STARS FROM ALL NATIONS (SFAN) is a social enterprise established with a vision to raise the next generation of African leaders by helping young people transition from education to work, offering opportunities for the youths to turn their passion into a business or career, and build a community of change agents and doers.
We had the opportunity to email interview the Founder of SFAN, Tom-Chris Emewulu who’s part of the Africans Building Africa Community.
- Tell us about yourself and your organization
My journey in entrepreneurship actually started as a little boy. I would pick milk or tomato tins, fill them with sand and plant corn or tomatoes seeds in them. Sometimes, I hid them under the bed and when they germinate, I would transplant them.
At age 7, my mom gave me a few yam seeds to plant. I loved that farm so much. But, before it could be harvested, I had to move to another city to live with my big sister for my high school. During this period, I worked at her retail business after classes and on weekends.
After my high school, I continued working with her for a while before moving on to secure an admission in one Atlantic International University in 2006. Unfortunately, after a year and a half, the school lost accreditation and was shut down by the Nigerian Accreditation Authority and the whole student body was expelled. I went home depressed and even attempted to commit suicide. Thankfully, one of my sisters came home at the right time to stop it.
As time went on, I fell back to the same entrepreneurship that I’ve known since childhood by returning to work at my sister’s retail shop. I gave it everything I had and like all hard works, it wasn’t long before the results began to trickle in. We expanded to two additional shops and a mini warehouse, and I began to nurse the hope of going back to school.
In November 2011, after almost two years in my own consumer goods supply business, I withdrew all my savings and with support from my family, I stepped out to actualise my dream of acquiring education.
In 2013 while a student at Radford University, I read from a local news source that about 66,000 young people are graduated in Ghana but less than 10% of that number is integrated into formal employment within one year. With self-realisation, I thought I could do something about this hence SFAN.
- How much did you need to start your organization and how were you able to raise that capital?
Well, I started SFAN on the scrappiest standards. We needed about $300 for our first event and the only alternative we had was to ask for donations from friends and family and we got it.
- What are some of the challenges you face in your organization and how do you overcome those challenges?
At the initial stages of my business, the biggest challenges I faced was turning something that I love into something that has governance around it, driven by a great team and has financial benefits.
To overcome these challenges, I began asking for help from mentors and reading about what worked for other people. I’ve come to learn that there’s no shame in putting up your hand for help or admitting that stuff isn’t working as it should. Accepting that your situation is not a mystery has a way of opening you up to solutions and that was how I overcame those challenges.
- Where do you see your organization in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
In the next 5 years, our goal is to have been able to equip 1 million youths with skills for “work of the future” and entrepreneurship.
In 2016, after an evaluation of our event series – Quantum Leap Career Fair and Future Executives Business Breakfast Meeting – we realized that as great as they’ve turned out, there’s need for something extra. Folks attend events and they’re inspired to change their lives but over time, the inspiration tends to wear off. After much evaluations, research and prototyping, we’ve arrived at a-more-excellent-way for driving our efforts in providing the education to employment pipeline in Africa.
It’s called readyforwork.co. For entry-level job seekers or young/aspiring entrepreneurs who need to enter the workforce or access resources to build and scale their businesses, Readyforwork is a web platform that provides work readiness skills and training.
We are partnering with Brave Ventures Kenya to provide participants in 2017 edition of Quantum Leap Career Fair – which comes off on April 12, at British Council, Accra – a glimpse of this brilliant product.
- What advice would you give other entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Africa?
For entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Africa, I’d say that irrespective of the obvious obstacles in Africa entrepreneurial space, this is the best time to be in business (entrepreneurship is about finding solutions to problems anyway). But, you have to equally understand that being an entrepreneur comes with a different kind of commitment and sacrifices. A lot of times everything you think you know proves to be wrong as you get on the ground and that is as it should be because entrepreneurship is a perpetual journey of discovery.
For those that want to invest in Africa, again this is the best time to put your money. Africa is ripe for business! The playing field is somewhat level and the spark is still on and if you’re fortunate, you can make a kill in no time. Nevertheless, the first rule of investing is to go in with your eyes open and that applies in Africa too.
- How is your business participating to the development of Africa?
Everything we do at SFAN is based on a simple premise which is that young people are smart and if given the skills and opportunities to engage the real world, magic will happen!
I’ve always believed that no matter where you plant an orange seed, it’ll never produce mango. The difference might be in the environment in which it was planted. But really, the environment is not the real problem because if you get someone who is diligent enough to take care of the seed, it’ll be as much orange as anyone in the world. Our biggest motive for SFAN is to help any young person starting from anywhere in Africa who has contact with our platform to excel and bring out the potential they have, as much as they want to, in any part of the world.
LinkedIn: Tom-Chris Emewulu