embrace you. It’s a give-and-take that’s transformative and can even break through anger, frustration and heaviness. We rely so much on our sight, hearing, smell and taste. While touch is such a powerful way we can connect to the world and feel belonging.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
The solution lies right next to the problem and the best ones to execute the solution are the ones living with the problem. As do-gooders, let’s make sure when solving a problem we don’t make certain people into “beneficiaries”. Let’s make sure we ALL are agents of change, especially those who are living with the problem. Because they have ideas that will be better than ours since they are living with the problem and will be THE real agents of change.
Every month, we interview interesting entrepreneurs and focus on their personal stories. The interviews are intended to inspire, motivate and encourage people to put their own ideas into practice.
Do you know any social entrepreneurs with an inspiring story that we should interview? Then write to us!
Andrea Rebensburg, GOOD Impact Portfolio: firstname.lastname@example.org
We support ARK in October 2023 with the proceeds of GOOD. Find out more on the project page: