Two MBA grads help communities financially flourish

By Eileen Jacob

Pedro Moura, MBA 18, and Jessica Eting, MBA 18, share similar backgrounds, passions, and vision. Both come from immigrant families and witnessed firsthand their parents’ financial struggles. From those experiences, they each developed a drive to improve the lives of people in underserved communities.


During their time in the Berkeley Evening & Weekend MBA program, that shared drive evolved into their startup, Flourish Savings. An online and mobile platform, Flourish uses games and rewards to encourage people to save money, pay off debt, and build financial security.

Here the two cofounders share how their Haas experience helped them on their entrepreneurial journey.

What role did Haas play in your decision to partner and launch Flourish?

P: We were in Applied Innovation, a class where you pitch a problem you want to spend the course tackling. I pitched how to make personal finance more fun, and Jessica pitched a project around financial literacy for underserved consumers. We formed a team to explore how we could tackle both problems. After about four months, we decided to invest an additional 10-15 hours a week to test whether we could continue to collaborate, and we haven’t looked back since.

J: We had a real connection because of our backgrounds. What solidified it was our involvement with the Net Impact club. We served as co-vice presidents and spread the knowledge around social impact within our cohort. That allowed us to dive deeper into our shared goals. Even though entrepreneurship wasn’t originally the direction I wanted to go in, we had such aligned values and worked so well together, it made entrepreneurship seem like a feasible direction for me. 

Which courses and faculty members helped you the most and how?

P: The Leadership Communication class was really critical for me. I reflected on my personal journey and learned to own my story. That included being undocumented in the US, my mom having to clean houses to make ends meet, and coming from a family that shared a one-bedroom house with three other families. Those were things I was embarrassed to share. But I was able to share at Haas and then create products and services to make life better for the community I came from. That was really empowering.  

For faculty, I’d say Clark Kellogg—the way he approached understanding a problem, creating prototypes, tests, validation, and building the knowledge needed to get to the next step. Also, Jorge Calderon, who was one of my mentors in the LAUNCH accelerator. He opened up a lot of his contacts to us and challenged us regarding the value we wanted to create with Flourish. 

J: Certainly Jorge Calderon. There’s something about having somebody who is willing to push and challenge you, but in a way that shows he really cares. Ben Mangan was another big influence. He founded a nonprofit that worked with the population we’re trying to reach. He opened up his network to us and brought challenges from his real-life experience that helped us shape what we are doing.

How did your Trione Student Venture Fund grant and time in the LAUNCH and SkyDeck accelerators support your journey?

P: The Trione funds helped us build our prototype. We used LAUNCH to refine it and enter our next phase of testing. Out of SkyDeck we started to incorporate our business and built the foundational pieces of our company. 

J: The connection to free mentors, the workshops provided, and the free knowledge resources were so beneficial—also the conversations we had with other entrepreneurs. Often they had faced the same challenges we were experiencing and could provide advice and point us to helpful resources.

Your first investor was a classmate. What can you tell us about that?

J: Edgar Vigil was someone who truly believed in us and what we’re doing, and he continues to provide support. Whenever we have a challenge where his expertise can help, he’s there for us. When he wrote the check, we were at his graduation party, yet he gave us the present of that first investment. 

P:  He said something like ‘I’ve seen what you guys are starting to build; I believe in what you’re doing, and here’s my vote of confidence.’ 

Jessica, how did you blend starting a family with starting a business?

J: It’s been the joke that Flourish and my daughter Sienna Kaya (now nine months old) are my twins! Both are my babies that I’m bringing into the world. There were lots of sleepless nights, because I didn’t know if we were making the right decisions for the business. I was also up nights wondering if I was eating the right things for my developing baby. So it was nurturing the business, nurturing the baby, and learning to roll with the challenges. Being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 job. So is being a mother. So you need to build support systems around you. 


I was able to take some time beyond maternity leave, especially during critical moments of Flourish, knowing that I had full support from my cofounder. That’s a big part of what we want to ensure we do as a company—to value people and their needs. 

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

P: Entrepreneurship can be really daunting, but if you want to change and evolve and create your own reality, don’t wait to put yourself out there. The sooner you can start to articulate to others what’s important to you, the sooner you’ll find like-minded individuals.

J: Believe in yourself and believe in what you are capable of building. You may question whether or not you can step outside of your comfort zone or absorb the risk of entrepreneurship. It’s difficult, but if you truly believe in what you want to create, then it’s worth the effort.

Learn more about the Evening & Weekend MBA program

Posted on November 5, 2019
Themes: Alumni  |  Entrepreneurship
Eileen Jacob
Eileen was Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA Programs for Working Professionals from 2017-2019. She enjoyed meeting prospective students and helping them explore the benefits of an MBA, and hopes these blog posts provide valuable insight into the Berkeley MBA experience.