In just under two months, a bus load of young entrepreneurs will start a roadtrip from Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, to Lagos, Nigeria. The people on board will come from all over the world. In their normal lives they will probably be designers or developers or business people. On the bus, they are Ampioneers.
Their goal? Starting new businesses.
During the five days they spend travelling, they will form teams and start solving problems. Of the forty or so people on board, ten startups will be developed. To be an Ampioneer, you have to want to build something new.
They will go through five West African countries, in total. In each country, they will visit a major tech hub and meet influential entrepreneurs. They will get feedback and hone their ideas more and more. In Lagos, they will have the chance to pitch to more then two hundred major investors at DEMO Africa.
Africa is sitting on a huge population spike. It is also, even now, a continent with enormous amounts of un-and-underemployed people. AMPION's program is aimed not only at enabling the current entrepreneurs of Africa to create new business that will employ more people but also at catalysing the current business market - if a bunch of entrepreneurs start succeeding, others will follow. Unemployment is best dealt with by an invigorated private sector. Entrepreneurs have a huge role to play in that.
Are you ready for a challenge? Do you like creating new things? Do you have the skills, contacts or sheer enthusiasm to help a startup get on its feet? If so, apply to be an Ampioneer today: http://bit.ly/1rwBBPF
A youngster outside a grocery store approached me about his "raising money for a Sunday school trip." He sold me a Dollar Bar for $3! (I think he spotted a sucker.) I don't even like milk chocolate, but I had to respect that the little fellow was hustling so hard for the cash--whether or not he really intended it for Sunday school, or had just intuited that an elevator pitch doesn't have to be true, if you can make the sale and get the money on the spot.
I know some people don't love seeing kids placed in sales roles, but I remember fondly my days of selling Girl Scout cookies, and as a young adult I briefly held down a job raising funds through canvassing. It's a scary, intimidating, hard job, and I wouldn't have been able to do it if I couldn't draw on my memories of meeting kind strangers as a Girl Scout. I have to say, for all the risks, teaching kids that they have the power to earn through making and selling a product (or in this case, reselling a product bought at wholesale) is a great way to start setting them up to have a fallback career for the future. Whatever happens to the human race, I suspect we'll always have jobs for smooth talkers who can sell shoes to a snake!
Good job, li'l man. (And the candy bar was pretty okay, after all.)
You need to have the right attitude and a small amount of courage to support entrepreneurs when you travel far away, but it offers some of the most enjoyable and instant rewards. I'm thinking specifically of the street food establishments that cook up a country's true culture. One of my favorites is Bale Well in Hoi An, Viet Nam. The restaurant is tucked away in a little, winding alley in the Old Town. A practically hidden sign, easy to miss even if you’re looking for it, marks the small, open-patio dining area. The meal is a simple set menu at a fixed price, around $2.00 per person. This gets you a never-ending supply of nem nướng (grilled pork satay), shrimp spring rolls, bánh xèo (sizzling crepes), kimchee and fresh vegetables. The suggested approach is to roll all the ingredients up in rice paper with a peanut and chili sauce, yielding a wonderfully crunchy and chewy, sweet and savoury spring roll. Below, my “Vietnamese grandma” (who, I know, is not a young entrepreneur) keeps on rolling up more lunch and, literally, stuffing it in my mouth. I’m in a bit of pain at this point, but she shows no sign of slowing down.
When I was a kid, I used to run a lemonade stand on summer weekends selling watered down lemon syrup as lemonade to sweaty Bostonians trekking from the train to a local beach. It was the best. And I vividly remember how on my first day of this practice I was nervous and cloud cover was creating a slow day, and some dude stopped by to put a dollar in my bucket, and then when I went to poor him his cup, he said "no thanks, I just want to support the business." It was so cool. I stop at every lemonade stand I can now, and was stoked to see this young entrepreneur on a more formal trajectory turning a family recipe into a business at the local farmers market over the weekend. I purchased her product and look forward to seeing her business grow.