A Warren Buffett Protégée Strikes Out on Her Own

By 15, Ms. Britt Cool was president of the local farmers’ market, collecting dues from dozens of vendors. She also recruited several of her friends from high school to work at the market, where she increased the farm stand’s weekly sales about fivefold to $2,500. With her savings, she bought a red Ford Mustang convertible, which she held on to until she moved to Omaha.

“I fell in love with building businesses at the farm,” Ms. Britt Cool said.

On May 19, 2003, The Manhattan Mercury ran a front-page article about Ms. Britt Cool — dressed in a lilac shirt with eye shadow to match, holding a bunch of asparagus. “Harvard bound,” the headline read, noting that the local standout had cobbled together scholarships and aid to attend the Ivy League university, where she majored in economics.

Elizabeth Knopf, who met Ms. Britt Cool during her freshman year through a Harvard organization for undergraduate women interested in business, called her “very driven, very aware of what she wanted.”

Once, Ms. Knopf, along with some friends, visited the Britt farm and saw her classmate’s drive in action. Ms. Knopf recalled how, though technically on vacation, she was woken up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday so they could arrange the produce for the farm stand.

Ms. Britt Cool was on such a tear to get her business education that she entered Harvard Business School at 22, right after college.

Mohit Bathija, an entrepreneur in Chicago, remembers his business school classmate as unassuming — and not someone he would have pegged as having the confidence to start her career by sending an unsolicited letter to one of the world’s most famous investors.

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