This is an interview which was conducted by The Lion Magazine and Tom-Chris for an issue that is yet to released.
What’s the story behind your starting out in business and say a bit about your successes?
Tom-Chris: I got my start running a retail store – marketing and selling fast-moving consumer goods. The business grew in authority and clients wanted us. I ended up almost quadrupling their weekly sales and helped to add three more stores to the brand. Soon, I realized that my skills could be used in larger capacities and so I started my own procurement business supplying restaurants and other retail stores with salad condiments. I started the business with the knowledge and experience of how to create great customer experience: understand who your customers are, know what they need, and provide an epic solution to their need.
Eventually, after achieving success, I thought that it was time to go back to school. Therefore, I decided to set the business aside and seek admission into Radford University College, Accra Ghana where I studied Business Administration, focusing on accounting. In 2013 while at Radford, I read a newspaper report which said that about 66,000 young people graduate yearly from universities in Ghana but less than 10% were integrated into formal employment, I joined forces with some friends to establish SFAN (Stars From All Nations).
From a humble beginning in a little classroom at Radford, SFAN has grown into one of the foremost social enterprises in Ghana. Over the last few years, we have worked with thought leading brands both in and outside Ghana including Seedstars, MEST Africa, The Dutch Embassy Ghana, President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) West Africa, Ashoka, British Council, and so on. Our epic events have hosted high profile executives from major multi-nationals, diplomats, startup entrepreneurs, investors, students, upwardly-mobile young professionals, and the media.
What is unique about your business and what service or solution does it offer?
Tom-Chris: SFAN bridges the gap between education and work by equipping entry-level job seekers and young entrepreneurs with the skills and connections necessary to gain employment or start a business. We also help hiring managers to make data-driven recruitment decisions. Our services include education and training, coaching program, event production, recruitment, and general business development consultancy.
What will you say has driven you to be successful in your field/business?
Tom-Chris: My drive to be a successful entrepreneur stems from my personal experiences as a young adult. In 2007, after my school lost accreditation and was shut down by the Nigerian University Commission (NUC), I suffered severe depression and even attempted to commit suicide. Thankfully, one of my sisters came back at the right time to stop the process. Now, with self-realization, I want my work to provide pipeline opportunities that help young people to unlock their potentials and excel in life. I want any young person that has access to our platform to be able to take ownership of his or her career aspirations and grow in confidence that yields success!
What was your vision for your business from the outset?
Tom-Chris: Everything we do at SFAN is based on the simple premise that young people are smart and if given the skills and opportunities to engage the real world, magic will happen! With 60% of Africans younger than 25 and 41% under the age of 15, investment in Africa’s human capital is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. By 2030, one in every five people on the planet will be African.
More so, it is estimated that about 20 million young Africans will be joining the workforce every year for the next three decades. There is, therefore, an urgent need for transformational leadership and innovative thinking in our society today.
My vision for SFAN is to raise the next generation of African leaders that will contribute to creating the greatest economic phenomenon the world has ever seen on the continent! Currently, I have four team members and 8 volunteers. Our work is taking an impressive spike and we’re actively looking for young innovators to join the team. Interested candidates should take a peek at the career page on sfanonline.org for available positions.
What is the current scale of your business and how does your business help the community where it is located?
Tom-Chris: The impact of our work at SFAN has reached over 15 million people in over 20 countries. In 16 major events and other in-person/online mentoring programs, we have trained over two thousand young people and created over 500 jobs and business opportunities. Our work is making it easier for young people to transition from education to employment and entrepreneurship in Ghana while helping employers recruit the top 10% of entry-level job seekers. We have seen people starting new businesses, making vital connections that lead to interesting partnerships and jobs after participating in our programs or leveraging our platform and network to create other brilliant gigs.
Please share any transforming story or milestones you’ve reached this far
Tom-Chris: My major milestone reached till date is leading my team to pioneer the first-ever Student Entrepreneurship Week in Ghana and launch Readyforwork Career Coaching Program . Over 400 guests convened at the alternative education forum, bringing together some of the brightest trainers and entrepreneurs from Ghana , Nigeria , Silicon Valley, and the U.K including Gina Kloes and Felix Lin, Tony Robbins Trainers. The event also witnessed the launch of Young Money Business Pitch with over $3k prizes won.
Though in a pilot stage, Readyforwork is already producing incredible results with participants getting hired immediately after training. We are presently running a Crowdfunding Campaign to set up Ghana’s first talent accelerator, offering an immerse personalized education and coaching to the youth! This will definitely contribute to the actualization of the SDGs 1, 4 and 8. Donations are welcome in any currency, please click here for more details.
What challenges have you encountered since you started out your business?
Tom-Chris: Like many startups, one of the challenges I have encountered since starting my business is the cost of recruiting skilled labor. At the early stages when the business is not generating enough revenue to pay the salaries of highly skilled individuals, I have found that outsourcing some aspects of the business, creating mutually beneficial partnerships and leveraging software tools can be a way of overcoming some the staffing challenges. The other challenge has to do with financing. To overcome the liquidity challenges, we try to be as scrappy as possible while progressively improving our business model to create more revenue pipelines.
What are your goals for the future and how can people reach out to you if they want any of your services?
Tom-Chris: Firstly, we are scaling Student Entrepreneurship Week to Pan Africa in 2019. We want to create an explosive learning environment for high-potential students and budding entrepreneurs all around Africa. We’ve always pushed the boundaries when it comes to event production and to be perfectly honest, this is going to be a whole new experience – you walk in with passion and go home with a concrete purpose for life! It’s fresh, it’s unique and we got big plans.
Also, as I intimated earlier, we’re working incredibly hard to launch our accelerator program to create more opportunities for the youth. We are passionate to impact many more people around the world and forge more mutually beneficial partnerships.
To contact us, kindly send an email via [email protected] To stay in the loop on what we’re doing, please visit www.sfanonline.org and subscribe to our mailing list. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @sfanonline.
I want to use this medium to thank our supporters and partners and everyone else that’s been rooting for us. Thank you all!