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Training Up New Entrepreneurs: Pilot Phase

Having an Entrepreneurship programme has been an idea among Expo staff for a long time, but finally it is this year that the actual programme was launched. After choosing two partner schools in the Ejisu area and informing and selecting students, the pilot phase of the programme started in February 2016.

Pilot programmes are so interestingly unique: it’s the phase where new things get tried out and adapted to become better versions, and there’s a feeling that everything is possible and therefore that the impact can be big. But piloting a new programme implies also some challenges to cope with. I encountered mainly two.

"What is Entrepreneurship?" This is the main question of the first session.

1. What do our students dream to do?

The main challenge with designing our Entrepreneurship programme has been defining the target group of students. Do we want to target the future Steve Jobs, who will revolutionise an industry with a ground-breaking innovation, or do we want to target the future tailor or restaurant owner? Both profiles exist in Ghana and each of them requires their own curriculum and selection process, as the focus and skills taught would vary to a great extent. For the future Steve Jobs, focus would lie on innovations and how to make innovative ideas into marketable ones, whereas for the future small business owners, the focus would be on more practical skills such as accounting and budgeting. I started with a mix of both and realised at the first sessions that the students we had selected were more in the mind-set of taking over or helping a family business after finishing high-school and less thinking about innovations. Even though I tailored the course for small business owners, I made sure to incorporate activities that would develop the students’ creative thinking – and who knows, maybe the next Steve Jobs is sitting in my classroom?

The students are busy brainstorming all the entrepreneurs they know. Actually, these students all have entrepreneurs in their families, like tailors and shop owners.

2. How do you transform an idea to fix society into a marketable product?

The second challenge I have had to cope with came later on during the programme. It was the difficulty my students had in grasping the concept of marketability. Entrepreneurship is all about having an idea that you can turn into a marketable product, a product that you can sell and make a profit out of. Early in the programme I realised that my students all had these great ideas for products or services to help their communities but none of the ideas were marketable. The reality of living in Ghana struck me: in a country where basic needs for many people are still not met yet – such as water, electricity or infrastructure – looking for options beyond that seemed overflow. How can you be thinking about producing an electric car if the roads are not taken care of? That was more or less the (legitimate) reaction of my students.

During the first sessions, where I focused a lot of attention on brainstorming, both as a way to get to know my new students and as a way to find ideas together, I was surprised to hear that all of my students wanted to improve the water and electricity provision or fill the holes in the roads. Although those are some much needed ideas for improvements, they are also pretty difficult to implement into a business idea and the concept of marketability was tricky to grasp for my students. Seeing beyond those ideas proved to be my main challenge with the students. We spent several sessions trying to understand that a business can come not only from what people need, but also from what they want, and that it should ultimately generate some kind of profit. Shifting their mind-set towards more creative solutions turned out to be a very fun process of discussions, brainstorming sessions and testimonies to get inspired. I am excited for the last session when the students will present their ideas and business plans, to see what they have come up with.

Students present their business plans, which generates a lot of discussion!

Now that the end of the pilot programme is approaching and looking back at this term, I am starting to assess how we can make this course even better for next time. Now that we know more about our targeted group of students at the SHS level, I envision including mentors into the programme, to give students more practical perspectives on being an entrepreneur and linking them to professional people and concrete skills. Having mentors is also a way to inspire with stories and experiences. I have been in contact with two local organisations working with entrepreneurship and young people, and hopefully fruitful partnerships will be arranged for next version of the programme.

Stay tuned for more exciting updates on the development of our entrepreneurship pilot programme!

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