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A Young Entrepreneur Is Re-branding Gambia’s Economic Ecosystem Into A Globalized Tech Hub For Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Modou A. Njie was raised by a single mother in Banjul, Gambia, after the tragic death of his father. He recalls always having a fervent passion for entrepreneurship and his country at a very young age. 

Although, Modou affirms it was not easy nor was success met without many adversities. In fact, as he reflects upon those humble beginnings, he talks about how one of his most significant heartbreaking memories happened early on in his career, when he was faced with delaying his university education.

That was truly a painful moment for Modou because like every young person starting out in life he desired a great educational foundation. He felt like his plans for a promising future was being tested with major setback and possibly had failed.

Yet, it was his faith and the model of his mother’s unwavering convictions that pushed him forward to create his own pathway to success. As a result, Modou took that adversity and made it his advocacy.

He began volunteering in the movement of Sarah Brown (wife of Former British Prime Minister) as a Global Youth Ambassador (GYA). Global Youth Ambassador is a network of over 800 young people across 80 countries, advocating for educational reform. Their mission is to ensure every child has an opportunity at learning and obtaining a good education. In 2018, Modou was nominated as a finalist in the Global Youth Ambassador Youth Skills Hero awards.

Modou went on to become the co-founder of Procure 4 Africa, an international sourcing company serving for both local and international brands. He affirmed that his consistency to education himself and build upon his business expertise contributes to his professional achievements. 

He worked for the World Bank, Dalberg Research Sector, and The Government of Gambia in which he analyzed SMEs structures within Banjul. However, he first substantiated himself officially as an entrepreneur in 2016, when he opened his first business- an ice cream parlor. The parlor, located in his hometown, is currently open and being patronize by many within the community. 

Photo taken from Startup Grind Banjul's founder's series
His newest initiatives has been focusing on tech and elementary startups. As the Chapter Director of Startup Grind Banjul – a Google powered program, Modou seeks to inspire, educate and connect entrepreneurs in Gambia with entrepreneurs across the world.

We had the opportunity to do an exclusive interview with this phenomenal guy and pick his brain, asking him some really tough questions surrounding entrepreneurship and how to achieve success.

Hope this interview inspires you on your entrepreneurial journey:

What was your dreams or dream job as a kid?

Modou: My dream as a child has always been to be a philanthropist and giving a helping hand to people that need it.

Has that (dream) changed?

Modou: No, it hasn’t as I am still using some of my time to help people in my own way whether it’s educating or inspiring my community.

How does it connect with what you are doing now?

Modou: It’s a great feeling as I am able to transform the lives of many young people through hosting events and giving out free giveaway tickets to help them connect, educate and get inspired through our founder series features.

What was the key driving force to becoming an entrepreneur?

Modou: The key driving force to (my) being an entrepreneur was to create an opportunity for young people and create viable products in the market that addresses consumer needs.

You have such a passion to change your community and country. Tell us about the work you’re doing for your country.

Modou: I am currently the Chapter Director of StartUp Grind Banjul. I am leading the globalization of the Gambian (entrepreneurial) ecosystem by hosting series of founder events that help to Inspire, educate and connect entrepreneurs across the world. This is a venture powered by Google for startups. It helps entrepreneurs to connect with founders, angel investors, and other entrepreneurs. This Initiative is in 115 Countries and I am happy to help with nurturing the Gambian Eco-System.

How did you get your idea or concept for what you’re doing now?

Modou: I have been very passionate about helping young people in with my country, since we are the future and the majority of our population’s structure. I saw the gap (needs) where I could help in my community. That motivated me to look at ways to help the (economic and entrepreneurial) ecosystem. I looked at international ventures and various initiatives.

What has been your most satisfying moment?

Modou: My most satisfying moments was after hosting a program. A startup reach out to me to tell me that she started her venture as a result of the inspiration she received from the program. That really hit me and motivated me to go further.

Many entrepreneurs have the challenge of accessing funding to start or grow their business. Talk about how you were able to start your business.  How did you raise funding for your venture?

Modou: I use personal savings to start my first ice cream business. I knew that the only way out was to create a product that could be easily managed and can work in a tropical environment In Gambia. You don’t have to have all the finance to start a business. One can start small and then grow big.

What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

Modou: Challenges are always there in any venture. What matters most is how can you are strategic in order to get the right consumers for the product offering. If you can move with your consumers with their own expectations, then you are winning at everything.

How did you build a loyal customer base?

Modou: I build my consumer base in all my ventures through clientele trust. When you build a brand that has the heart of the consumers, everything falls together. Clients need to trust in what you offer, if its services, let it be the best.

You have such a great team. What kind of culture exists in a great organization, and how should it be established it?

Modou: A great culture stems from having great leadership at all times, where your team buys in the idea of the vision. Team falls of from motivation most of the time but what keeps them alive is how connected they are to your vision as a leader. Your team members are your greatest assets and they are the ones on the ground to get the job done. If they are on top of their game, you are good as a leader.

What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in?

Modou: Firstly, I would recommend entrepreneurs to always network. There is a saying that your network is your net worth. Along the journey of entrepreneurship, you will need to establish great relationship with industry experts and mentors that can help on the way.

Secondly, Discipline, your art of creativity stems from great resilience, great entrepreneurs have discipline and that adds to that value of seeing all the side effects of business and making it great for oneself.

Finally, Financial Conscious. Most startup cry of no opportunity for angel investors to pass by. The truth is angel investors want to see the projections and what vision you set for your business. Financial Discipline can help streamline lots of business activities.

What are some fun facts about you? How do you define success?

Modou: Success to me is about waking up everyday and making every day count. Trying to improve one’s life every day is what counts and can make a lasting impact.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Modou: Building lots of business ventures that would not only create jobs but make Gambia my beautiful country to be among the world greatest business hubs.

Work/balance is important. What are your guilty pleasures or fun hobbies?

Modou: I love watching football and my favorite team is arsenal. I love reading books/Magazines a lot with a cup of coffee by my side to excite my inner self.

Which 3 adjectives describe who you are as a person?

Modou: Honesty, Respect, and Hard-work

If you were to write a book about yourself, how would you title it?

Modou: The Importance of Self Belief In Life.

What or who do you look to for inspiration?

Modou: My inspiration has always been my mum, she has shown me what life is about. Being raised up by a Single parent was one of the greatest motivations for me as I saw lots of strength in womanhood and that helped shaped the kind of person I am today.

Give advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Modou: discipline, hard-work, and proper planning.

What piece of advice would you give to college graduates or future entrepreneurs who want to become entrepreneurs?

Modou: My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is that it is always easy for any to become an entrepreneur, but one should always ask the question as to why you want to become one? If you know the reason why you want to start a venture, it can help nurture and instill the nitty gritties that every entrepreneur that succeeds has.

Modou  was been featured in many magazines internationally such as Mojatu Magazine of Nothingham Uk (Black History Month) issue, and Youth Initiative Magazine (Vienna). He published six (6) international articles that gained global recognition. He’s also appeared on a few podcasts such as Each Teach Radio (UK), BBC East Africa and Kolokio FM Zambia. He currently hosted Block Change events, Female Founder, and Founder series.

Modou's contact info:

Twitter: @SgrindBanjul

Facebook: StartUp Grind Banjul

Personal Facebook: Modounjie27

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