Mid this month, we featured an article about a promising young African gentleman who was highlighted in the New York Times Square. The feature was courtesy of the prestigious Milestone Makers program by the Nasdaq Entrepreneurship Center.
Tom-Chris Emewulu is the founder of a Ghana-based edTech startup SFAN (Stars From All Nations). Tom-Chris uses SFAN as a hub for nurturing innovative social-enterprise programs that tackle socio-economic challenges unique to their surrounding community.
inno8tiv magazine sought out an exclusive interview with Tom-Chris to learn more about his journey and aspirations. Here’s how it went down:
1. Tell us about yourself.
I began my career working with my big sister in her fast-moving consumer goods retail business in Nigeria. I subsequently started a procurement company, from where I saved up some money to come to Ghana and study Business Administration (of course, with support from my family).
I founded Stars From All Nations (SFAN) during the study period, and after the degree course, I decided to keep growing the company.
My goal for SFAN is to help rising professionals and entrepreneurs unlock their potential through ReadyforWork Digital Career Accelerator and SFAN Venture Studio – because I care about giving communities the skills, tools, and opportunities they need to do productive and meaningful work and live their best lives.
So I spent the last 7+ years of my professional career creating innovative change across organizations and communities, including working with several global entrepreneurs and executives to fuel innovation at the intersection of technology and social impact, educating +20K students about the path to gainful employment, and organizing startup events like the inaugural Student Entrepreneurship Week, a growth-focused startup event with budding African entrepreneurs learning from investors and entrepreneurs from Africa, Silicon Valley, and beyond.
I am deeply passionate about storytelling and people-centered policies. I have written over 150 thought leadership articles on those themes, some of which got the attention of influential entrepreneurs such as Jean Case, Ariana Huffington, Tony Elumelu, and Strive Masiyiwa, to mention a few.
I am a pioneering committee member of the newly formed World Bank Group’s Youth Voices Ghana Chapter and an Entrepreneur In Residence/Program Manager for Seedstars and African Development Bank’s African Fashion Futures Incubator Ghana.
I founded SFAN in a little classroom at Radford University Ghana in my second year of the BSc degree course. I read a book during a business trip in 2007 informing me that of all the things that we cannot task out from society; education is primal.
It made complete sense to me, and I felt drawn to creating a framework that could equip young people with the skills and opportunities we all need to thrive in our fast-moving society.
So my goal was to go back to school, study Business Administration and then launch the education company. And that’s what I did; to provide the almost nonexistent education to the employment pipeline for African youth.
The numbers are all over the place.
Research says that it takes an average of six years for a university student in Africa to find their first formal job. In Ghana particularly, that number could reach ten years in some cases, according to ISSER. Youth unemployment is now an economic crisis in Africa. As much as 64.4% of people aged between 15 and 24 are unemployed.
So SFAN’s mission is to unlock the potential of these young geniuses by helping them turn their passion into business and fulfilling careers.
From that humble beginning, SFAN has made tremendous strides in becoming Ghana’s leading education social enterprise. The company raised the highest pre-seed capital by an edtech startup in Ghana, has been selected among organizations shaping the future of work in Africa, and was recently featured on New York Times Square.
3. What’s your target for SFAN?
My target for SFAN is to be the top-of-mind education-to-employment and entrepreneurship development edtech in Africa.
We want to raise the next generation of African leaders that will spur the most impactful economic renaissance the world has ever seen.
Our target audience represents 60% of Africa’s population, with a market opportunity of over $130 billion, and this number will keep growing. Studies have shown that by 2030, 75% of all people under 35 will be African. Our goal is to create frameworks that can help this target audience live to their best potential and excel in life.
Our social impressions and digital presence has reached over 30 million people globally. But in more concrete terms, SFAN has created over 1000 jobs and business opportunities. Our ReadyforWork platform, which we’ve been told is the first of its kind on the continent, uses intelligent technologies to help entry-level job seekers and early-career professionals upskill and future-proof their careers with in-demand digital skills and give businesses access to diverse, less-expensive emerging talent pipelines.
The platform provides cutting-edge education and tools to help users learn in-demand digital skills and be seen as of higher value when looking for gainful and meaningful work. We just completed our 5th cohort, and although we only have a physical office in Accra, our students come from different parts of Africa, especially Nigeria. Our plan for 2023 is to establish a physical presence in Nigeria.
5. What advice do you to budding entrepreneurs?
In my recent book Breaking The Limits, I shared an extensive detail of my journey and the painful experience of surviving the barren moments of building SFAN. I’ll say readers who wish to build a venture on the continent should get that book as it’ll guide them through the foundational principles of creating a purposeful career.
Motivation to solve a challenge is great. But motivation is often fickle. It does not last forever. Beyond motivation, you need purpose and skill – and if you don’t have the latter, you must be able to recruit for it. But ultimately, I will say that faith in God will be your best anchor. In times of hardship and struggle, in those lonely nights of overwhelming pressure in finding product-market fit, God can give you comfort and hope to keep going. He can show you things others don’t see.
Wrapping up …
The Milestone Makers program by the Nasdaq Entrepreneurship Center highlights entrepreneurs who have met their predetermined milestones. After reading innov8tiv’s interview with Tom-Chris above, you will agree with Nasdaq’s Milestone Makers program’s merit of highlighting Tom-Chris Emewulu at the New York Times Square; alongside other disruptive entrepreneurs for this year.
You can follow Tom-Chris on his social media handles:
You can also keep up with developments at SFAN and Ready For Work on the following social media accounts: