149, Sara Leedom, African Entrepreneur Collective | The Real Job Creators: African Entrepreneurs

African Entrepreneur Collective builds the capacity of African entrepreneurs to create jobs.

African Entrepreneur Collective, Sara Leedom

Sara Leedom of African Entrepreneur Collective

Sara Leedom has a history of working in the social justice space in the US and in India. She worked on affordable housing for people with HIV. She worked on teen pregnancy prevention. She worked on education equity.

In 2012, Sara and a friend, Julienne Oyler were traveling through Mali. As they got to know their tour guide, he revealed that he wanted to launch a company. At the time, Mali was experiencing political turmoil. The country was under trade sanctions from France. To make matters worse, the country was experiencing a severe drought. The entrepreneur acknowledged the harsh conditions and yet, he also knew that if he could start and scale a company, he could create jobs for himself and for others. Still, he was unclear on how to start.

Over the next three days, Sara and Julienne walked him through the process of putting together a business plan. They loved the experience of mentoring this entrepreneur. They immediately saw the potential of working with other entrepreneurs. They recognized that building the capacity of African entrepreneurs was a path to create jobs.

The Problem of Youth Unemployment

There are 290 million young people, age 15 – 29, in Africa. Every day, more young people are joining the workforce. Small and medium size enterprises aren’t growing fast enough to create sufficient jobs for the workforce. Most young people are ambitious and enterprising. They have the hustle-and-grind mindset, but often lack the business skills, the financial resources or the networks to grow a business.

That’s where the African Entrepreneur Collective comes in. African Entrepreneur Collective works in Rwanda and Tanzania. They identify young entrepreneurs and give them the tools and resources needed to growth their businesses. In doing so, they create jobs for young people across the continent.

African Entrepreneur Collective is a hybrid social enterprise. They are hired by the entrepreneurs to provide services such as growth planning, HR planning, tax advice and marketing services. African Entrepreneur Collective also runs a loan fund. To keep fees within the reach of most entrepreneurs, African Entrepreneur Collective also seeks philanthropic capital.

In the past four years, African Entrepreneur Collective has worked with more than 250 entrepreneurs. Those entrepreneurs have created more than 3,000 jobs. Many of the entrepreneurs they work with are in labor-intensive industries such as agriculture, retail and manufacturing. While these industries lack some of the cache of tech startups, they are powerful instruments in job creation.

More Stories of Sustainable Development Goal 1, No Poverty

In 2017, we’re emphasizing the Sustainable Development Goals. In January, we’re focusing on Sustainable Development Goal 1, No Poverty. Today’s episode is the fourth in this series. You can read more about Sustainable Development Goal 1 here. Or learn about the Sustainable Development Goals here.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Sara Leedom

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘In Africa, there aren’t nearly enough jobs.’ @saraeleedom, @africalead”]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘It’s really going to be young people in communities who hire each other.’ @saraeleedom, @africalead“]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘One of the things I love about doing work here is, there is so much hustle.’ @saraeleedom, @africalead“]

“We have a debt fund. We invest directly in our clients.”

“When entrepreneurs are ready to do the work, we’re ready to be there with them.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘We really focus on local entrepreneurs.’ @saraeleedom, @africalead“]

“We see African entrepreneurs as the ones who understand their community best.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Our target market is a young, aspiring African entrepreneur.’ @saraeleedom, @africalead“]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘We trust entrepreneurs to know what their community needs.’ @saraeleedom, @africalead“]

“About 40% of our entrepreneurs are in agriculture.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Social justice has been a continuous thread throughout my career.’ @saraeleedom, @africalead“]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘We’re still trying to figure things out as we go.’ @saraeleedom, @africalead“]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘It has this echoing positive social benefit.’ @saraeleedom, @africalead“]

“You never know who is going to walk into the office.”

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Just start.’ @saraeleedom, @africalead“]

[spp-tweet tweet=”‘Figure out what your minimal viable product can be. Test something. Then, listen’ @saraeleedom, @africalead“]

“If you’re really going to create a viable business, stop listening to the voice in your own head and start listening with your customer.”

“Let go of that sacred perfect ideal that you created on a really amazing PowerPoint, and just change fast. Be flexible.”

“Don’t blow every way the wind blows.”

“Pivots and iterations are a core part of being a successful entrepreneur, but once you have your core customer, let them be your true north.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:


Are You Ready to Start or Scale a Social Business?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I would like the world to be different. What about you? What’s the big change you want to see in the world? Do you have a social good project in mind? Social Entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful tools we have to create sustainable, systemic change. That’s why in February, I’m running two webinars: Start Your Social Good and Scale Your Social Good.

Do you have an idea to start a business with a social impact? Are you ready to start your social good? Attend this free webinar on February 1st. Seats are limited, so sign up today at http://tonyloyd.com/startnow.

Or, have you started a social business, but now it’s time to scale your social good? Join the free webinar on February 8th. Again, seats are limited, so go right now to http://tonyloyd.com/scalenow.

These webinars are free. Sign up today!

About the Author
Tony Loyd is a TEDx speaker, podcast host and the author of Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. He is a former Fortune 500 executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, talent management, and leadership development. Tony is the host of the podcast Social Entrepreneur where you can hear the stories of changemakers who are making an impact on the world.

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