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Celebrating very young entrepreneurs: Stories from the frontlines

Didi Onwu and Mfundo Mbanze, hosts of the mini-documentary The Quest
Didi Onwu and Mfundo Mbanze, hosts of the mini-documentary The Quest

By Didi Onwu

Didi Onwu is the Communications and Stakeholder Relations Associate for The Anzisha Prize. For the past three years, she has been at the forefront of leading storytelling campaigns celebrating young African entrepreneurs and has positioned them as protagonists in their success. 

It is getting easier to tell stories of young African entrepreneurs, but I never want to become complacent. For the past three years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be at the forefront of telling stories about very young entrepreneurs (VYEs) doing exceptional work for their families and communities. Why do we think sharing these stories is important? We, at The Anzisha Prize, want young people to see themselves reflected in the journeys of the other young people whose backgrounds, experiences resemble their own – we call this the demonstration effect. 

Attitude shifts – the demonstrative effect 

Emulating the behaviours or patterns of others to reach desirable results is not a new concept. Many of us have witnessed demonstration effects at play in our individual career choices or the growth of global youth movements such as Climate Change and Black Lives Matter led by young activists. The demonstration effect is built into the Anzisha Program by celebrating innovative stories of our 171 entrepreneurs in the fellowship so that more young people understand how and why entrepreneurship is beneficial for not only their career paths but for their peers and communities. Through the stories we share, we hope that transitions from High School or University into entrepreneurship become the norm and not the last resort and this is where attitude shifts are an integral part of the work we do in supporting and celebrating the stories of Africa’s youngest entrepreneurs. 

You can learn more about the demonstration effect in our report Unlocking Africa’s Hidden Job Creators. 

The importance of story reach 

Each year our mission is simple – find exceptional young entrepreneurs to support their entrepreneurial journey for the next three years. In 2021, we decided to showcase this process in a 4-episode mini-documentary called The Quest. In the four episodes, audiences had the chance to understand how we go about finding the entrepreneurs and learn more about their transitions into entrepreneurship and the communities that support them. As much as our search is important so is how we market such campaigns. Finding and supporting incredible entrepreneurs is one thing; ensuring their stories reach millions of others, another!

We have learned that much of this work lies in distribution and can now proudly say 1 million people see our campaigns each year. Stories of triumph and challenges within the entrepreneurial journey give a full picture and do not glamourize the fact that entrepreneurship is not an easy feat. While we have reached a milestone of over 1million people watching and viewing our storytelling campaigns, the road hasn’t always been smooth sailing. It is no secret that media houses and companies need substantial money to continue operations but for organizations like us how do we mitigate the fact that a small budget is allocated to paid campaigns? We have learned that the individual entrepreneur’s experience and story are of utmost importance. Finding a strong story angle that fits into a wider topical issue, will almost guarantee media space. But you have to ensure you still have strong pitching skills to “sell” the story to your intended distribution partner. 

“Through the stories we share, we hope that transitions from High School or University into entrepreneurship become the norm and not the last resort”

Stories are meant to be shared. Maya Angelou hit the nail on the head when she said: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. Truly, there isn’t. I believe we are continuously rewriting the legacy for young people to look back on one day and think to themselves that sharing my story not only mattered for my records but my friends, my family, my community, my history. And it is for this reason that complacency can never be part of my work. For the many entrepreneurs I meet each year, there is a uniqueness I am eagerly wanting to share, a new lesson I want to learn and an anecdote I believe will help us see youth entrepreneurship as a textbook and a young entrepreneur as the blueprint for success.  

You can now watch The Quest on our YouTube channel 

 

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